Alumni Spotlight: Emily Collins

Emily Collins is from Wakefield, Rhode Island and currently going to URI. She is a 20 year old girl and work with the ACE Program on campus. Her job is to get international students on campus involved and practicing speaking English. She enjoys swimming in the ocean, spending time with friends and studying Anthropology. She took a gap year between August 2012-April 2013.

Why did you decide to do a gap year with Global Citizen Year programs?

Best Friends

Emily: When I found out about Global Citizen Year I knew it was exactly what I had dreamed of doing. I had always wanted to have a year and travel and experience life outside of my comfort zone.

I was challenged in the best way possible each and every day living in Senegal - whether it was with language, dancing, or making cultural adaptions.I knew if I were to take a bridge year, I would need a lot of financial assistance.

Global Citizen Year allowed me to take an opportunity to embrace a new culture while also learning about myself at a price I could afford. I could not believe the opportunity that they were offering. With all of the in-country support, apprentice, and home-stay it was the type of immersion that is important to me.

What was one of the most memorable days/experiences of the trip?

Book Emily made.

Emily: The most memorable days of my trip were the times spent with my host sister. She was 9 years old and the best friend I have ever made. At first not knowing the language was difficult and at times upsetting. She was the first to reach her hand out to me and help me learn.

The best times I had were ones simply cooking dinner with her. We would pretend that we had our own restaurant and cook for the rest of the family. Or the days we would go to the beach and I would help her learn how to swim.

But one of the most vivid memories from my trip was a night where we laid on the front porch looking at the stars with no lights on. I just remember feeling so happy that this little girl was brought into my life to show me happiness with simplicity, dancing without music, and laughter without reason.

If you could go back and do something different, what would it be?

Emily: I am not one to regret anything. I think the way everything pans out in my life is interconnected beyond me and therefore there is no such thing as mistakes. This said, one thing I would have told myself to do if I went back was to focus studying Wolof more than French in the beginning.

Although I was working in the school where the students learn French, around the town and the house everyone mainly speaks Wolof. If I had known this walking into the situation, I probably would have only focused on Wolof so that I could have a deeper immersion in my community.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Emily Collins

Emily: This experience has transformed the way I think about the world. I understand how interconnected we truly are. I have always been interested in traveling but now it is not so much for my personal benefit but for experiencing new cultures and learning how I can help. I think I have a much more global viewpoint in situations I encounter and feel more grounded and focused than ever.

I have now realized the importance of education and how fortunate I am to be able to receive one. I now feel passionate about living, working hard, and finding meaning. I chose to stay in RI for college because I also realized the importance of family and how much mine means to me.

Now that I am working with international students in the US, it is easier for me to understand how hard it is for them. They always remind me how thankful they are to have me helping them, and I always get emotional because I understand how difficult it is.

I have found focus, direction, and have a family that I love and care for in Senegal. My positive outlook on life is directly and thankfully based on my experience with Global Citizen Year.