Alumni Spotlight: Jordan Ricker

Jordan Ricker is a twenty year old who hails from Arlington, Virginia and is currently studying History at Franklin University in Lugano, Switzerland. He is very interested in cross-cultural relations and languages, and is considering teaching English as a foreign language. He enjoys long-distance running and traveling. He took a gap year in Senegal from September 2012 - April 2013

Jordan and Allie riding dromedaries near Lompoul.

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

Jordan: I decided to take a bridge year with Global Citizen Year for two reasons. The primary reason was to improve my French, which I had studied in high school. And the secondary reason was the opportunity to travel. Senegal is the only country which Global Citizen Year operates in which speaks French, so that was my natural inclination.

In addition, once I found out about the extraordinary financial aid that was offered, I was completely set on my decision to take a bridge year with Global Citizen Year. They really seemed like a program that offered exactly what I was looking for.

What was the most memorable moment of your experience?

Jordan: One of my most memorable moments was when I had to get two of my wisdom teeth removed. I went into the dentist's office, and they asked for my name, date of birth, all of those important details.

I gave them my Senegalese name (all of the people in my program are given Senegalese names during our time in-country). And they asked me if I was Arona Sarr's (the name of my host dad) kid because he had made an appointment for me.

I said yes. They then asked if I was Senegalese or American - that is, which country was I a citizen of. At first, I was confused. Of course I'm American.

Then I realized that when my host dad had said his son was coming in for a dentist's appointment. He didn't say that it was his host son. He just said "son." To him, I was one and the same. That memory has always stayed with me.

Jordan with his boss and best friend his son at a wedding in the town of Thiès.

Tell us about one person you met.

Jordan: The most extraordinary person I met while in Senegal was my boss at one of my apprenticeships sites, and also my best friend, Babacar Siby. He is such a fascinating individual that one day I sat down and interviewed him for an hour about his life story.

He was probably my greatest friend while I was in Mboro, but also the most passionate and curious person I met there. He works at a community center, leads a theater troupe, is a wonderful father, and speaks over four different languages (that I know of), to name but of few of the things he does. He added so much to my experience in Senegal.

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

Jordan: The only thing I would change would be to make my experience longer. After spending seven and a half months in Senegal, I realized how much I still had to learn about the people, culture, and language. And I wish I could have increased that knowledge.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Jordan with his mom, Aminata Ndiaye, and dad, Arona Sarr, in the backyard.

Jordan: This is an experience that I won't truly realize the benefits of until many many years later. However, so far I think the three biggest benefits it has given me are perspective, maturity, and experience. The first two go hand-in-hand. In the college classroom, I am a year older than my peers and I have lived with people who are very different from myself.

This additional insight into myself and others is an enormous advantage in learning theoretical concepts at university and seeing how they are actually implemented or viewed in the world. Experience is something that you cannot ever have a substitute for.

After having spent 6 months teaching and developing English language materials at a local vocational school, I have a much greater understanding of how teaching actually works, in addition to having an increased passion for teaching.