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Global Citizen Year

Why choose Global Citizen Year?

Gain lifelong skills during an immersive semester in South Africa while learning from experienced human rights advocates working to advance social justice. Learn to collaborate and contribute to global challenges from the ground up with a diverse cohort of like-minded peers from around the world. You’ll develop the skills, network, and insights – about yourself and the world – that will help you fuel a future of positive impact.


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Yes, I recommend this program

A Once in a Lifetime Operation

This was an amazing once in a lifetime experience. It was extremely difficult at times, as I had issues with my host family, but those difficulties were extremely well supported by staff in country. And they only provided me with space to grow! I was able to live and navigate in a foreign country, learned to speak a new language, and got to work with an amazing mentor, and teach an amazing group of students

What would you improve about this program?
I would recommend a increased screening of host families, and better host family fitting process. But as the number the program is run more I can believe they will improve this process.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Great Immersion/Support

Global Citizen Year is truly excellent at supporting fellows to the best of their ability. There's no uncertainty about where you are and who you are with. In this way, I always felt very safe and sure that if anything happened, they would be able to help me. The team leaders that I worked with were inspiring, hilarious, and incredibly caring. Sometimes the support was smothering, and the strict no alcohol rule was often frustrating. Sometimes non-emergency support was not very timely when fellows needed it. Often times, work placements were quite boring and did not know what to do with fellows. I had a fantastic homestay experience, but the same cannot be said for other fellows. Homestays can be very difficult, and GCY had a hard time finding new ones for fellows in a timely manner sometimes. All the same, every effort to help fellows engage in communities was made, and our bi-monthly "reconnects" were wonderful in their cultural and social immersion. If I could, I would absolutely do it again.

What would you improve about this program?
Volunteer placements were definitely hit and miss, and better ones could probably be found. The no alcohol policy and it's extreme consequences, again, were frustrating.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Taking Ownership of My Journey

Words can never truly express what India was and is to me, nor can they ever do ultimate justice to all the amazing encounters, journeys, and memories from my life there. For me, going to India was never a question; living in another country was an obvious part of my future. But acknowledging the need for a selfish year was perhaps the ultimate challenge to embrace. I recognised the need for a year to step outside the societal expectations and limitiations to discover unknown elements and boundaries of my identity and being, reality and mentality. Recognising that I knew too little about 'Chantal' to even be there for myself, I decided to travel to India with Global Citizen Year. Not for this romanticised idea of spiritual journey in this unknown country, but because I was intrigued by the beautifully diverse intricacies of its reality, very much like my own psychology. My life in India was much more than 'being a part of a programme'. It was a true test of character, of values that I never had to justify before, a manifestation of the lifestyle I committed myself to when becoming a part of the United World College. It was a commitment to myself, valuing my existence and development, and a commitment to the world as a future resource. I hope and intend to return to India and congratulate my students in their own language, and celebrate their individual accomplishments. Being a super-proud didi. I hope to give back for all the things they gave and taught me.
I am only filled with immense gratitude for India for showing me all its colours, and for Global Citizen Year for making all the memories and learnings a reality.

What would you improve about this program?
The programme in India was by default limited due to it being the launching year. Global Citizen Year should and is continuously working on improving itself, however I encourage them to take it slow and focusing on establishing itself properly in India, whilst also working on the programme with internationals and the Mental Health Protocol, before expanding the number of Fellows even further.
Read my full story
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Yes, I recommend this program

A Mess of Beauty

Every time I sit down to write about my experience in India I find myself at a loss for words. It's funny because many times during my Global Citizen Year, I found myself at a loss for words. India is full of anomalies that left me with my jaw hanging on the ground. It was beautiful - ornate architecture, the serenity, the people. It was a mess - disparity, the chaos, the people. There is a saying in India; "What's said about India is true. But the opposite is equally as true," and I found that to be a recurring theme during my time there. Living in this world of extremes was difficult and even uncomfortable at times but needless to say, that is where personal growth comes from. To grow we must step out of our comfort zones and into our stretch zones and if you're someone who thinks they are ready to push themselves in ways they have not been pushed before, then I would like to quote an incredible writer. "Say YES!" -Tatiana Calonje. Not only was India kind enough to show me her mess of beauty, but she was able to show me the mess of beauty within myself.

What would you improve about this program?
My time in India could have been bettered if the Global Citizen Year more clearly communicated their mission and purpose to all members involved.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Beginning of a Momentum

My Global Citizen Year in India was the most responsible decision I could have ever made at the age of 19. The experience walks alongside me daily, gently reminding me of lessons and perspectives which ultimately have not only bettered me as person you may be meeting for the first time but also now as a student viewing the years of classwork before me entirely different than I did before. Global Citizen Year allowed me to grow and learn in ways I couldn't have had from any classroom, book, summit, event or reflection. The connections I made with my community were constantly expanding as my fluency in Hindi progressed and I began to truly care about the people who I lived with, worked with and interacted. My presence at my apprenticeship felt valued and I was able to build on a skill that at the end of the day had little to do with how well my voice carried in a loud room or how well I could hold the attention of over 40 preteens. It had all to do with my willingness to be versatile, patient and committed but above all to believe that we were all going to achieve something at the end of the day even if it was just cutting pictures out of a newspaper. It was 8 months in which I was constantly stimulated, uniquely challenged, inspired, interested, concerned, cared for and pushed in ways only Global Citizen Year could have granted. What may be seen as a risky and unreasoned decision to some became the beginning of a momentum and bond that carries into my pursuit of higher education and holds strong thousands of miles away.

Say YES!

What would you improve about this program?
My year could have benefited from ensuring that all the stakeholders in-country conveyed the Global Citizen Year values and learning outcomes.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Chantal Tønnessen Smeland

Chantal is from Norway and is currently taking what she defines as a more holistic approach to Pre-Med by studying her self-designed major Human Ecology at College of the Atlantic. She is an United World College alumni, and was the first generation to partake in the launch of the Global Citizen Year - UWC partnership, as well as the first Global Citizen Year India program.

Why did you choose this program?

Before Global Citizen Year I finished off high school at an United World College because I believed in the values and lifestyle the movement stands for. UWC helped me by removing me from the elements I needed to distance myself from, placed me in a beautifully intricate bubble, and proved to me how people across borders, cultures, and belief systems can live together and work for change.

UWC is unequivocally an essential part of my being, but the experience left me in elusive pieces. I recognized that I needed a year to study those pieces and put them back together; that I needed a selfish year. I needed a year to learn the importance of taking time to re-discover myself, and allow myself to take care of my own being and let it heal first.

I applied to Global Citizen Year because I believe in my potential of becoming a skilled resource to the world one day, and the program offered a highly intentional structure to not only develop me as a leader and person, but also to challenge the perception of that notion. How can you be a sustainable, impactful, and altruistic resource?

It was continuously putting you into the stretch-zone, showing you your true reality, as well as the realities of the contexts you operate in. Global Citizen Year proved to me how essential it is to take time to understand and care for oneself, before stretching out a helping hand to communities and the world.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Global Citizen Year has a set model for each country, complimented with an intentional curriculum to facilitate the foundation for growth and development as a leader, but overall it is a highly independent program.

You are given an apprenticeship, a homestay, a language course, a complimenting curriculum and training, and eight months - they give you the foundation and framework, but your experience is ultimately in your hands to define.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Allow yourself to appreciate and genuinely embrace a selfish year. You will realize your limitations, but that realization gives you a great opportunity to take time to grow and hence become a skilled, appropriate, sustainable, impactful, and altruistic resource.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Each country (Brazil, Ecuador, Senegal, and India) provide different opportunities in terms of homestay and apprenticeship. Given that I was in India for the program launch, the structure is still in development.

I would wake up at 5am to take a rickshaw to my English Medium High School in another area of the city. I would work as an English teacher assistant and help with the extra-curricular activities like football and Model United Nations. After a 6-hour work day, I would either stay back for the extra-curriculars, tutoring, or visit my students' homes.

The rest of my day consisted of being with my family, meeting friends, studying Hindi, and doing other activities like learning Bollywood dance or exploring the complexities of the city I lived in.

Don't be afraid to say YES and invest in a future you believe in by building experiential knowledge.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was to accept, embrace, and share my vulnerability. When you start a new life by immersing yourself and living with a family, you have to slowly let your guard down. You need to allow yourself to trust the people around you, as well as yourself. And if I really wanted to work on myself, I needed to be vulnerable.

It was a challenging year in India, but by being vulnerable and by putting myself in ultimate stretch-zones to share my personal stories with the cohort and the family, I allowed myself the potential to create deeper bonds with the people around me.

Through my vulnerability I got to meet so many amazing people that became a part of my life, all representing inspirational grittiness and stories that I was lucky to hear and appreciate, and together we all created a support system for one-another.

What is your favorite story from your time abroad?

My favorite story is from the other day, actually. While in India I had this one student who loved football, and we had finally managed to establish the first female team for her to join. As they relentlessly worked their way up to the finals of the very first football tournament the team participated in, her confidence started to bottom as she was put on the bench.

She hadn't been performing well enough to be on the field, but she wasn't ready to give up the hope of playing with her friends. Before the finals, I took her to the side as she seemed upset. She told me that a member of a competing team had publicly bullied her for being a reserve, and that she didn't think she was good enough to be a part of the team anymore.

We sat there for a while, essentially agreeing that we would work together in supporting each other and building up her confidence. Now, over half a year later I woke up to a message saying the following: 'I'm now really good with football I got that confidence in me thanks a lot. I miss you sooooooooooo much!'

That made my day and my year in India, knowing that I had had some positive impact on my students - a question of impact and usefulness that defined my biggest regret. I hope to return soon and celebrate them for the amazing human beings they are.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Doug Bozick

Job Title
Finance and Operations Manager
Known as the "CPA with the tattered passport", Doug has been traveling, studying and working internationally ever since his first study-abroad experience in college and has visited over 50 countries in the process.

What is your favorite travel memory?

While I was visiting my brother, a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho we built a raft from a few scrap pieces of wood and old inner-tubes and rafted down the Senqu river for 8 days. It was a magical exploration of some very remote places. Along the way we encountered deep canyons, isolated tribes, a huge fish and even a secret coming-of-age ceremony.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I came from the corporate finance world, so working at Global Citizen Year has allowed me to really broaden my understanding of how a small business works. Not only that, but being involved in the operations of the business has also been a real growth opportunity for me.

I think the biggest change through is the realization that there are more important things than your career, like making a difference.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Our program believes that being able to tell your story once you return is an important aspect of the program and so we train the fellows on good storytelling techniques. As part of our re-entry training for returning fellows, they are given the opportunity to participate in a story-slam.

One of the most hilarious stories I have ever heard was about a fellow who had an apprenticeship in a zoo and a particular incident she had in the monkey cage dealing with some naughty monkeys while a very handsome zookeeper was watching. I cried with laughter!

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

That's a really hard choice because they all sound so great and have something unique to offer, however if I had to choose one it would be our Senegal Program. I have never been to Senegal and so I would love to explore that country more.

In addition, our program there offers the most rural experience and that also really appeals to me as a contrast to my life here in the U.S. Lastly, I love food - especially trying new foods and the Senegalese food I have tried has really been tasty

Professional Associations

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