In case you hadn't heard, I'M GOING TO SOUTH AMERICA!!! I am super excited about taking this next huge step in my life! I thought, though, that first I should give a little bit of background on why I wanted to go abroad and why with YAGM specificially...so here it is:
I have always had a passion for traveling and learning about all the world has to offer, all the different cultures, languages, food, people, you name it it fascinates me! I grew up in a family that valued traveling and seeing all that our country has to offer. I thought that the month long road trips we took every summer were normal, but have since learned that they definitly aren't! I am extremely grateful for all that I have gotten to see and do with them. While our only trips "abroad" were to Canada, we have been to almost every US state! (I am only lacking Alaska, Hawaii, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Michigan)
In high school I got the chance to go on a mission trip to Hermosillo, Mexico that was life changing for me. I was deeply influenced by the faith of my host "mom" Lety and by being exposed to a kind of poverty that I had never experienced before. I knew that I wanted to continue to travel and to try to make a difference in the world, though I wasn't sure how.
I went to a small Quaker school for college, George Fox University. I wan't really sure what I wanted to do with my life but I knew that I liked learning about international issues, current events, different languages and cultures...so I decided to double major in International Studies and Spanish. As a part of my studies I got the chance to study abroad for a semester in Cuernavaca, Mexico and to go on Juniors Abroad in Central America (Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica). These experiences convinced me that I needed to spend more time abroad in the future.
While at school I faced a lot of challenges that I wasn't expecting. Ultimately I think it was good for me and forced me to grow (but I didn't think that while it was happening). I learned a lot about myself and the world and what I value, but I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life.
I had always thought that I would do something abroad (volunteer, teach English, etc) for a while right after I gradutated from college. So I went through the process of applying to programs. I applied to and got accepted into a pretty prestigious program teaching English in Japan (the Jet Program). I had applied on a whim after a friend told me about it, but I was never really that into it. I kept trying to convince myself that I wanted to do it, but I knew deep down that it neither the program nor the time were right for me. But it was scary to say no to a good program when I had absolutly nothing set up for post-graduation. Some people thought I was a little crazy to turn down such a good opportunity.
So I graduated and moved back home to begin the job hunt. The first bit was depressing since I got no replies and kept thinking that maybe I had made a mistake. Finally about halfway through the summer I got what I thought would be a good job as a SAT prep/English/Spanish tutor at a tutoring center. But I ended up not getting the hours I needed and the boss treated me badly. I knew that it was a bad situation to be in, but I wasn't sure what to do when God literally stepped in and saved the day!
Some good friends of my mom run the preschool/daycare at my old church and they needed someone to fill in. I showed up the first day and it turned out that they really needed someone to be an assistant toddler teacher on a permanent basis! I took the job and it was really the best position that I could get put in. I get to work with awesome kids who shower me with love daily! But even more importantly I got the best bosses for me! They are really strong Christian women, and they really support and encourage me both at work and in my daily life. I have never worked in a situation like this before, and I love it!
While I love my job, I know that it is probably not what I want to do for the rest of my life. I still had in my mind that I wanted to go abroad, to be challenged and grow. I remembered a program that my sister had told me about while I was still at Fox, YAGM. So I decided to apply. But being me that meant procrastinating and turning in the application on the final day :) A couple of weeks later I got an interview, which I did while sitting on the floor of a hostel hallway in Seattle (but that is another story). On my birthday I got the best present ever, I got in!! I was running around my house screaming and literally couldn't stop bouncing while talking on the phone.
In April I went to Wisconson for a long weekend with the other YAGM participants for Discernment, Interview and Placement (DIP). It was the most stressed I have been in quite awhile, with lots of emotional swings. Luckily I had such awesome people to hang out with throughout the process, I can't wait to see them again in August! At the end of the weekend I found out that I was going to South America. I needed a few days afterwards to process the whole thing, but I ended up being super excited about the year ahead of me! I think that I ended up in the right place.
YAGM will be a really good fit for me because it will challenge me to grow in all aspects of my life. But I won't have to do it alone, I will have my fellow yagm and my country coordinator there to support me. I am really excited to really put my values into practice, especially living simply and in solidarity with the poor.
I know there will be things that I will miss (it will be especially hard to leave some of the kids at work) but I am super excited about leaving! I am ready for it! And I am excited that you want to be a part of this with me. If you have any questions for me, want to talk/hangout, or whatever please let me know!