by Leah Simon

Have you ever accidentally hit the “Enter” key mid-sentence chat, and your message sends before you are ready? Well, this seemingly harmless situation played out in the earliest hours of Friday, March the 17th, before the start of my orientation.

A wave of panic rushed over me as I saw the letters in the Facebook message text bar vanish and then reappear in the chat box. I frantically continued typing, hoping to complete my sentence and apologize before my recipient read the embarrassing half-thought-out quarter sentence I had left her. Within a second, the Facebook chat notification signal sounded, making my heart skip.

“Hey!” appeared on my screen. The quickness of the response especially for the time of day and the fact that they had actually responded to my careless error pleasantly surprised me. I quickly apologized, as planned, hoping she wasn’t secretly mad at me for disturbing her at 1:30 in the morning.

I continued, releasing the anxious questions I had on my mind for the weekend ahead. She did her best to answer, while providing assurance through implying that I need not be worried and that she would sit down to talk to me later that day. It was through this assurance that I developed a sense of ease for the first time towards the fellowship beyond the extensive application and the stress associated with the interview.

As planned, I spoke with this fellow in person at the welcome dinner at Richard’s. While finishing my second plate of food and concluding a conversation with another fellow, she thoughtfully hovered by, warmly rubbing my shoulder and reminding me I had wanted speak with her about her experiences. The thoughtfulness of this gesture didn’t really fully hit me until later. In the moment, I was aware of the sense of assurance I felt through her gentle touch. It is through these subtle differences in behavior and nuances that I have noticed the fellowship community members differ from other people. It was through this beautiful combination of consideration towards my current state and eagerness to speak to me that the acquired higher sense of understanding was revealed.

As we sat together together to speak about her gap year experience later in the energy-filled, natural atmosphere of Richard’s home, I could see her level of concern for saying the right things, deciphering which stories to tell and which ones to leave out from her entire year abroad. I can’t imagine summarizing an entire year in a few sentences. As I asked her questions, she strained her eyes some, deep in thought, searching for the answers that she might have been able to formulate faster had I spoken to her a year ago fresh after her return home. Her responses did not come out in organized strings of sentences and thoughts, but it was almost better this way. Just through the style of our conversation, I felt I was able to absorb a lot about her gap year and the Global Gap Year experience in general; it is an extremely powerful, meaningful experience that is difficult to put in words. It is well thought out, yet disorganized to an extent. Most importantly though, it is an experience that will give a lifetime of wisdom and stories to tell.

I found this was not just the case with this particular fellow, but all of the rest as well. Fellows are eager to share. No one has a single story to tell, and no one can say one thought without wanting to say more. It was through these interactions at orientation that I got a first taste of the Global Gap Year experience, and I found that with each bite of Vimala’s rich Indian food I took at Richard’s that evening, I could taste more.

Warm Regards,

Leah Simon