As we began to take our seats in the auditorium, I found the adjustable desk that swung in front of my seat; typically this small table top would be used to hold the computer or notes of a student who was taking a class in this auditorium. However, today it was to support my coffee cup–the very same coffee cup, mind you, that made it past the “no food or drinks” sign outside of the auditorium. No sooner had I set down the practically boiling cup of coffee, the adjustable table top decided to adjust itself all the way back into its resting position. Of course, the cup of coffee did not continue to hover in midair unsupported, but was now burning my legs and the legs of my fellow cohorts. I can hardly express my disappointment in the structural soundness of this certain desk.

I tell you this story, only as a lighthearted preface to the moments just before the coffee cup disaster. As we were filing into the auditorium, stomachs were grumbling from the absence of breakfast. Jakelin, our Global Gap Year Coordinator, made a simple comment regarding her hunger, saying, “Richard is on his way with breakfast, but I’m starving.” The fellows and I thought nothing of the comment until I heard Jakelin correct herself with, “well I’m not actually starving, but I’m just extremely hungry.”

How often has starvation actually affected my life? Yet, how many times have I been guilty of the same miscommunication as Jakelin? To the former question, I can say none, and to the latter I will reluctantly admit, too many. Jakelin’s rapid correction of her own misstep gave me a glimpse into the realities of her experiences. Throughout orientation I was constantly exposed to the different perspectives of previous Gap Year Fellows as a result of their time abroad.

Soon, I will experience these very same things across the globe. Soon, I will understand the realities of our American exaggerations. Soon, I will develop this same empathy for people I have never met, but know exist.