Within the depths of my mind, beyond the library of recipes of international cuisine, the stacks of grammar (subjects on top of verbs on top of squished semi-colons and over-due periods), and through the shelves stuffed with anecdotes, stories, life lessons and memories, is a small box, made from vibrant red, Rajasthani silk, symbolic of my Indian heritage. Within this box are little things I’ve collected from my travels: a green leaf from the gardens of King Henry VIII, a crepe from France, a beautiful painting from Rome, a picture of a young girl from an orphanage in Peru, trinkets from Barbados and the Grand Caymen Islands, Patatas Bravas from Barcelona, Greek Delight from Thessaloniki, a vibrant orange that has managed to remain fresh and unblemished from the Amalfi Coast, and, of course, cloth from India and pictures of me at the orphanage I lived at for 5 years before I was adopted and moved to the United States. Although I have had extensive travel experience, I crave traveling even more every time I step off of a plane.
After returning from studying abroad in Rome last spring semester, I immediately began searching for programs that would allow me to go abroad again. After exhausting Google and my boyfriend’s help, we both stumbled across WorldTeach, a program that was born out of Harvard’s Center for Undergraduate Volunteer Service, and one that provided opportunities to teach English all over the world. I knew that since I was graduating, I would be completely poor, so I wanted to find a program that would not cost me anything to volunteer. That’s when I came upon the Marshall Islands. Sweet and salty Pacific air engulfed my nostrils and a Plumeria breeze assaulted my skin, shocking me into realizing that if the prospect of simply going to this country had such an effect, then I should pack my bags and move there. I decided to apply to live on an outer island of the Marshall Islands, a location that will most likely not have Internet or many ways to contact home, for a year. I will be living on a strip of sand in the middle of the swallowing Pacific, living off of fresh fruit, fish and rice. I will have the privilege of spending my days teaching English to bright Marshallese students and learning about Marshallese culture.
Even with these opportunities, however, I am more frightened than I’ve ever been. I have never thrown myself into a situation of such unpredictability and have never stretched myself so far out of my comfort zone. I know the best way to prepare for this experience is to be mentally prepared, and I have spent the past two semesters trying to do that. Each day it gets harder to think about all the things that I will be leaving behind, but I know that this experience will really be one of the best ones of my life. I will have the opportunity to share my love of the English language, something I have built during my time at Stony Brook, and I will have a chance to finally have time with myself. Without any of the ties that technology and school give me, I will truly have the chance to reflect on my life. I think this is a perfect gap year opportunity before returning to Boston and attending law school, and I might even try my hand at culinary school. I look forward to what this experience will bring me.