Though I have been back in the United States for a few days now and out of Bolivia for several weeks, I am still struggling to digest my trip and put it in perspective. When returning, all of my friends and family were eager to hear stories about my experiences, what my work looked like, what the culture of Bolivia felt like, and I struggled to find the words to explain my experience. My short answer has been “it was so amazing, I loved it!” But that does not even come close to describing the trip. One sentence or experience cannot do the trip justice, as it was the moments and memories strung together that made the trip everything it was. Often, it was little moments which filled me with joy, such as the day when Bianca and I took the girls from the orphanage we worked with during the winter vacation session to the park and running wild with them playing tag. Though I didn’t feel culture shock when I arrived, sudden moments would jolt me into sudden realization of the different reality we were living in, like when we had to stop our car on the ride home from ToroToro national park because cows and bulls were crossing into the road.
I have discovered that I have the strength to push myself outside of my comfort zone and be adventurous. For me, this included forcing myself to ignore the embarrassment of making mistakes when speaking a foreign language and just fumble, until people understand. I pushed myself to go caving, conquer heights, and fight through a stomach infection. For many conquering these experiences may not seem to be revolutionary, but it proved to myself that I hold an inner strength to accomplish goals that make me feel unsettled.
I have cherished the time this adventure has given me for self-reflection. I often feel that when I am living my life at Santa Clara I get so swept up in what my next step in life should be, how I can get there, and my daily routine that I don’t take the time to enjoy the present and reflect on what I am current state is. Not having Wi-Fi gave me the space to step away from all of the outside noise, and enjoy time to journal, and process my day before going to sleep. This is something that I hope I can continue now that I have returned home, though I have already found that it is more difficult. I am so grateful for Peru and Brazil as transitions to entering back to the United States, because without that, I feel I would be feeling a little lost back in the United States. Not having a new and exciting adventure awaiting every morning has been an adjustment, and the stress of the real world and what to do post-graduation is hitting hard and fast.
However, I am infinitely grateful for the experience which I have had, and the people who went along the journey with me. I could not imagine a better group than Bianca, Halle, Kayla, Marcus, and Elahdio for the short time he was with us. We all brought unique strengths and weaknesses to the table, but despite how different we were from one another there never was dull moment. Every moment was filled with laughter and support, and I cannot imagine having the trip in any other way. Finally, I am grateful for the leaders we had the privilege of meeting and working with while abroad. It was inspiring to meet people who took their passions, whether it be fair trade, organic nutrition, or art and created a living from there.
Every moment I have had abroad has made me a stronger, more reflective, brighter individual, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I can’t wait to decide where my life will take me from here, and even though post-grad life terrifies me, I know everything is going to work out just the way it should.