Checking All the Boxes

|Author: Sandra|

I first heard of GCIL in an email from my departmental advisor for HCDE. I remember reading through the website, and watching the video on the homepage. As someone studying design and entrepreneurship, GCIL sounded like it related to everything I was studying. User research? Check. Empathizing with customers? Check. Brainstorming your own startup? Check. I thought checking all these boxes would make it smooth sailing through the program. Little did I know that my world would get turned onto its head.

Someday in the future, I want to own my own company. I want to create a business that combats some kind of societal or environmental issue, like homelessness or climate change. I’ve been blessed to grow up surrounded by opportunity, to never have to worry about money or education, and to have parents that relentlessly push me to work harder. I want to give back to the world, to help those that were less fortunate than me, to fulfill the dreams that some kids never even got to have. It’s what drives me to get up in the morning, to push myself and cram studying HCDE, Physics, and Entrepreneurship in 4 years, and collect all the experiences that I can. I thought GCIL would be just one of these experiences I could check off my list.

Except now, I’m more confused than ever. In my time here, I’ve learned that there are huge systemic issues behind each of the grand challenges we work on. There’s no easy solution, and the businesses we try to create feels like I’m trying to use a butterknife to cut down a tree. It’s not to say that what I learned in school doesn’t help — each one is like a serration on my knife — but in the grand scheme of things, it’s still just a butterknife.

I’ve also learned what it’s like to have people depend on you — to have to carry your weight no matter what — because the stakes are so much higher. It’s the first time I’ve worked on something that’s worth more than just a number after a long 10 weeks. I have pride in what I’ve done and I want it to reflect in my work.

I’ve learned that the words “fail fast” are easy in theory, but to turn your back on a project you’re truly passionate about after weeks of hard work is painful, even if it’s the logical thing to do.

I’ve learned that some people work and live in conditions worse than what I could’ve possibly imagined without seeing it secondhand. It’s heart-wrenching and soul-crushing, and it’s something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

I’ve learned that no matter what, I will take the risks to try to make a difference in the world. I don’t know how or when, but I know that I can do it. I might fail countless times, but GCIL has taught me how to get back up and try again. I’m confident that someday, I can check the box of fulfilling my dreams.

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