To The Wondering GCIL Student

|Author: Amanda|

I want a culturally immersive, translational abroad experience that not only challenges me but pushes me outside of my comfort zone. I want to learn about expansively diverse systems that make up India. I want to utilize remarkable relationships between organizations. I want to create, ideate, fail, create again, and produce a product filled with countless hours of effort. I want to make long-lasting friendships that transcend international borders and go beyond the natural classroom environment.

If you have any of these ‘want’ statements, or really even anything along the lines of these statements: welcome home.

To the wondering GCIL student, hi yes, I am talking to you and you should absolutely apply for this program. Yes, it will be difficult, and you absolutely will question what your excited schoolgirl self was thinking when embarking on a journey like this, but trust me, it’s worth it.

This program is far more than the 2-minute video on the GCIL homepage. It is so much more than the UW Study Abroad description; radically more powerful than this blog post will make it out to be. And this program will be far more than whatever I expel to those back home once I’ve returned.

This is something I have been grappling with: how do I appreciate what is in front of me? How do I so strongly engulf myself in the now so that when I go back to my day-to-day routine at home, I don’t have ‘I wish’ statements?

Nearly every time I travel to do service work abroad or even to simply see the world, the first question upon returning is “How was it?” or “Tell me ALL about it”.

How does one respond?

“It was great!”

“Uh, I worked a lot in an attempt to make a difference.”

“India’s really cool – definitely a vibrant culture."

This doesn’t nearly do justice to the all-encompassing 10-weeks that is GCIL, but how do I expel the wins, the losses, the challenges, the friendships, the food, the learned material, and the everything in between in just a mere blip? How do I so consciously immerse myself in the next 5 weeks so not only is my response more than ‘great’, but it’s something that I look back on with great admiration?

Taking a step back and realizing the small things such as having a rooftop, moonlit dance party to honor the cloud-covered full moon, eating an entire sleeve of various cookies to get you through the day, or even slowly dosing off in class because your brain has been chugging along like the Polar Express train all day – really put the entire program into perspective.

While yes, it is imperative that we learn design thinking and social entrepreneurship, the true learnt skills move much past that. The Grand Challenges Impact Lab is laughter, dedication, coffee, peanut butter, self-reflection, exhaustion, noise, yoga, cookies, collaboration, art, bucket showers, swims in the India ocean, cows, failure, autos, bribing, and of course, knowledge. The Grand Challenge Impact Lab is becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable.

This program is a space to generate so much speed that asking to take the car for just a test ride, is plain rude. So, to the wondering GCIL student, are you ready for the racetrack?

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