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Credit: Global Citizen Year

Global Citizen Year Fellows Reflect on The Blue Sweater

Credit: Global Citizen Year

Since The Blue Sweater’s publication in 2009, we’ve worked with dozens of universities, businesses, and social enterprises to share the book with audiences interested in learning more about Acumen Fund. One of the organizations we’ve gotten to know through the process is Global Citizen Year, a gap year program that places U.S. high school graduates in homestays and apprenticeships in developing countries for a year before college. Global Citizen Year integrated The Blue Sweater into its training curriculum last year, and approximately 55 Fellows have now read the book during their year abroad. Jacqueline’s story of her trials, errors, and self-discoveries when first moving to Africa in her 20’s offers many points of comparison for the Global Citizen Year fellows. Global Citizen Year chose to incorporate The Blue Sweater into its curriculum due to the common, overarching leadership and development-related themes that Jacqueline and the Global Citizen Year Fellows confront during their time abroad, including the need to cultivate moral imagination, the strengths and weaknesses of different development models (i.e. charity vs. social enterprise), and the value of self-awareness in promoting social change. Furthermore, Global Citizen Year was able to leverage the teaching guide that the Acumen Fund developed to accompany The Blue Sweater as an intentional learning tool around these key themes.

Below, we’ve compiled a few excerpts from three fellows’ reflections on the book after their move back to the U.S from Ecuador.

“The funny thing about returning home has been that the most challenging part of my entire experience has not been adapting to a new culture in a foreign country, but observing the disconnect between my United States life and my Ecuadorian life. The difference in the priorities of both my family and friends in each world is astounding, and at times, I find myself caught somewhere in the middle, trying to find a balance and truly emulate what it means to be a Global Citizen. For Jacqueline Novogratz, she found the key to this balancing act in a blue sweater. For me, I’ve found it in a bracelet.” – Joan Hanawi

Read the rest of Joan Hanawi’s story here.

“As Jacqueline Novogratz begins down the path of international development, she faces many of the trials we do as Global Citizen Year Fellows: high school graduates who choose to live for seven months volunteering in the developing world before going to college… Novogratz proved her grit, and chose the path to growth over comfortable compromise when it came to discovering herself and adapting to a new culture.  At the beginning of chapter 2, she challenged me to do the same with a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt.  ‘You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.’” – Priyanka Rao

Read the rest of Priyanka Rao’s reflections here.

“Before my gap year in Ecuador, I believed my capacity for moral imagination was above average. Completing the book, I realized for the first time that this wouldn’t be as easy as I thought. Interacting with my new sister, the first of the new challenges I faced, confused me and stretched me beyond my comfort zone.”  – Thomas Jay Clark

Read the rest of Thomas Jay Clark’s reflections here.

If you’ve spent extended time outside the country you grew up in, what did you learn? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Wei Wei Hsing is an Innovation Associate at Acumen Fund. Follow her on Twitter @weiweih

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