In my gap year experience, I have seen myself act in a number of different ways. Initially, I had the goal to find a program that would allow me to be immersed in Spanish culture and language, but I failed this goal. Instead, I was able to bounce back and create my own experience that gave me the same outstanding perspective on Spanish culture as well as the language itself. Moreover, I look back at my experience in Puerto Rico and see myself being brave. I was unable to find an immersion experience program that fit both my price range and gave me the experience that I desired. Instead, I found the courage to organize and lead a group of friends, some of whom I was friends with before and some of whom I was not, and travel to the island of Puerto Rico on our own.
Although I was traveling with a Spanish-speaking friend, I found myself running into a language barrier just about everywhere I went. Within only an hour or two of arriving in San Juan, a group of us decided to buy a forty pack of water bottles. When entering the store it was clear that English-speaking young adults and Americans like ourselves were not regulars there. The only worker was a Puerto Rican child who could not have been much older than twelve. We were then told that the forty pack of water was worth forty dollars by the kid and without using much reasoning or common sense my friend began to pull out forty dollars. I was able to stop my friend and saved our money until we arrived at a different store with more realistically priced water. I assume that in the mind of the kid he was just trying to make ends meet off some naive and unknowing tourists, but in my mind, it showed the extreme barrier between my life and others. This specific experience created a lasting impression in my mind that showed me the vastly different childhood and life that I and the Puerto Rican locals lived. Although it may not be a traditional sense of bravery, I find it brave for someone like me, who came from an extremely lucky and affluent background to experience and see the reality of life for many individuals around the world.
As I continue to reflect on my experience in Puerto Rico I also find myself being kind. Although it is quite small and seemingly unimportant, a moment of kindness that sticks out is kayaking to jump off a bridge with a close friend of mine. My friend had been asking us to jump off a bridge into a lagoon all week, however, he was unaware that he had a group of people that were not too keen on jumping from heights. On one of our last days, I decided to kayak out with him and jump off the bridge together. Although it may seem quite small and unimportant, my willingness to be kind and say yes created an unforgettable memory and put a massive smile on both of our faces.