One of the best lessons Abbie Clavin ’09 learned this year while living and working in Ecuador was how to appreciate the slower moments in life, and how to more readily embrace unstructured time as a good thing, rather than something we should avoid.
After graduating from The Governor’s Academy in 2013, Abbie decided to spend a gap year living in Imbaya, a remote village in the Andes, about two hours north of Quito, Ecuador. Abbie participated in Global Citizen Year, an organization for young students which models itself on the Peace Corps and promotes service and leadership education in its fellows.
Abbie was no stranger to service work before her year spent in South America. While at Gov’s, Abbie worked on behalf of the school’s Special Olympics organization and served as a Co-Director in her senior year. She also traveled with other Governors’ classmates to Guatemala to volunteer during the summer after her sophomore year. After graduating, Abbie knew she wanted to continue her service work, and broaden her perspectives, so Global Citizen Year was a perfect fit for her.
While in Imbaya, Abbie lived with an Ecuadorian family. She said that initially, it was difficult to be so far away from her friends and family back home, especially because she couldn’t keep in daily touch with them (there was no Internet connection at her host family’s home). Although challenging at first, Abbie said she came to genuinely appreciate the “down time”, and used it to get to know the members of her host family and others in her small community. As the months passed and as she adjusted to a wholly different, slower-paced life, she was more grateful for unstructured, non-digital time where she could enjoy the face-to-face company of the people in her community. Ecuadorians are known for being especially friendly, and Abbie said she found this to be very true. Doors are always open; the culture is very welcoming.
Abbie worked in a credit union in the afternoons, the job that was set up for her by Global Citizen Year. Abbie helped to process micro-loans, which were given to people in the small farming community of Imbaya who needed money to buy supplies for their farms. She said she thoroughly enjoyed helping the members of the community in this important way. Additionally, Abbie volunteered at a health clinic and taught some English at a small school in Imbaya. Abbie found both of these volunteer opportunities herself. Of the Health Clinic, Abbie admitted some initial surprise that with no formal medical training, within weeks of working there she was administering shots and even stitching up small wounds!
Upon reflecting on her experiences during her 8 months in Ecuador, Abbie said she feels enlightened and grateful for the “little things in life in a way I didn’t before.” Abbie also said she is more mindful, and that she takes the time to stop and think about her blessings more carefully, including the education she received both at Brookwood and The Governor’s Academy, where the process of learning, and not the necessarily the correct answer, was put first. Both schools instilled in Abbie the desire to go out into the world, to discover and explore the incredible depth of culture and community that exists beyond the familiar world of your hometown, or even the US. She recommends a gap year to everyone. “It’s hard to be away from home, but it’s so worth it. Going outside of the US, you get a whole new perspective.”
Abbie is at Boston College, and we suspect, as does she, that there are many more impactful, global adventures in her future.