Notes from the Field: On Overcoming Fear by Antony Le

When I turned 18, my friend Christian asked me the first thing I was going to do as an “adult”.
At that moment, I was at a loss of words. I’m sure he meant something along the nature of
getting a tattoo or bungee-jumping, you know, one of those “adventurous” things you tend to
do just to do them, but those didn’t appeal to me. What did interest me had been lingering in
the back of my mind ever since I finished my study-abroad trip in Nicaragua last summer:
traveling and gaining new cultural experiences.

What stopped me from pursuing this dream of mine was fear. Fear of being homesick,
distancing myself between my relationships, and leaving behind everything I know. However, I
knew that if I didn’t take action, I’d soon drown in this continuous cycle of feeling unmotivated
in my studies and purposeless in leadership positions in student government and clubs.

It wasn’t until one day where my Theater Arts teacher, Mr. Winsatt, asked me if there was
anything wrong after a performance where I forgot almost all my lines. I told him that I had a
lot on my mind, mainly stemming from the pressures I felt from my family to make the “right
decision” for universities, majors, and ultimately, my life. Growing up Vietnamese-American,
I’ve been taught that success can be achieved by attending a prestigious university and working
in a well-paying job. When Mr. Winsatt responded, he told me to pursue my passions, even if it
meant going down the “wrong” path in the eyes of my family.

That night, I made a decision.

I would rebel against everything I’ve been taught, the educational system, and my family’s high-
school-to- college-to- work plan, by taking a bridge year in Ecuador with the program known as
Global Citizen Year. I choose to live in a foreign country for eight months, speak a language I
didn’t fully have a grasp on, and pursue my dream of traveling and gaining new cultural
experiences. To quote one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost, “I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference.” My bridge year signifies my coming of age, making
impactful life decisions for myself and no one else — taking responsibility into my own hands
for my own future.

Fast forward three months later, I find myself on a journey of exploration I never would’ve
imagined myself to be a part of. Every day is a new adventure, whether it be riding horses or
living mountaintop amongst the clouds. However, at the same time, every day is a new
challenge as being in charge of eight elementary school classes and performing folkloric dances
with the students at church every week both have required me to step outside of my comfort
zone. This, however, has helped me become more understanding of cultural differences in
everyday life.

Although these three months have been a transformative experience, I still have four months
left. Within that time span, I hope to improve on my Spanish speaking abilities, expand my
English classes to the local high school, and most importantly, understand what it means to live
a life full of responsibilities while being apart from the people who have raised me over the past
eighteen years.

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