Tess Langan wanted to go to Africa with her favorite journalist, but she wasn’t old enough. But now she’s going anyway, thanks to a gap-year program she learned about from him.
On September 15, Langan, the daughter of MyVeronaNJ co-founder Julia Martin Langan, leaves for San Francisco, the first step in a journey that will eventually lead her to the hinterlands of Senegal. While her peers from the Verona High School class of 2010 are in college, Langan will participate in Global Citizen Year, a Peace Corps-like program in which students spend a year between high school and college volunteering in a developing country. Conceived by Abby Falik, a Harvard Business School student, in 2008, Global Citizen Year aims to put 20,000 students through its program by the year 2020. Falik believes that educating young Americans about the cultures and needs of developing nations is an important step toward combating global problems in the future.
Langan learned about Global Citizen Year in a story written by Nick Kristof. For the last four years, the New York Times columnist has been running a contest to allow budding journalists to accompany him on a trip to Africa. That sounded ideal to Langan, who was the co-editor of The Fairviewer, VHS’s student newspaper, and has written for The Verona-Cedar Grove Times and Baristanet. To Langan’s disappointment, contest participants needed to be in college, but Kristof offered an alternative for younger people: Global Citizen Year. Just days ahead of the deadline, Langan applied and was accepted.
Before she heads to Senegal, Langan will spend one month in San Francisco learning the dominant languages of the country (Wolof and French) as well as its culture. Once in Africa, she’ll train for another month in Dakar, the capital, before moving to an outlying village to live with a Senegalese family and work, most likely in education. She’ll write a blog about her experiences, but will only be able to update it on her monthly visits in to Dakar, since there’s no Internet access out in the field. (You can follow her progress on this page.)
Though a Global Citizen Year is almost as expensive as the colleges her VHS classmates will attend, Langan was given a generous grant. As a participant, however, she is expected to help raise funds for scholarships for future fellows, and if you’d like to help her do that, you can use this donation page and enter her name in the Additional Information field at the bottom.
Langan is trying not to anticipate too much about her time in Senegal. “I want to go into this as a blank slate,” she says. “I have never been to Africa before. I have never spoken French. I ‘m excited to challenge myself in a new environment.”
Home page photo by Ixtla via Flickr.