This time last year, I was in the middle of my first gap year
My first year “in the real world” after 17 years of school. I had decided to forgo applying to grad school, pushing it off for another year, which felt like a shortcoming. I thought I might stay in the states and do another year of non-profit work, giving me more time to study for the GRE and replot out my next moves.
Then I received an update from my previous college advisor which included a job posting for a project manager position teaching sports for girls in Cusco, Peru. There was a week before the application was due, and I forwarded the email to my old roommates, hoping one of them would want to do it because it sounded so perfect. They all said the same thing: This sounds perfect for you.
I applied and was offered one of the spots, and it goes without saying, but I took it in a heartbeat. Moving to Cusco to work for GirlSportWorks has been the greatest decision I could have made for myself. Here are some of the reasons why, in no particular order:
-I play sports with silly, strong, unique girls every day of the week
-As much as I feel I’m teaching the girls, they are teaching and shaping me just the same
-I am working to promote female empowerment and social change
-I hike almost every other weekend (because the Sacred Valley exists, and I recommend a quick web search if you need more convincing)
-We have made friends with people from Peru, Canada, Germany, the UK, Iran, Chile, Brazil, the USA, New Zealand, Ireland and beyond
-My Spanish isn’t perfect, but I now say things like “put that down!” and “no, I don’t need more ice cream, but I’ll take another scoop” without even hesitating
-I am practicing new skills like fundraising, program monitoring and evaluation, and blog-writing
-I am living in one of the most richly cultured cities in the world, and it is ever-vibrant and full of wonderful people
Having such a stellar support system via our bosses and GSW alumni who are mostly stateside while simultaneously having the power to implement the program as we see fit on the ground here in Cusco has empowered me to take initiative, to be flexible, and to hold myself accountable. Rachel and I decide where to make adjustments when we see a need for them, but we can call our bosses at anytime for support and guidance. I can see in just the last five months how this is molding me into a better leader with better instincts.
Besides how much progress I’ve made in my professional development, it’s just so much fun.
Some days we are refining baseline volleyball skills, other days we are teaching the students how to properly hold a hockey stick. We have taken our girls rock climbing for the first time in their lives and watched them climb to truly terrifying heights, returning to the ground shaking with fear and the adrenaline rush, only to watch them get right back up and try again. A couple weeks ago, we took a group of our girls to visit ruins and sites in the Sacred Valley that most of them had never been to due to various time, money, and family constraints. They were absolutely fascinated to hear about the history of Moray, having once been an Incan laboratory to test various seeds, and to taste the salty stream leading to the Salineras, where the bags of salt they see sold in Cusco markets are originally produced.
When we aren’t spending our time playing with the girls, we are exploring cafés and mercados in Cusco, deciding on our favorite coffee, waffles, and fruit caseras. We spend each Tuesday night playing board games with our newfound expat family. We are packing everything we can into our weekends, measuring them in hikes, ruins, chocolate and coffee festivals, concerts, morning runs through our barrio, and trips to the best curry restaurant in the Sacred Valley. We have met incredible people from all over the world who share their differences and similarities with us over a not-so-quick cup of tea.
So if you ask me, there is no better position for any woman looking to live in a gorgeous South American country, play sports, and empower girls all at the same time for a year. Check out the position here, and make sure apply by the December 31 deadline!