Since leaving my home country at the age of fourteen I've been able to travel and experience numerous countries and cultures. Through those journeys in different parts of the globe, I became obsessed with one question………..
What would you do if you only had a year to live?
I raised this question with people of varying backgrounds. Most people said they would quit work, travel, spend time with their loved ones, and do everything they always dreamed of doing. That got me thinking:
Can we only really live to the full when we are faced with dying?
In 2015, I spent six weeks volunteering in Bologna, Italy. My role there was to teach English at a children's language school. Overcoming the language barrier was a fundamental challenge and ‘Google Translate’ became my best buddy. After struggling to adapt to my new environment for a few days, I came to the conclusion that my teaching should not just be about spoon-feeding English. I realised I also had an opportunity to talk with students and get to know them a bit, and to encourage them to see the world with an open mind.
So, on the fourth day, instead of starting the lesson by strictly following my teaching guide and saying “Alright kids, repeat after me: chimpanzee, crocodile, rhinoceros…” I asked the kids, “Quali sono I tuoi sogni? (What are your dreams)?”
Their faces lit up and their voices oozed with eagerness as they told me “I want to be [an] animal doctor!”, “I will drive aeroplanes!”, “I want to become a whale take carer!” Their English was not perfect but what really mattered was that their hearts were filled with something more important: Hope.
Love is an amazing thing which works beyond ‘boundaries’ of culture, language and age. The children inspired me to find humour in every situation. With the help of ‘Google Translate’ and gestures, I urged them to dream big and follow their hearts.
On my last day, a quiet girl named Alice came up to me and said, "My dream is to become a teacher, just like you." It was very rewarding to hear this one simple sentence. We don’t have to be perfect to inspire someone.
The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art and magnificent people. So if you can, take the chance to explore the world; to discover different cultures; to touch hearts and live your dreams, before it’s too late. And remember, none of us are too small to make a difference.
N.B. Enjoyed the story? Now it is your turn! Check out AIESEC - the world’s largest youth-run organisation facilitating professional internships & volunteering experiences for students & recent graduates, across 126 countries. http://aiesec.org/ Good luck!