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Student finds her tenacity volunteering with BoldLeaders

My senior year of high school my passport was stamped with Uganda. I was 1 of 30 students brought by a nonprofit organization called BoldLeaders, an initiative to network leaders around the globe. The purpose of our expedition was to learn about urban agriculture and sustainable farming, then bring that experience back to better our community.

I divided my time between two host families in the country’s bustling capitol. The days were spent at agriculture-related activities. I focused all my energy that month on absorbing whole experience as best I could.

In all honesty, I returned feeling like I didn’t learn a thing. I didn’t talk much about it when I got home. I didn’t feel the same as I did before. But as I reflected on all that happened, the good and the bad, I found that I learned things that were difficult to put into words. They were deeper than I imagined. And I was itching for another experience like it. In retrospect, I had internalized the BL leadership principles that I continue to use daily in my life as a student.

BoldLeaders taught me about participation, mindfulness and tenacity. The Bold instructors spoke of the concept of feeling “comfortable being uncomfortable.” One could see this idea would be important in a place like Uganda that is so opposite from home. I was always nervous that volunteering would draw attention to myself and that made me feel awkward. But I learned about the inevitability of discomfort and that the rewards of participation are infinitely more valuable than the costs.

In participating, especially when uncomfortable, it is easy to let go. I am tempted by this regularly when my studies leave me feeling too busy to function or in feeling vulnerable when building relationships. BoldLeaders taught me that participation requires tenacity. Being in Uganda was difficult but it was also greatly joyful.

The inevitability of being somewhere foreign for a month was overwhelming and I was forced to persevere. I couldn’t go home. I didn’t want to either. I found then that tenacity is the way to get from difficulty to joy.  To find comfort in the uncomfortable, tenacity becomes a requirement. My time in this program helped me realize my potential and my capacity to be tenacious, which is something I need to get through every day.

BoldLeaders describes mindfulness in two forms. It talks about minding the gap, or being aware of differences between your perspective and that of another. Similarly, BL encourages its members to use mindful language. This is particularly important in a country where you don’t speak the native language. I’ve found myself that mindfulness makes me more sensitive to others which has allowed for better cooperation in the work I do. I have found mindfulness to be a trait that I want to represent myself with because it is indicative of the way one treats others.

After my month in Uganda, people asked me questions. They asked what it was like and wanted to hear stories. I think I didn’t have much to say because I had lived there just as I do every day. I discovered that the pressure of being in a foreign country is similar to that which I experience regularly here, but in a foreign country everything is rapid and new. To me, BoldLeaders was a catalyst in developing these traits that I confidently value in myself.

About the Author

Erin Johnson
UNL '18
Erin is a sophomore Economics student studying at UNL. She plans to study Spanish abroad in the summer of 2016 and hopes to graduate in 2018. She is the daughter of Rick and Jan Johnson of Kearney.

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