Last winter, 2011 high school graduate Nic Freschi sat hunched over in pain in a small room in Ecuador, waiting for his host parents to bring him medicine. TUMS, Pepto-Bismol, Advil—whatever it was, he would take it. As it turned out, relief doesn’t come in tablet form in that part of the world.
Freschi, now a TCNJ freshman, said recently that he expected to experience some culture shock while participating in Global Citizen Year, the bridge-year program he took part in after graduating from Verona High School, delaying his enrollment at TCNJ until this fall. The program, according to its website, is “designed to unleash the potential of the next generation of young Americans as authentic leaders and effective agents of change.” Participants travel to Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
Freschi, who lived in a remote mountain region of Ecuador, said he overcame the language barrier by learning phrases in Spanish. But he admitted that being hit with a guinea pig, the local treatment for his particular ailment, caught him a bit off guard.
Despite the episode, Freschi very much enjoyed experiencing the ins and outs of living on a rural farm while teaching English during his time as a Global Citizen Fellow.
“Communicating at first was very difficult, and to be dropped into a new culture with all different kinds of customs and to have to find your way was tough,” he said. But the experiences with his students are ones he will never forget.
“It was interesting coming into school and seeing how important [I was] to the kids, and how much they paid attention,” said Freschi. “They would hold onto me, and hold my hand as I walked around. It was just a very, very cool experience.”
Had he enrolled at TCNJ last fall, Freschi said he would have come in with a sole focus on international studies. But after seeing what life is like in Ecuador, he decided to incorporate engineering and science into his course studies.
“Through my experiences there, I saw how important new technologies are in these countries,” said Freschi.