• Kyla Roland

The Beginning of My Year Around the World

The lead up:


In the weeks leading up to my original departure (Wednesday July 31st), I felt a mixed bag of emotions about leaving. I felt sad because I had to drop my girlfriend off at the airport,  where I hugged her and came to terms with the fact that it would be the last time that I'd get to see her for a while. I was beaming with pride because 10 days before my initial departure date I had a farewell party where dozens of family members, and close childhood friends, came to celebrate my graduation and expressed how proud they were of me and all that I had accomplished.  I felt imposter syndrome creeping in, telling me I wasn't worthy of winning such a prestigious fellowship–an opportunity that I had worked so hard for. And finally, I felt like I couldn't do it...like I couldn't make it a whole year without seeing my parents and my friends who I saw virtually every day prior to leaving. I felt that I couldn't handle traveling the world on my own. Because I'm just a Black girl from Detroit.  


As a kid I never imagined being the person that I am today: achieving the things that I've achieved and getting to see the world on someone else's dime.  The idea of living out experiences that I never saw possible for myself was A LOT to digest.


After some self reflection, affirmations, and conversations with friends and family, I snapped out of my slump and was able to see what other people saw in me.  I thought about all that I had accomplished and the sacrifices, hard work, and confidence it took to become a member of the 2019 class of Thomas J. Watson Fellows and started to feel like myself again.  With a week to go until July 31st, I knew that I was ready to take on the journey ahead of me and all of the ups and downs that would come along with it. When people would ask me how I felt about leaving, I used to smile and say that I was excited because I kept thinking about needing to be grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity.  Now I realize that it's ok to feel scared and even a little anxious along with my excitement because shoving those "ungrateful" feelings down just intensified them once I finally let myself feel them. 


I had a pretty big bump in the road leading up to my departure date.  Late planning with my visa for Trinidad and some mishaps with USPS caused me to push my flight back two days, which I was pretty bummed about, initially.  When my visa and passport weren't returned in time for me to leave on the day that I had been planning for (July 31st) I panicked and felt like I had failed before I even left the country.  After kicking myself up for a few minutes, I snapped out of it, and started problem-solving and reaching out to people to help me solve this problem. Eventually, I was able to find a new flight that left on August 2nd and hoped that my documents would arrive the next day.  Thankfully, they had, but if they hadn't, I was confident that I'd find a way to solve the problem or work around it because I was determined to start my Watson Year. After this hiccup in my plans, I found myself even antsier and excited to start this year-long journey. The trouble I faced before leaving taught me a lot of lessons, with the most important being that regardless of what happens during this year I know how to use my resources to solve any problem that may come my way.  It was the last piece of reassurance that I needed to feel confident about leaving and being on my own, so, in a way, I'm thankful for that experience.  


In the days before my new departure date, I said my final goodbyes to my friends and family, and was ready to take on the first leg of my Watson Journey in Trinidad! 



Departure Day:

The picture my Nana took of me after taking me to the airport. Not a lot of bags for a year long trip haha.

The night before I leaving, I expected to have trouble sleeping because of my nerves about leaving.  You know, like the day before a big vacation? Or the night before Christmas where you're ready for it to be the next day, and you know that going to sleep will make tomorrow come faster, but it doesn't stop you from tossing and turning all night with anticipation for the next day to come.  I didn't feel that feeling, and it came as a shock to me. Now, on the day of my departure, I think back to that night and feel like my lack of nerves was partially due to the build-up of my initial departure day (that got moved back two days), and mostly because of how ready I felt to take on the year as a result of the false build-up.  That night, the night before I left, I looked at Sierra Ponthier's Instagram page because she was the 2018 Davidson Watson Fellowship awardee and was heading to Davidson for the Watson returners conference. I looked at the pictures from all of her adventures, saw her excitement to come back to Davidson to speak with other Watson fellows about her experiences, and felt even more excited about taking on a journey of my own!  I woke up, double, triple and quadruple checked my bags for all of my documents and essential items, and then left with my Nana (grandmother) to head to the airport. Saying goodbye to her was hard, but I couldn't help but be happy because I knew that by taking on this journey I was making her, my family, and so many other people proud.  


While I feel a little weight on my shoulders and pressure to come out of this year with an "I'm gonna save the world" attitude, I am excited to see what this year brings me.  A lot of people ask me what I expect to get out of this year and my honest answer is that I don't know.  


But I know what my hopes are. During this year I hope to gain friends around the world, impact lives, be impacted by others, and enjoy these once in a lifetime experiences that I'll remember for the rest of my life. 


Right now I don't have any concrete expectations for the year...and I'm ok with that.



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