How It Is To Be The Country Head Of A Mammoth Social Enterprise #GlobalCitizenYear

Last updated 16 May 2017 . 7 min read

We at SHEROES got the opportunity to interact with the country head of the Global Citizen Year and it was nothing short of amazing. Archana Rao, has changed her careers more often but has never lost out on her focus and passion. Read on to know how she changes gears in her professional life, about the gap year concept and why it is the better way to impart experiential knowledge in the young minds.

“An obsessive-reader with a curious conscience, I worked for many years at Faber and Faber, an Independent publishing house in the United Kingdom.

My curious conscience led me to give up what some might describe as the perfect job (getting paid to read and travel the world) to join my inspiring mother and father at an NGO based in Panchgani. I worked for a few years in rural development.

A friend recommended Global Citizen Year to me when they were on a hunt for a new country director. Whilst I wasn’t ready to leave my job, the interviews I had with Abby Falik (founder), Jonas Mok (Vice President of Finance) and Erin Llewellyn (COO) were life changing and I knew I wanted to be part of an organisation committed wholly and authentically to encouraging young people develop the very values I have committed to developing in myself.

Global Citizen Year & the concept of gap year among students

Global Citizen Year is an award-winning, non-profit social enterprise on a mission to make it normal to choose a bridge year; an experience after high school that builds self-awareness, global skills, and grit – the foundations for success in college and beyond.

Fellows come from predominantly the United States and some other countries. They live for 7 months in one of 4 countries (Brazil, Ecuador, India or Senegal), with the intention to have a truly immersive experience to build leadership skills as well as personal growth.

In India, they live with local host families in Pune or Hyderabad, apprentice with Teach for India or Voice4Girls and learn Marathi, Telugu or Hindi.

The concept of providing young high school graduates an experiential learning journey that has clear learning outcomes of self awareness, self adaptability, collaboration, cross cultural collaboration, global perspective, accountability would help our fellows to make more informed choices about their future and frankly more authentic meaningful citizens of our world.

Gap year is still not a very popular concept among Indian students

There are many different types of ‘gap’ programmes around. Some for 2-3 weeks to 2-3 months to one like ours which is a longer-7 months.

Immersing yourself in a different culture, hitting the pause button on the rat race that we are involved in, taking time out to reflect on what we really want, what kind of people we want to be can be so deeply valuable for our Indian students too. Especially our Indian students.

Global Citizen Year doesn’t send Indian students abroad, however, the India team is committed to finding host families with children who are around the same age as our fellows.

This too can be an eye opening experience for our Indian students. To make the world a smaller place, to have a sister or brother from another country and culture can be deeply humbling too.

Gap Year in the country obsessed with an engineering degree and high marks

Being curious about the world around you, especially when it’s a culture that is so different to your own helps build empathy and compassion.

You begin to get a realistic understanding of the diversity yet the similarities of people who seem ostensibly ‘other’ from us. Most ‘gap’ year programmes, available for high school graduates, tend to be shorter.

A 7-month immersion, bridge year or launch year really tests you. The magic happens, the real learning and growth happens when you’re in your stretch zone, Global Citizen Year pushes fellows to be in their stretch zone.

A fellow discovered the ideas of social development, but more so the importance of being true to your roots and working towards making an impact where it was most effective. He has chosen to work in Mexico the country of his parents’ origin after his education. These ideas came after he spent sometime with an Indian filmmaker talking about the importance of our life’s work being meaningful.

Connecting with something other than themselves

Different nationalities yes but I’d say more broadly connecting with anything that is not themselves, anything other.

We live in an alarmingly divided and judgemental world, divided on religion, race, gender, sexuality, nationality, caste….etc.

Developing thinking that is inclusive, that is curious and not judgmental, that celebrates diversity and that can be grateful (some of our Global Citizen Behaviours that define our curriculum) will not only make our fellows better people but greater leaders and our world a better place.

Sprinting from one field to another, how did you manage to change so many careers?

I got a job straight out of my masters in construction finance in London and I worked there for 4 years whilst simultaneously training to become a chartered surveyor. I hated my job.

It was at that breaking point when I sat down and thought, what was it that gave me energy, what made me most happy. And without a question of a doubt it was books.

I loved reading, I loved talking about books, I loved discovering authors and reading all their previous works. I knew then that I ought to be in the book business.

With no qualification but naïve grit I persevered and got my dream job. I was paid to travel the world and talk about books.

However, I had a similar sense of disconnect 8 years into this job and felt strongly that I needed to realign my life and live a life of compassion, move back home to be closer to my parents.

I worked for 2.5 years with my mother at her NGO, Grampari and then joined Global Citizen Year.

I’ve had 3 careers, and flourishing ones and I know the only reason why that has happened is little to do with my skill but much more to do with my passion and belief.

I feel strongly that if we understand what our ‘purpose in life’ is, and it may not be an actual job, but it could be a value (compassion for me), the universe conspires to make that happen for us. I am so far away from living that compassionate life but I am deeply grateful that I have that opportunity every day. With a fantastic team as well!


Lola Jutta
An unapologetic writer, budding travel enthusiast and a default optimist! Life is what you make out of it.

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