My name is Emily and I’m 19. I found Zen Pencils through a friend posting it on Facebook. The first one I ever read was the fable of the Two Wolves, and from then on I was hooked. That was about a year ago. The powerful messages in each comic have always caused me to pause and take a closer look at this crazy world around us, but I’m writing about how your comics have recently inspired me to take action.

I was scrolling through the archives and I came across the Christopher McCandless quote. I’ve read Into the Wild before and not thought much of it, but your art brought it to life in a way that I had never thought of before. I’m a sophomore in college now, and despite that I have not had the chance to live under a “new or different sun.” I’ve lived in California for most of my life, traveled a bit when visiting family in China, but for the most part I like to stay in my comfort zone where I know the language and the people well. I’m currently in North Carolina for college which is the furthest I’ve been for any extended period of time.

ROM_Emily_mar14That comic made me think about my situation long and hard, and guess what? Now I’m headed to Tanzania this summer and Costa Rica in the fall to continue my studies in education and global health. At our school we have a summer civic engagement program, and the one in Tanzania is 15 weeks long and focused on teaching children, improving their literacy and writing through photography and the visual arts, which the photographer in me is super excited about. The Costa Rica placement is a semester-long science and public health learning experience. I’ll be doing research, providing health care to villages and practicing real world applications of global health. Both programs have a heavy cultural immersion element to them and I’ll be doing home stays with local families.

I’m excited to learn Swahili and Spanish and thankfully my parents have been very supportive. Unfortunately, not many people in my immediate friend group are studying abroad so I will miss them and home. But there’s so much out there to see and I know they’ll be there for me when I come back. I hope to carry this spirit with me in doing more in the future, maybe even joining the Peace Corps. Part of me can’t believe I’m doing all this, and part of me just can’t wait to get started. I just wanted to say thanks and let you know that Zen Pencils played a big role in all of this.

What a fantastic story. Emily sure has more guts than I did when I was 19 – I wish her the best of luck and I’m sure she’ll have a life-changing experience.