Hi! My name is Rowan Pierson and I am from Boise, Idaho, which I have been proud to call my home for the past seven years. Boise is a hidden gem nestled in the foothills of the Boise mountains that combines the benefits of a rapidly growing small city with unbelievably easy access to outdoor activities such as kayaking, white water rafting, fly fishing, rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, backpacking, hiking and more. While Boise as a capital city is fairly isolated from any other major population centers, it is actually surprisingly diverse as it is one of the refugee resettlement locations in the U.S. and Boise State University and technology companies such as Micron and HP bring people to the city from all around the world. Furthermore, Boise is a bit of an anomaly as it is a liberal city in the middle of one of the most conservative states in the U.S. and thus provides a very interesting atmosphere from which to observe politics and social movements within the U.S.
In my free time I love to get outdoors, spend time with friends, read, play pick-up basketball, and play Ping-Pong, but my all time favorite activity is soccer. I have played since I was four years old and the game has been a constant presence in my life for as long as I can remember. Not only have I found it to be an incredible source of passion and way to test and challenge myself, but soccer has allowed me to connect with and make friends with people from all over the world. I think that may be the thing I love most about the sport, all you need is a ball and a somewhat open space and you can have fun for hours. You don’t need to speak the same language or have anything else in common with the people you are playing with and you can still feel a connection with them. Additionally, the sport is all about thinking, flexibility, and adaptability, you cannot pre-choreograph how it is going to go or what is going to happen because you do not know what will happen. The game changes with every second, every touch of the ball, every decision that you make and thus every time you step on the field it’s different. In this way, the sport has helped me to become a better problem solver and to be more flexible and open to change in other parts of my life. I have learned many of the greatest lessons in my life thus far from soccer and I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to spend nine months in a country where the game is larger than life and to see what lessons I learn from my interactions with the game during that time.
Aside from soccer, some of my biggest passions include connecting with other people by listening to their stories and sharing my own, medical research and new medical technologies (specifically genetic editing), health policy, environmental issues, and education. I think the thing that ties all of these diverse interests together is a strong desire to positively impact the lives of others. During high school, I was a member and chair of the board of directors of a student led and directed non-profit called One Stone, where I led and was a part of numerous experiential service projects addressing the interests I listed above. For all of the projects and things that we did at One Stone, we focused on human centered design and the design thinking process where the first step is to empathize with your end user and figure out what the actual root of the problem is so that your solution truly addresses the needs of that person or community. It was through One Stone that I was not only able to find and then foster my passions, but that I was able to fulfill one of my favorite things in life, which is to hear other peoples stories and to get to know unique people with life experiences different from my own. While I am excited for a lot of things in Bolivia, meeting some extraordinary people including all those participating in the Bridge Year Program, and hearing some incredible stories is definitely up there at the top.
In terms of food I agree with Peter about being excited to try the salteñas as I love empanadas, but I think one of the other things I am really excited to try is pique a lo macho, which is a large plate of bite size pieces of steak/beef, sausage, locotos (chili peppers), onions, boiled eggs, and fries topped with sauces and condiments.
To prepare for this amazing adventure, I re-watched the movie, También la lluvia, which I watched earlier this year in my Spanish class. The movie follows the simultaneous stories of an international film crew filming a movie in Cochabamba about Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the new world and the story of the water wars, which are beginning in Cochabamba while they are filming. I have also been preparing by actually trying to take time to not think about the trip (which is definitely difficult) and to spend time living in the present with my friends and family.
I still don’t think I have fully comprehended how soon I will be in Bolivia, but I am super excited and I cannot wait for all the adventures to come!