“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The most universal language I know is soccer.

When I step into a pickup soccer game anywhere around the world, I enter into a brief, informal social contract. At first, male players eye me warily as I walk onto the field asking if I can play, too.

But then, gradually, the game unfolds.

Tenuous friendships form as players learn each other's styles. Trust emerges as the team settles into a rhythm. My teammates, many of whom have never before played fútbol with a woman, realize they can pass me the ball and I won't let the team down.

This is when I'm in my element. Nothing gives me so much satisfaction as the moment I gain the trust of a group of guys who just five minutes ago rolled their eyes when I walked up to the field.

I take this universal spirit of soccer with me when I live and work abroad in cultures, countries, and industries where I may not be what people expect. I will let my enthusiasm and results prove that I deserve a place in the game. I've learned that a willingness to work hard and have fun can win over teams in even the most difficult of situations.

Even if I can't always speak in "soccer," I will carry its lessons with me everywhere.

— Amalia della Paolera