Alumni Spotlight: Gap Year Before College – How it Prepared Me

Andrew Kim is an alumnus of the TBB Global Gap Year Program Class ’12 and The Roxbury Latin School. He is currently a student at Harvard University studying psychology. In this interview, Andrew shares his experiences in college: the Model United Nations, a public health internship in Uganda, and using his gap year skills.

Did your gap year influence your interests when you got into college?

Andrew Kim Discusses His Gap Year Before College

Andrew Kim

Andrew: I think at the end of my gap year, I was very moved by the conversations that I had among my peers on the program and inspired to create change. When I came to Harvard I had the desire to continue this education. I was a little discouraged by how little discussion there was on my campus on international development or sustainable development. In the academic realm, the most popular classeswere economics and it was a very different way of viewing the world than what I had come to appreciate. At first I tried joining a lot of organizations that were sort of development focused, but after a while, I don’t think I found a place on campus to foster that. Now I am studying psychology, looking mostly to take clinical psychology. I think a lot of mental health, and people’s individual experiences, which in some way was fostered by seeing so many different lives. I sort of realized that my interest is in having interactions with people. Continue reading

Gap Year for Beginners: Understanding What it Means

It’s a growing trend among high school graduates. Take a minute to learn about it whether it is right for you.

What is the Purpose of a Gap Year?

TBB Gap Year Students in Ecuador tackling natural resources and environmental issues

TBB Gap Year Students in Ecuador tackling natural resources and environmental issues

A “gap year” is typically a period between completing high school and beginning college. This time can be either a semester or a full year away from traditional classroom studies and formal education. The American Gap Year Association defines a gap year as “a structured period of time when students take a break from formal education to increase awareness, challenge comfort zones, and experiment with possible careers.

While there are countless reasons to consider taking a gap year, the most important is that a gap year can prepare you for college. Research shows that well-structured gap years provide opportunities to develop personal and social maturity, academic focus, and a sense of direction.  Meg Stolberg writes in her blog about how her participation in the TBB gap year program provided meaning to her development by changing her thought process: Continue reading

Day In the Life of a TBB Gap Year Student

We’re often asked how TBB is different from the other gap year programs available to students. So, here it is: We’re searchers. As students and Program Leaders, we live and work with local experts in communities around the world, seeking understanding of critical global issues and a vision for meaningful solutions to these problems.

What does that look and sound like? Here’s Emma Rockenbeck (TBB Global Gap Year Class of ’14) in Jaipur, India learning about education:

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The Power of Gap Year Mentors

This is a guest blog post from Amanda Payne, a former TBB Program Leader. She led the Global Gap Year program for 2 years and has now joined our US staff to support student recruitment and programming.

I struggled in college to find my way, mostly alone, scared and lost. It’s sad to think that when I graduated I was no closer to finding direction than I was when I started. After graduation I moved back home and vacillated between following a more conventional path supported by my parents that involved a cubicle and a more adventurous path that involved taking off to see the world as a Peace Corps volunteer. I was struggling to make this decision when I happened to see my cousin Lee at a family gathering. She whispered the most basic and simple piece of advice when she hugged me goodbye: “Follow your heart.”

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5 Developmental Needs Gap Years Meet that Colleges Don’t

The transition to college is a lot like the transition to middle school. There are enormous developmental changes happening within students — cognitive, social, emotional — at the same time that they are challenged with a dynamic new social and academic scene. As anyone who has been to a middle school can attest, ensuring students learn and grow in productive ways requires intentional support to meet their developmental needs.

Generally, colleges don’t do a great job of this. Gap year programs do. Continue reading

Pity is Poison

This is a guest post from Emma Rockenbeck, a current TBB Global Gap Year student. 

One of the first times we met above the glass tables in the IDEX basement our program
leader Jessie told us something that changed my life. It may be hard to hear, but I feel the
need to share the insight she gave to us with the world.

It was a bright sunny morning in the desert city of Jaipur, and we were about to go visit
the slums in which we would teach for the next few weeks. It was cold in the basement as
we took our places around the table, laughing and joking. Jessie clasped her hands
briskly in front of her, and her big blue eyes regarded each of us in turn. Stern, impassive. Continue reading

Gap Years Succeed Where High Schools Fail

In a recent post, I shared that one of the great outcomes of intentional gap years is that they develop in students a sense of purpose for their higher ed and professional careers. Take a look at research we’ve done at Thinking Beyond Borders that shows this. Because of this impact, I posit that gap years are a critical intervention to improve learning and growth for college students. Continue reading

Dealing with Person Mouth

The following is a guest blog from Chris Morales, a TBB Program Leader for the Global Gap Year

I have been asked periodically why we, the sixteen students and three program leaders traveling around the world together as a gap year program, study what we do in the specific countries we find ourselves. In this blog, I attempt to make it clear why we are studying sustainable agriculture in China, of all places, and give a bit of insight into some of the discussions we are having. Continue reading

The Value of the Gap Year

The gap year has become a hot topic in college transitions. The New York Times, Time Magazine, Forbes, MSNBC, and countless other media outlets have covered this growing trend. They highlight exciting travels, community service, and research showing gap years can improve college GPA’s and develop important learning capacities. But, the stories tend to fall short of identifying why gap years are becoming more popular. Continue reading

Reflections from a Gap Year Program Leader

This is a guest blog post from Amanda Payne, a former TBB Program Leader. She led the Global Gap Year program for 2 years and has now joined our US staff to support student recruitment and programming.

“Because TBB does learning in non-traditional settings and places it encourages you to look at every space and person as a teacher.” Katherine Abrams ‘13

When I reflect on my time as a Program Leader with TBB and on how my students’ ideas of learning changed over the course of their TBB gap year program, I’m reminded of one of my favorite author’s, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TEDtalk called the Dangers of a Single Story. Continue reading