What is the impact of a gap year program? When researching gap year options, this is a great question to ask! Alumni are perhaps the best group of people to hear from, as they’ve been through the program themselves and can speak openly with you about their experiences.
For a closer look at the lasting impact of a Thinking Beyond Borders gap program, 2013 TBB alumna, Clare Platt, shares how her experience continues to impact her today, a full seven years after she traveled abroad on her gap year:
Thinking Beyond Borders, without a doubt, shaped the trajectory of my life. Having grown up in a tiny Wisconsin town, I enrolled in TBB’s Global Gap Year because I wanted to “broaden my horizons” before heading off to college and setting my life’s course in motion. At the time, I felt overwhelmed with life’s big questions: Who am I? What do I value? Where am I going, and Why? I thought that TBB might provide some answers, and so I took a leap.
Of course, Thinking Beyond Borders didn’t purport to give me neatly packaged answers to those lofty questions. But, this program did equip me with the tools and mentorship to pursue those answers myself while also pursuing positive impact, de-centering my own experience, and prioritizing empathy. Along the way, I unlearned false narratives that I had been taught, consciously and subconsciously (Hello “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”). I grew by witnessing my own strength and resilience when confronted with environmental and intellectual challenges. (This program challenges you—that is absolutely the best part!) This allowed me to take ownership over my life in a new way, untethered from norms and expectations. And, I witnessed the world without rose-colored glasses by living with real people in real communities with real challenges that I was asked to understand and support, without any illusion that I was there to “fix” systemic problems with some magical American-ness.
Some more practical outcomes: I have spoken about my unique hands-on experience in countless job interviews and law school admissions essays. I gained lifelong friends who, 7 years later, are still like my brothers and sisters. I saw beautiful places and lived in the thick of the Ecuadorian jungle and on a Chinese farm that isn’t on a map. I worked with incredible non-profit organizations whose work I still follow. And I participated in stimulating and challenging seminars that prepared me to bring critical thinking and communication skills to a college environment.
In the seven years since, I’ve worked for multinational international development agencies, DC think tanks, domestic advocacy organizations, etc, and I am now on my way to law school in pursuit of a legal career that allows me to advocate for survivors of gender-based violence domestically and abroad.