Lauren and Kaitlyn join the alumni hangout with Kasha to chat about their experience on the Asia Gap Semester in the fall of 2014. They begin by talking about the amazing relationships that their semester brought, and the incredible group of students they got to experienced India, Thailand, and Cambodia with. In fact, they are calling in together from Lauren’s school, University of Virginia, where Kaitlyn commuted to from UNC Wilmington.
Lauren’s decision to take a gap year came from watching her older brother learn and grow from his own gap year, and realizing that she would be missing out if she didn’t pursue her own gap experience. She knew that she would still have her college experience, but she’d have it a year later than her high school peers, with a year of real-world work and personal growth. Kaitlyn decided to take a gap semester because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study in college and wanted to see more of the world, beyond her small town in North Carolina.
Both women express their love of their work project in Thailand, where they learned to farm rice in one of the first local farms to breakaway from the use of pesticides and become organic. They feel so fortunate to have been able to learn and work alongside local Thai villagers and be able to walk through the beautiful rice fields every day. Kaitlyn says, “I just love Thailand so much. And I loved my experience in my village. And with my host parents. That was the happiest I’ve ever been.”
Lauren talks about the thought-provoking learning experience that they got from working alongside teachers in informal schools in India. She said that this experience has been invaluable in her life, because while it was incredibly difficult, it challenged her assumptions about education and about her identity and her role in service work.
Listen in for the rest of Lauren and Kaitlyn’s description of the trip, the food, the language barriers, and the incredible sights that they saw on their semester in Southeast Asia.