What Is It Like to Volunteer in a Community?

On Thinking Beyond Border programs, one of the pathways to empowering students to become effective social change leaders is through practical experiences. The students go beyond just doing “service”, and instead get the chance to learn and do meaningful work alongside local experts. From issues of education, healthcare, environmental sustainability, poverty to agriculture, students actively become involved in host communities to help local organizations creating change and to increase their understanding of these critical issues.

Take a look at a range of students’ views on what this kind of volunteering meant to them during their gap year. Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight: I Learned to Value Relationships

Kaia Mann, TBB’14,  shares the lessons she gained from different cultures; the nature of her relationship with her host community, and what she would do differently if she could do it all again.   

What was your relationship like with your host family and community?

Kaia Mann, TBB'14

Kaia Mann, TBB’14

The home stays that I did made lasting impressions on me in each country.  I was able to create incredible relationships with my host families as well as with people in the surrounding communities. For example, in Ecuador, I lived with a family with three amazing young children who I enjoyed playing with all the time. They welcomed me into their home and into every part of their lives. Not only did I become a part of their immediate family, but I also found a strong community with my host father’s brothers, sister, and father, all of whom lived in the same compound. In India, I became close friends with my host sister and brother. I worked with my brother at school in the morning and saw my sister in the afternoon at the NGO Thinking Beyond Borders was partnered with. I was able to become part of their family while also experiencing their day to day lives. Continue reading

How is TBB Learning Different from High School?

Learning on a TBB gap year program is a fusion of fieldwork with experts, deepGap Year Experiential Learning cultural immersion, and meaningful discussions all backed by a powerful curriculum. Unlike a traditional classroom education, students have the opportunity to engage in a learning environment designed to help them better understand critical global issues, think about solutions they want to see in the world, and prepare for successful careers that create meaningful change. They gain practical knowledge and experience on global issues and develop skills that lead to self discovery.

Let’s look at students’ first hand perspectives on how this learning impacted them: Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight: Taking a Risk on Myself on My Gap Year

Mary Bryan, TBB’11, is a student of Tulane University. In this interview, she gives insight into her experience working in communities facing global challenges; what she achieved, and how her gap year influenced her choice of study in college.

What did you take away from working with your peers?

Mary Bryan (L) with fellow alumni Rachel Jordan (R)

Mary Bryan (L) with fellow alumni Rachel Jordan (R)

One of my Program Leaders on the trip always referred to our group as a ‘nomadic family’ and I think that’s pretty accurate. The support structure that I had in my group was vital to surviving the challenging aspects of the program, and I learned to recognize when I needed support as well as when I could support others. I learned to embrace differences of perspective, but I also learned how to boldly state my opinions about the things I was passionate about. I learned how traveling brings out the best and worst in people. Continue reading

Take Your Gap Year Travel to The Next Level

Traveling abroad for your gap year not only offers rejuvenation, but a unique and powerful learning environment for personal development and growth. Unlike taking a vacation, gap year travel is difficult to do successfully because it’s easy for it to be a series of tourist stops and lack meaningful cultural engagement and learning that should prepare you as you transition to college.

Here are three keys to keep in mind to ensure you get value from your trip: Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight: My Gap Year Inspired Me to Start a Social Enterprise

Silvanio Valdez, TBB’10, is currently at Miami University completing his Master’s degree in Financial Economics. In this interview, he shares his inspiration to start a social enterprise after his gap year; how he managed business and college, and his future plans in International Development.  

How did your gap year prepare you for business and college?

Silviano Valdez, TBB'10 and Social Entrepreneur

Silviano Valdez, TBB’10 and
Social Entrepreneur

TBB’s curriculum gave my college studies purpose and direction.  I still remember our heated class discussions on the best ways to implement green energy initiatives, whether to privatize water rights, the real returns for investing in a girl’s education, and what development really means. We also had the chance to meet representatives from multinational governmental organizations. These classroom debates and meetings affirmed my decision to major in economics. My first semester freshman year, I asked my economics professor what I needed to do to become a successful economist. His advice lead me to take more math and statistics classes, do research with the McNair Scholars Program, and attend the American Economic Association Summer Training Program. These were all time intensive activities, but knowing that I was doing this to prepare myself for a career in international development made it a lot easier. Gaining purpose and direction allowed me to take full advantage of the opportunities at my college. Continue reading

Planning Your Gap Year

Figuring out what steps to take to begin planning your gap year can be difficult. Here’s a checklist to help you start planning:

Apply to college

Planning a Gap Year PeruThe process of applying for college can be an arduous task, and is best sorted out before leaving for your gap year. It is important to finish your application and confirm your admission so that you transition smoothly to college after your time away. Some gap year providers such as Thinking Beyond Borders offer support with completing college applications. The prevalence of internet access around the world today means you could probably apply or reapply while on your gap year. However, your senior year of high school is going to be the time that you have the most support to handle the application process as smoothly and hassle-free as possible, taking this task with you on your gap year means time and energy not spent on achieving your goals for your gap year. If you require such support, inquire from your gap year provider you have selected to undertake a gap year with. Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight: My Gap Year Made Me a More Positive Person

Audrey Falk is a recent alumni of TBB South America Semester Gap Year Program. In this interview she speaks of what led to her high school burnout, discovering herself on her gap year, and gaining a sense of independence and maturity in preparation for college. Audrey will be attending Tufts University in the fall.

What do you think you gained from going on a gap year?  

Audrey Falk (R), South American Gap Semester Alumni,  with her host brothers in Bolivia.

Audrey Falk (R), South American Gap Semester Alumni, with her host brothers in Bolivia.

As I embarked on my gap year, I only asked of myself two things: to approach each day without expectation and to experience each moment in honesty, openness, and presence. Because of that, I feel that I have developed as a person more deeply than I could have imagined. I’m so grateful to have had the freedom, space, and experiences to really get to know myself. A lot of that came through learning from not only my TBB peers, but also my friends and host families in South America. I feel grounded and aware of what makes me truly happy and how to live happier in any circumstance. In terms of college preparation, I am eternally grateful to have this experience under my belt before entering a situation that will offer me many choices yet ask a lot of me as well. The trip has bolstered me academically, socially, and personally in vital ways and I feel a hundred percent better going into college. Continue reading

Take a Gap Year After High School to Take Control of Your Education

Students take a gap year after high school with Thinking Beyond Borders to take control of their
education. They want a break from the rigors of traditional classrooms while still actively engaging their minds. They want to find purpose and direction before committing to college. They want to know who they are and what they stand for. And they want to do all of this with a committed group of peers.

Why the Right Learning Space Works

I’m so grateful to have had the freedom, space, and experiences to really get to know myself. A lot of that came through learning from not only my TBB peers, but also my friends and host families. – Audrey Falk, TBB ’14

Continue reading

Pros and Cons of a Gap Year

Whether to go straight to college or take a gap year after high school may be a hard question you are asking yourself. The path to college is well-defined and you have plenty of support in high school to help you follow that path. A gap year, on the other hand, can take a lot more time to plan, either by finding the right program or the right set of independent opportunities. The process takes a bit of investment in addition to the process of deciding where you are going to go to college.

But here are four reasons why that investment might be worth making: Continue reading