Claire Mai, TBB’12, is a student at Washington University in St. Louis. In this interview, she discusses why her gap year pulled her out of her comfort zone, and how she is using the same methods to impact other freshmen in college.
What significant event shaped you during your gap year?
The first media project assignment stands out in my mind. Three other TBBers and I decided to do our project on ecotourism and what it meant for Atahualpa, our host community. Our work project was in part about increasing access to Atahualpa’s beautiful nature trails for future ecotourists. I started the project with an idea of what I was hoping to discover, an idea that was utterly destroyed after our first feedback session with the program leaders. Our group wrestled hard with our ecotourism project. As hard as it was for me, I think that the media project was the first push I needed to change my approach to learning. Our group’s long struggle to unravel the meanings of ecotourism proved to me the value of not accepting simple answers, and of pushing myself to look for other parts of the equation that I hadn’t considered before. Since TBB, I have continued to try to approach my learning with a similar attitude. Continue reading
Lizzie Miller, TBB’12, is a student of the University of Southern California, where she is studying Medical Anthropology. In this interview she discusses not getting into colleges of her choice, why it turned out to be a positive thing, and the role her gap year played.
Why did you decide to take a gap year?
By the end of December of my senior year, I was frustrated with the American higher education system. I felt rejected by the system by not getting into any of my top choice schools. My hard work over the past four years seemed worthless. I came home from a youth and government trip invigorated to make changes and my Mom showed me TBB. I decided that weekend in January that I would be pursuing a gap year instead of going to school. I met Robin and Chris Stakich at a gap year fair in Los Angeles that February and was so inspired that I applied immediately and decided to go. Continue reading
Teddy Rounds, TBB’11 is in his finals at University of Southern California, where he is studying International Relations with a minor in Social Entrepreneurship. In this interview he shares why his gap year is still relevant in his final year in college and his plans after graduation.
What’s it been like since you graduated from TBB and what do you do now?
After my Ecuador Gap semester in the fall of 2011, I continued my gap year by participating in a volunteering and language immersion program in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. I then started and am now finishing my degree at the University of Southern California in International Relations with a concentration in Latin America and a Minor in Social Entrepreneurship. Although it has been almost four years since TBB, I am still shocked by how relevant the coursework and readings were to my classes. I still find myself referring back to my old TBB notebook or making references back to books I read four years ago to help me answer questions about international development. Humbled by my time in Ecuador, I tried to bring the same sense of curiosity and exploration to my collegiate experience—even if LA is more of a concrete jungle than the Tucan filled jungle I fell in love with in Ecuador. Continue reading
The benefits of your gap year don’t end once you return from your trip. College, which is your next leap, will present you with a new set of challenges that are different from your high school experience. You will be presented with many choices that will demand a lot of your time and focus. This is the time when your gap year experiences become even more valuable by applying the lessons you gained so that you can thrive in your new environment.
Here are five key gap year lessons that you can use to give yourself a leg up when you arrive on campus. Continue reading
Meg John, TBB ’14, is a student of Groucher College. In this interview, she shares reasons why she was inspired to take a gap year, the value of mentorship and the impact of non traditional way of learning.
What significant event stood out for you and shaped your personality during your gap year?
The first time my mentor, Mama V, and I met up, we talked about our stories. I found myself opening up about my family in a way I had never done before with someone I just met. And in turn I heard about Mama V’s life. We weren’t talking about readings or professional opinions and goals. We were opening up to each other; taking a moment to truly reflect on how our lives have affected us and what we’re still wrestling with. This pivotal moment, so early on in the trip, set the tone. In listening to our own stories, a sense of value in all that we’ve experienced built this feeling of an empowered desire to learn more for ourselves and for the world. Our reflections connected us to ourselves, what we were studying and to each other in the form of powerful relationships. On my gap year my personality became one to question, to talk, to listen, to exchange stories, to share experiences with. These elements transformed my life in how I interact with the world around me and how I recognize myself in the midst of it all. Continue reading
Nicholas Gardiner is a student of Georgetown University. In this interview, he shares details about the process of discovering himself through mentors, taking ownership of his learning and mapping out a plan for college.
What did you learn from the relationship with program leaders who served as mentors?
I learned to take risks that pulled me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to achieve new personal and social goals. The first risk was sharing my goals with my mentor group leader, Allison, who was able to check in with me periodically and give me encouragement and suggestions along the way. She also encouraged me to take another risk by being more open with my peers, which helped me establish more genuine friendships and share my opinions (including disagreements) with the group. The program leaders also encouraged me to take risks with my media projects. They asked questions and didn’t let me settle for mediocrity. I remember specifically being advised to branch out and try a new, more personal way of writing my Thailand media project, and that turned out to be my favorite media project. Most importantly, my relationship with my program leaders taught me to take the risk to trust myself and to trust others. I believe that that risk made all the difference in my personal growth during my gap year, and it made the journey a lot more enjoyable, too. Continue reading
Shawn Childs, TBB’10, is a University of Vermont alumna where she studied Environmental Studies and community-based International Development. In this interview, she discusses how her gap year prepared her for the demands of college life and currently shaping her professional choices.
What was it like volunteering in communities facing global issues?
The service projects that I was a part of while with TBB sparked a passion that has led me to pursue an undergraduate education in Environmental Studies and community-based International Development. I learned that working with the community is the most important part of any project, and one that is often times overlooked. There’s also a certain level of frustration that accompanies volunteering in communities facing global issues, which I may have expected before entering TBB but did not fully understand. There are cultural misunderstandings, financial limitations and a million tiny obstacles to overcome in any development job. The most difficult part to swallow was simply not knowing how much is actually being accomplished. This overwhelming feeling of ‘what’s the point?’ can weigh on you at times — it takes commitment and a belief in your project, organization and ultimately yourself to continue. Continue reading
TBB alumna, class of ’11, Rachel Jordan is a student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where she’s pursuing a major in Public Policy with minors in Medical Anthropology and Social Entrepreneurship. She is also an alumna of The Westminster Schools in Atlanta. In this interview, Rachel talks about her love for travel, adventure and learning, and how a gap year gave her all three in one breathe.
What inspired you to take a gap year?
Growing up, my mother told me bedtime stories about a trip she took to Europe one summer in college. My grandfather, too, was an avid traveler. Throughout my childhood, he took my brothers and me on day trips around Atlanta and recounted his adventures sailing to Cuba and driving through Central America. I grew up with a desire to see the world, and I longed for adventure and change. In high school, I was a dedicated student. By the time I started preparing to apply to college, I felt burnt out. It seemed like part of myself had faded into the background amidst the endless mountain of papers and tests and heavy backpacks and sleepless nights that come with being a high-achieving high school student in the United States. I also took a class my senior year of high school that challenged me for the first time to think critically about social and economic inequality, and I wanted to learn more. So I loved traveling, I loved learning, and I wanted to change the world, but I felt that going straight to college was not going to adequately prepare me for the future that I wanted for myself. Continue reading
Julia Jones, TBB’12, is a student of Syracuse University in New York, where she is studying International Relations. The impact of her gap year played an instrumental role in her personal and professional development. She shares her story on how it has shaped her till today.
What do you think you gained from going on a gap year?
This question is tough to answer briefly because so much of who I am today is due to the experiences and outlook on life that I gained from Thinking Beyond Borders. The world opened up to me—quite literally—and revealed endless examples of cultures, journeys, and livelihoods that I had very little knowledge of. Every day I was learning and absorbing my surroundings, sharing some of the most incredible memories with ten other students and three [program] leaders. I gained some of the greatest friends as well as connections to the people and places where we lived. In my life today, I seek adventure, culture, open-minded people, and every opportunity to make life better for someone else. I would never trade the gap year I spent with TBB because it has continued to impact every single day since. Continue reading
Emily Sanders, TBB’14, is a student of Metropolitan State University of Denver where she is studying Sociology. In this interview she discusses her experience, the intensity of gap year travel, and the intellectual stimulation she received on her gap year.
Gap year travel can be hectic, how did you prepare?
Preparing to leave for eight months is overwhelming, especially when you are going to live out of a 48 liter backpack and travel to many diverse locations and climates. I remember feeling like I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, a TBB gap year alum, Hannah Nelson, found a blog post I wrote announcing my acceptance to TBB’s gap year program and we connected on Facebook. Hannah was an amazing resource, she answered questions about packing, what to expect in home stays. She helped calm my nerves and reminded me to take it all one step at a time. It really helped to have someone to talk with who had been through the experience. Two girls from this current gap year group reached out to me on social media as they prepared to start their global gap year. They asked questions about packing and my experience, just like I did with Hannah! It’s been a great experience being able to help other TBBers feel more equipped to begin their TBB journey! Continue reading