How Thinking Beyond Borders Changed My Academic Path

Molly Fox, alumna of the Global Gap Year 2018/19 cohort, shares reflections from her gap program with Thinking Beyond Borders and how it allowed her to take ownership of her path forward.

Why did you choose Thinking Beyond Borders?

Signing up for a gap year with Thinking Beyond Borders was the best decision of my life. Ever since I can remember, my definition of educational success was to get good marks, stack up a resume with various clubs and sports, and be accepted into well-known schools. After spending all of my life sitting in a classroom learning how to sound smart, I realized I had no real “smarts” within the global issues that I was interested in. I was aware that I was living in the bubble of my hometown and was desperate to see, feel, and experience different ways of life– through different cultures, customs, and cuisines. How was I going to accomplish this? Well, the answer was clear. It did not take me long to apply to the Thinking Beyond Borders Global Gap year as soon as I discovered their website. 

I vividly remember being accepted into TBB’s Global Gap Year cohort for 2018-2019, like it was yesterday. I was on a phone interview in an empty classroom in my high school, my resume and any other possible documents I might have needed laid out in front of me. However, I never needed to look at any of those documents for the questions I was being asked. Questions like, “why are you interested in a program like this?” and “what role do you tend to play as a member of a group?” were just the beginning of my uncontainable excitement about the way this program would shape me as a human being. 

As I embarked on this journey with 15 other global gappers, I quickly realized that I would be learning a lot. Through the curriculum on global issues (Sustainable Agriculture, Education, and Public Health), work placements to get first-hand experience, and the ‘Who Am I’ Identity Development seminar series, I had a ton of information to reflect on. Thinking Beyond Borders taught me what real learning looks like: how to ask questions, how to create critical arguments, and how to be a divergent thinker. I was never taught these things in a traditional school setting. There is also something really special about engaging in this type of deep critical learning within an intimate setting of students and facilitators. This setting allowed very strong relationships to flourish, all while traveling the world.

How did the gap experience impact your academic path forward?

After this program I knew I wanted to pursue higher education, but I was skeptical about finding a program that would fulfill me educationally the way my gap year did.  My studies began at Emory University taking some science courses, and they reminded me too much of the traditional educational setting I wanted to get away from in my formative years. I wanted to find a program that had a small group of people talking about real world issues and gaining valuable insight on social justice, domestic and global poverty, and policy changes.

I found exactly this through the Leadership and Community Engagement major at the University of Colorado Boulder. After transferring into this program of 18 students, I found myself learning so much about modern topics of injustice and systemic oppression. Taking classes that pull from the ideas and topics I experienced abroad, I feel very satisfied with learning in a progressive pedagogical setting where my creativity and critical thinking skills are rewarded. 

As times goes on, I still discover more and more impacts unfolding from my time on the Thinking Beyond Borders gap year. It has changed the way I think, the way I act, and has boosted my confidence in pursuing my dreams. Because of TBB, I feel encouraged to sign up for programs like the RESULTS Fellowship, a year-long advocacy training program that will teach me how to more effectively lobby and advocate for my ideas in front of policy makers.

Through every step of my post-TBB journey, I have had a wonderful support network of friends and leaders who are there to listen to me, give me advice, and remind me of all my favorite memories of this life-changing experience. Fear lies not in the act of making a brave decision, but in not taking the first step to get you to where you know your heart lies. To anyone reading this, please remember the power you have to design your life, internally and externally. What is it going to look like? 

 

To read more reflections from Molly from throughout her program, you can visit her blog.