I’m More Comfortable Speaking My Mind

Evan Brandaw, a 2014 Global Gap Year and Catlin Gabel School alumnus, is studying at the College of Wooster. In this interview he shares why he is more confident now speaking his mind, about his heroes, and about a time he struggled during his gap year.

What did you enjoy about the seminars?

They were optional. Everything on TBB was. You showed up at seminars because you wanted to; you read because you wanted to; you spoke because you wanted to. The expectations came from your peers, and the harder everyone worked, the better the learning experience got for everyone. The content was also great; I have most of my readings still with me so that I can look back on them and have new reflections on old topics. We talked about some complex issues; it often makes college courses seem tame in comparison. 

What inspired you to take a gap year?

To be honest, college scared me. I knew roughly what I wanted to do and what people had told me I was talented at, in terms of academics. I was, and still am, passionate about language and diplomacy and I thought that if I spent time abroad, it would only serve to augment those skills. Now, I’m interested in that realm of studies for entirely different reasons – but that came later! Leading up to and after graduation, I really didn’t feel like an adult, like I was ready to live a completely independent life. Why did I decide that going on an odyssean adventure with a bunch of strangers was the best way to cope? I’m not really sure. I guess I wanted to throw myself into the ocean to see how I swam. I think a big goal of mine was to personally establish that I could survive and thrive without my parents.

What did you learn from your relationship with your program leaders?

I learned a lot from all three of my Program Leaders. An important thing I came away with from TBB is that: just because they are your authority figures, doesn’t mean they aren’t people. What I mean by that is, my leaders opened up to me as much as I opened up to them, and the trip was just as an intense learning experience for them as it was for the students. I try hard to respect my teachers now because they’re trying hard to do their jobs and it’s a disservice to be anything other than cordial. The PL’s were friends – legitimate friends – with all of us. I find it much easier now to express exactly how I feel about something. Deflection is such an easy habit to adopt when someone starts to ask deep, personal questions. I’m much more comfortable speaking my mind now.

Who are your heroes?

One that comes to mind is Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary General of the U.N. He’s really more of a tragic figure, but he was really committed to making the world a more unified place, and made a strong push for African decolonization. Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but this quote gives me goosebumps: “We are not permitted to choose the frame of our own destiny. But what we put into it is ours. He who wills adventure will experience it – according to the measure of his courage. He who wills sacrifice will be sacrificed – according to the measure of his purity of heart.” I deeply respect Nelson Mandela, as well.

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