Vanessa and Kasha talk about their Latin America Gap Semester in Fall 2015; Vanessa as a student and Kasha as the Alumni Fellow program leader. Vanessa’s path to her gap semester with TBB began after her first year in college, when she evaluated her freshman year on a college campus and realized she was “going through the motions” without any sense of purpose or direction. She thought rather than continue to pursue a degree in a subject she was unsure of and on a campus she didn’t feel at home on, she decided to take a semester away to learn more about herself and her role in the world.
Vanessa talks about the community that she was immediately welcomed into in both San Jose de Minas, Ecuador, and Cochabamba, Bolivia. She loved her work project in San Jose de Minas, where she worked alongside teachers in a local school. She was able to establish meaningful relationships with her students and learned a lot about the difficulties of being a teacher, the bureaucracy of school systems, and a newfound appreciation for her own teachers throughout her education. She found that she learned so much from her students about patience and acceptance.
Vanessa describes her amazing host families in Ecuador and Bolivia, where the language barrier made verbal communication difficult but she learned to connect through human interactions, generosity, and love. Spanish was not something that Vanessa was confident with when she decided to take a semester in Latin America with TBB, which was one of her biggest fears. By the end of the immersive program, she improved dramatically, finding that she was able to get by on her own at local markets, grocery stores, and with her host family.
Vanessa elaborates on the breadth of activities that her group participated in throughout the semester. These began with a two-week orientation in Mindo, a cloud forest in Ecuador. They went on hikes, ziplining, and swimming in waterfalls. They took a weekend in Otavalo, a famous arts and crafts market, and to a soccer game in Quito. She describes the breathtaking hike to Machu Picchu on the Salkantay Pass Trek, and the trips to different agricultural sites in Bolivia.
Check out the full interview for more information about the Latin America Gap Semester!