Making Lasting Connections on My Gap Year

Bre Adey Gap Year Student

Influenced by her family of accomplished photographers, Bre Adey, a 2014 Global Gap Year and Douglas S. Freeman High School alumna, talks about her natural passion for photography; how one man’s story taught her the lesson of resilience on her gap year, and the influence of mentors on her development.  

Have you always had an interest in photography?

Photography has always been a part of my life. Growing up my mother and grandfather always had cameras with them and they’re both amazing photographers. I think my interest was definitely sparked by their interest. It’s funny, the original plan for my media project in South Africa, Also Human, was to tell peoples’ stories through photography. It got changed to film because it happened to work out better for that project. As far as a career goes, I would love the opportunity to tell peoples’ stories. If I was offered a job where that was possible I would definitely consider it.

Did your gap year meet your expectations?

TBB went above and beyond my expectations. I have so many amazing memories from my time abroad, and I came home with a greater sense of who I am, and who I want to become. One of the things I’m really grateful for is the lasting community that TBB provides. While traveling, the experiences my peers and I shared were life changing, and resulted in friends that love and support me like family. Not only that, but the opportunities TBB provides for its alumni are growing, and that is really exciting.

What significant events do you believe shaped you during your gap year?

As TBB progressed I began to question the ways I’d been socialized in the US and how much the environment is able to shape our lives. The seminars in India were mind boggling in the best of ways. I started to really understand the power of a good question. We asked things like how our Western lens shapes our understanding of other cultures, and if the American school system takes away creative thinking skills. Learning to think in new ways has shaped me as a person as I continue to learn what it means to be human.

Did you enjoy volunteering, and what lessons did you take away from the experience?

I was very inspired and humbled by each of the different service learning projects we did. One ofBre Adey Learning to Be Human the experiences that sticks out most in my mind is working in South Africa. One of the lessons I learned there was resilience through one of our patients, Stanley, who had cancer. He lived in one of the smallest houses we visited while I was working in the township of Kranshoek. Still, his house shined with his personality. He had painted a mural of the sea on his wall, so that even if he didn’t get to leave his home he could still see the ocean everyday. Stanley painted and sold his artwork to pay for his treatment. His positivity and his light shined through in spite of his circumstances. Connections like that – getting to know people and understanding them – were part of what made TBB an amazing experience. Another key thing I learned from TBB was the idea of mutual liberation, the concept that volunteering can be a shared connection between “volunteer” and “recipient” where they help each other to grow.

Did you have a mentor during your gap year and how did the relationship influence you?

I considered all three of the program leaders mentors while on my gap year, and still do today. Knowing I had people I could always talk to while I was traveling was very reassuring. Each one of the three leaders was essential to my personal development and the group. While transitioning to new places, Beth seemed like an old friend. I was able to talk to her without fear of being judged, and I am very thankful for her presence in South Africa. Stacey is such an amazing individual. Her ability to communicate both with the students and across cultures is really inspiring and she continues to inspire me. Allison’s tireless ability to give is astounding. She was a wonderful support system. The mentors that Thinking Beyond Borders provides are instrumental to the growth and development of TBB students.

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