Teddy Rounds, a 2011 South America Gap Semester and Brookline High School alumnus, 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 South America 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.
Since your gap year, how often do you try to do something new?
One of the reasons I wanted to do a gap year was because I wanted to do something new. It takes courage to be different; but that makes the path more rewarding when you realize you paved it yourself. TBB was a first for me in so many ways: first time I lived in rural South America, first time I taught English to ambitious ten year olds, first time I created a trail (and saw the biggest spider), and first time I went bungee jumping. I have tried to embody this spirit of adventure and push my limits as I now continue to find my path. This desire to do something new has allowed me to explore my interests not just academically, but has also led me back to Latin America to work with small tech startups as well as to Lisbon, Portugal to study International Relations.
What are you excited about doing now or in the nearest future?
I love learning new languages and I love to travel. Being able to solidify my Spanish in Ecuador was just the beginning. My time there only inspired me to further work on my next language, Portuguese. As I continue my seven month tenure in Portugal, I am excited not only to better my language skills, but to also compare my experiences here to those of Ecuador and Brazil. Looking at the cultural differences between those experiences— from my homestay families to getting my butt kicked in soccer—they all help create new lenses for me to understand and appreciate the world. I am a firm believer that learning about new cultures is a way to create empathy that will lead people to a more peaceful coexistence. I am excited to continue my travels, to challenge my assumptions and feed my curiosities as I continue my explorations.
How did the gap year shape your college experience?
I am a huge advocate for students to take a gap year before college; I do not have enough positive adjectives to describe my experience. To name a few, I entered my Freshmen year of college with a sense of confidence, humility, appreciation, preparedness, and a sense of self discovery that I did not have before. My gap year helped me succeed both socially and academically in a way I did not expect. I entered college not worried about what it was like to be away from home for the first time, but I was more focused and driven, lit by a fire to put what I learned abroad to the test. I was also reminded every day to simply be thankful for what I have. Going from sugar cane fields in Ecuador to seeing the lavish lifestyles in Santa Monica, Los Angeles made me appreciate the opportunities that I have. After my gap year more than ever, I felt a sense of responsibility to give back in whatever way I can, to those who have not been as lucky as I have been.
What are you hoping to do in your last year at college?
I am hoping to finally take action on one of the many ambitious and lofty ideas that are swirling around in my head. More specifically, I want to learn more about how to create a business that helps some of the type of people I was so fortunate to meet during my gap semester. I realize how lucky I am to have the opportunities that I do and now, and as the scary abyss of professional life looms much closer, I want to find a way to give back to people who have helped build me into who I am today. I am also excited to finish my International Relations degree, which has allowed me to combine my love of learning about new cultures with practical knowledge about how the world works. I finally plan on winning the championship in Coed Beginner Soccer with my Admission Center soccer team—for many years have we made it to the playoffs and come up empty handed. I am so thankful for my gap year experience, and I credit TBB in helping shape me into the curious, hardworking, appreciative, slightly goofy, and confident scholar that I am today.