Arden Haselmann, a 2012 Global Gap Year and School of the Future alumna, is studying Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at Wheaton College. In this interview, she discusses finding herself through her experiences and learning on her gap year, and the critical ways she is investing in her future.
Since your gap year, how often do you try to do something new?
I’ve always loved trying new things. Thinking Beyond Borders was the first time I had been away from home for more than two weeks and the first time I had been abroad without a family member so that was definitely ‘something new’ for me. During my gap year, I had the opportunity to try new foods like guinea pig in Ecuador and embrace a new fashion in India when I picked out a saree. After my gap year, I was even more excited when trying out new things. During my first year at college I joined the outdoor club, which was very different from the city life I grew up in. My involvement in this club exposed me to hiking adventures, sailing skills, and even a new passion for rock climbing.
Part of your gap year experience was about challenging assumptions. How much of that do you do on campus?
Thinking Beyond Borders encourages students to critically think about the world around them, and we did so with thought provoking discussions and hands on experiences. Re-adjusting to classroom-styled learning was challenging for me at times, but applying the methods of critical thinking to topics in the classroom that I learned through TBB and my experiences, were very practical in my learning process.
How did your gap year influence you in college?
In all honesty, my transition into college was more challenging than I had anticipated. The truth is I was not only more confident in myself and more aware of the subjects I was curious and passionate about after my gap year, I also had a new way of critically thinking about the world and my place in it, which clashed with the original plan I had for myself. I struggled to find how to bring the things I learned on TBB into the learning that was happening in the classroom and between my peers. As a result I ended up creating my own major of Peace and Conflict studies and becoming an active member in Model UN. Even though my transition into college was challenging, I would not trade the experiences I had on my gap year for anything in the world. Thinking Beyond Borders helped me realized the role I wanted to play in the world.
What activities are you currently involved in that are driving your development?
Currently I am finishing my junior year abroad in Africa. I spent the first semester in Senegal studying National Identity and Art, and I am now in Rwanda studying peace-building, and reconciliation. On campus I am still an active member of the outdoors club, which I find to be a way in which I can push myself to try new things and engage in hands on learning. This summer I am very excited about working for ITU, a technology and communications specialized agency of the United Nations that aims to fulfill everyone’s right to communicate regardless of their situation.
If you could share what you gained from your gap year, how would you do it?
Still to this day when I talk about my gap year people ask me what my favorite place was and still I can’t say I have an answer. All the places I visited with TBB taught me something unique about myself, the world, and my place in it. I met so many people, many of them probably unaware of the impact they left on me. I’ve seen parts of the world that can’t simply be illustrated in a picture. My dad said to me once “don’t let classes get in the way of an education”. I understood what that really meant after my gap year.