In the middle of my sophomore year of college, I bought a one-way ticket from the U.S. to Thailand. Then to India, Kenya and Cameroon — and on to the Central African Republic, Nigeria, and finally Europe, stopping in Italy, Austria, and England. I needed a change, so I took off by myself for a trip around the world. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
This wasn’t my first international adventure. Having been born and raised in India, I was already familiar with the diversity of languages, cultures, religions, people, and environments in my own country and in the world.
But this experience was even more diverse. I studied Thai massage. I drove pack animals across the Ndoto Mountains. I worked in a mobile health clinic and harvested honey. During my year off, I learned more about myself than I ever knew I could and discovered my passion for educational travel.
If I hadn’t taken that gap year (and another one the following year), I probably wouldn’t be blogging today as the President and Executive Director of the Winterline Global Skills Program. In my role, I have the privilege of watching young people travel outside of their comfort zones (literally) and be transformed into engaged, responsible global citizens.
Many parents hesitate to send their children abroad. As a parent myself, I understand the concern. However, I can also attest to the value of taking a gap year. My experience abroad undoubtedly made me a better person. Immersed in new languages and cultures, I saw a side of the world I might never have seen.
What sets the Winterline Global Skills Program apart from other gap year programs is our focus on skill building. Our students don’t just volunteer or serve in underprivileged communities — they master the skills needed to serve, including courage, endurance, leadership, and teamwork. Then they take those skills home and apply them to their personal and professional lives.
There are probably a hundred reasons why you don’t think you can take a gap year — it will put you ‘behind’ in college, you can’t afford it, none of your friends are taking a year off. But there are a hundred other reasons why a gap year will change your life. If you choose the latter, I promise you won’t regret it.
Pack your bag, get on a plane, and experience the world. Winterline is going to 10 countries in 9 months, and we’d love it if you joined us for the ride.