Meet the Fellows: Allison and Growing as an Individual During a Gap Year

May 24, 2018
Year On TeamFellow Voices

#GapYearDecisionDay is May 25th! As students from around the world prepare to share their gap year plans, we wanted to highlight some of the reasons our current fellows decided to take a gap year.

Today, we spoke with Cohort 12 fellow, Allison, about the lessons she learned and the things she accomplished during her gap year.

Year On: What advice do you have for students who are thinking about taking a gap year?

Allison: For students who are thinking about taking a gap year: do it. I can guarantee you won’t regret it. I went back and forth for a long time. Going straight to college was the easiest option. It wasn’t outside the norm, it would be much more comfortable than traveling across the globe, I’d have friends my own age and I’d graduate sooner. But I am so glad I could think beyond that. I took a step back to think about how much a gap year would benefit my life, and how doing something outside my comfort zone and outside the norm would help me grow as an individual. Sure enough my gap year exceeded all my expectations. I became more open-minded, comfortable in my own skin, better at handling transitions, driven, confident in my ability to succeed, willing to fail, and so much more. I have a broader perspective on how I want to tackle college and my life in general. Taking a gap year is hands down the best decision I ever made and I can assure anyone that they’ll feel the same if they do it.

Year On: Why did you decide to take a gap year?

Allison: I decided to take a gap year for several reasons but mainly because I was searching for something more. I grew up in a town called Deerfield that people like to call “The Deerfield Bubble.” We earned that nickname thanks to little to no diversity as our community consists of people who have similar incomes, are the same race, dress alike and in general are like-minded people. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with a supportive family, a good education, a large group of friends and a very happy upbringing. I felt fortunate for this and was a happy person, but I didn’t feel fulfilled in my life. I was itching to get out in the world and escape the bubble. I wanted exposure to various cultures and an understanding of what it means to live a different lifestyle than the one I was used to. I wanted to meet people with different beliefs, engage in conversations/hear stories/build relationships with people of different backgrounds. I knew taking a gap year would be the perfect opportunity to help me step outside the bubble and understand the world at a greater level.

Year On: What’s one thing you learned about the world and about yourself by traveling abroad?

Allison: Traveling abroad showed me how to live with less. Throughout my time in Bali the locals were consistently happy without the use of technology or facilities. I’d swim in the ocean with my students, sing songs and play guitar with the locals, have dance parties, watch or participate in a volleyball game, have a bonfire, help pick up trash around the village, and cook meals for one another. No matter what we were doing with the villagers, these Balinese people were always so happy. Even the children. My students were almost fluent in English. None of them ever complained or cried about anything. I was constantly surrounded by joy and smiles. This was a very poor community where the humidity was intense and there was no air conditioning, the closest grocery store was a 30 minute drive away, and many of the locals slept on mattresses in their homes that consisted of one small room. Yet these people were so incredibly happy and it inspired me every single day. It didn’t take long to adapt to this environment thanks to the immense amount of positivity I was surrounded by. Although it is cliché it is true: material things do not determine happiness. Because of this, I discovered a much more open-minded version of myself and a broader perspective of the world.

Year On: What projects did you work on during your gap year?

Allison: Due to my passion for writing, I created a multiple blogs for myself during my gap year. Journi is the blog that I kept while abroad and Medium is the blog that I made while in San Francisco.  Within my San Francisco blog, I discuss several projects I was able to complete throughout the duration of my time there. Such as the one where I challenged myself to do 10 things outside my comfort zone in 48 hours. I tried Muay Thai (martial arts), attended a business networking event, and publicly sang for the first time. To read more about my process and what I’ve accomplished, check out my blog.

Year On: What are you working on now during the Launch phase? 

Allison: I’m working as a Marketing Intern for a startup called Shippa located in San Francisco and Hong Kong. The company makes global premium products more accessible for consumers. Basically, if someone in let’s say San Francisco is dying for leather goods from let’s say Italy, Shippa has personal travelers who get the desired product to the consumer. My job as the Marketing Intern is to write their online content on their medium blog to get them more exposure. I also manage their social media channels.

Year On: What are your plans for after your gap year?

Allison: Now that my gap year is complete I feel like I have a renewed sense of self and am ready to take on anything without limiting myself. I plan to attend the University of Missouri in the fall to study journalism and feel significantly more ready than I would have a year ago. I’m more open to the idea of joining random clubs/doing things outside my comfort zone in general, making friends with a range of people/welcoming diversity, and I’m eager to explore a new environment with so much to offer. I am going to continue learning about myself and the world, and constantly push myself to grow along the way as I found the value in doing so throughout my gap year.

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