Hometown: Oakland, CA
Gap Year Description
I spent the first 4 months of my year working in Peru with street kids from Lima. I was one of three volunteers working in a house for boys in a beach town outside of Lima. The organization I was working with used surfing to socialize street kids. In addition to helping with homework, talking the kids to school, and helping the cook, I also did some work with homeless people in the center of Lima. I saw the way health problems, stigma, and corruption make it nearly impossible to rise out of poverty. Since I rode horses at home, I found a side job working with at a barn on the weekends. I also had the chance to travel to the Atacama dessert and the Peruvian Andes with some of the other volunteers.
After Peru, I worked on an isolated guest ranch in Patagonian Chile for three months. I lived with the Chilean family who managed the ranch. I helped my host brothers train colts and round up cows. I also spent a lot of time making beds, cleaning bathrooms and washing dishes. My host family taught me about Chilean values, attitudes and history.
When I came home, I did odd jobs, hiked, and worked at a barn near my house. I learned how to self promote. This free time showed me how to plan out and manage myself without a schedule.
How it influenced your time at Middlebury?
During high school, I was so focused on grades and schoolwork that I was starting to burn out. My gap year showed me that life is more than grades. I came back feeling that academics could really be applied to real world situations. With this larger perspective, I no longer feel the burn out from high school. My work with the kids in Peru has definitely influenced my decision to become a Sociology/Anthropology major. Traveling around South America showed me how to ask for help and communicate effectively with people. The confidence I gained from my gap year has made it easier for me to get involved and make friends at Middlebury.