Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
Double Major: Political Science/ Religion
Gap Year Description:
My gap year started the day after graduation at my school in London. It took 26 long sleepless hours to fly over to Fiji, where I volunteered as a teacher on one of the many small islands for 6 weeks. I lived in a house with other volunteers and spent each day at a local school, teaching a class of 40 five year olds. It was exhausting! I spent my weekends scuba diving and exploring the beautiful islands of Fiji. On the last day, my fellow volunteers and I skydived out of a small plane at 14000 feet!
After returning home, I spent a few months working in Sweden at a hotel. In September I headed over to Borneo, where I had an opportunity to volunteer for a United Nations Development Program, PACOS, that work towards raising the quality of life for the indigenous communities. During my time there I was also able to explore some of Borneo, and even climb Mt. Kinabalu! I returned to London, where I had planned to work for a few months.
Ever since I was little I have always been fascinated with aviation, and when an opportunity arose for me to go to Florida to get my private pilots license I was ecstatic. I never planned this into my gap year, but as it was something I had always wanted to do, I jumped on it! I spend the next three months training to be a pilot in Sarasota, Florida. On December 8th 2009, I passed my final examination and officially became a pilot. It was incredible. I was able to fly myself, family, and friends in a small 4 seated Cessna 172 all around Florida.
I remained in Florida working to get the next level of certification, instrument license, until it was time for my next adventure: Brazil. Two girls I briefly met when I was in Sweden were planning on backpacking around South America for 6 months. I planned to join them in Brazil for the first month of their trip. We flew into Rio for the famous Carnival Festival, and then worked our way up the coast and then over to the Amazon. As much as I wanted to stay on and continue into Peru, I had another exciting quest ahead. I landed in Bangkok with the same backpack on my shoulders, and started my journey around South East Asia. My best friend Josie had been volunteering in Cambodia for a month, so Phnom Peng was my first stop! From there we made our way to Siem Reap, and saw the magnificent Ankor Wat. Then we took a 22 hour bus ride to Ho Chi Minh City, formally known as Saigon, in Vietnam. We spent three weeks discovering the beauty and tragic history of Vietnam. We stopped in Nha Trang for two weeks where we did intensive Scuba diving courses to become rescue divers. Finally, we got up to the North of Vietnam, where we spent days hiking around Sapa and living with local tribes. After Vietnam, we backpacked through Laos, and then finally Thailand. In Thailand I spent a lot of time practicing yoga, mediation, and of course, more scuba diving! Whilst in Chiang Mai, I went to a Tiger Sanctuary, run by Buddhist Monks, and was able to cuddle with five one month old tiger cubs. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. We ended our trip in the Thai island, Koh Phangan, where the famous “Full Moon Party” takes place each month.
I finally got on a flight back to London, where I met my mother and little sister, had a few days' layover, and then the three of us went to Ghana, in West Africa. Three years prior to this trip, I had volunteered at an incredible orphanage just outside of Accra. The following year I returned with my mother, and this time I was bringing my little sister as well. We spent a month at Royal Seed Home orphanage teaching and caring for the 150 children who live there. Although I had experienced many exciting adventures during my gap year, spending time with the children at Royal Seed Home is the most rewarding and meaningful experience I had. Finally my time was up, and I had to return to my home to prepare for my new life at Middlebury College, Vermont.
How it influenced your time at Middlebury:
I have only been at Middlebury College for about one month now, but I feel that I was ready and prepared for this new chapter in my life. Graduating from the IB program at a very intensive high school, I felt that I needed a break in order to fully apply my potential once I arrived at Middlebury. I wanted to take the time now to do things I had always wanted to do, see things I had always wanted to see, and experience life on my own before starting at college. I truly believe that in doing so, one begins to appreciate all the aspects of college and opportunities that are available. Upon returning I had found a new appreciation of education, and was eager to get back to the books! Another valuable result of taking my gap year was that it built up my self-esteem in social situations. Traveling around on your own forces you to step out of your comfort zone and explore your social skills. I met some extraordinary people during my gap year, and it taught me confidence and how to make friends easily. I also believe that the timing of taking a gap year in between high school and college is just right. Many people feel that after graduating college there isn’t much time for “gap years” once you start working. Therefore, once you have been accepted into a university, you can guarantee that space, and defer your entry. I have felt no negative effects of doing this, only positive ones. It is important that you have a plan about what you want to do, and come up with a budget. I would definitely recommend a gap year to anyone who is looking for an adventure, a new learning experience, and a fantastic year!