"Global Citizen Year offered me 85% financial aid to do their program, which meant that taking a gap year was, financially, a completely realistic possibility."
Why did you decide to take a gap year?
I decided to take a gap you for completely unglamorous reasons. Reasons I sheepishly look back on, seeing how they reflect my naivety. My motivation was nothing like saving the world, expanding my insular perspective, or being an active change maker in society. It came down to three things.
- Pure chance
- My desire to improve my language skills
- My excitement for travel
One day in September of my senior year of high school, a friend of mine from the track team who had graduated the previous year sent me an innocent Facebook message.
She was describing a gap year that she was currently taking in Brazil with the organization Global Citizen Year (GCY). I had never heard of it before, but she suggested I check it out and I was intrigued from the moment I started reading through the website.
The two facts that stuck out to me were that I could go to a French-speaking country and that the program, Global Citizen Year, offered extraordinary financial aid. That brings me to reason number two: French.
At that point, I had taken French for six years of my life, from middle school through the end of my four years in high school and I was pretty lackluster at it. The language skills I had in French were maybe that of an A2/B1 speaker and that was just downright embarrassing.
I decided that I wanted an opportunity to improve upon all these years I had spent learning the French language and actually learn it for once, instead of just going through the motions in classes and making very little progress. GCY offered me the opportunity to do that, travelling to Senegal (in West Africa) for 8 months through its intensive, language-focused curriculum.
Thirdly, my desire to travel played a large role in my decision to take a gap year.
One of my uncles had once told me, “If you ever get the opportunity to travel, take it. You never know when you might get it again."
My parents did not push me to immediately go to university after I would graduate high school, so I had the support to take a gap year if I wanted to.
What really convinced me to go to Senegal with Global Citizen Year was that GCY offered me 85% financial aid to do their program, which meant that taking a gap year was, financially, a completely realistic possibility. When it came down to it, I got lucky. GCY was suggested to me by chance - I was not really looking for it.
When my different options were spread out before me, I decided, “Why NOT take a gap year?" I couldn't find a single good enough reason to say no.
What did the process look like when you were planning?
I didn't prepare that much for Senegal before leaving, to be honest. Global Citizen Year had us do a summer campaign, where we raised money and read up about the country we were going to during the summer before departure.
We also had a 10-day long Pre-Departure training process in California, where we met all of the other program participants and discussed culture shock, social development, and other important themes of our trip, but on an individual basis, I didn't do that much.
I didn't research Senegal or practice my French - I wanted to go there with as few misconceptions as possible and just see what was there. My goal was to learn by experiencing.
What were you most nervous about before leaving?
I was most nervous about falling behind my peers from high school. They were all headed into their first year at college and I was going off to a country in West Africa that I had never really heard of before.
I could barely even tell all my friends exactly what I would be doing, as I didn't fully understand it myself.
They would come back from a year of college, full of stories about exciting classes, wild parties, and new places and I would comes back with.... what, exactly?
What, exactly, did Jordan come back with? Check in tomorrow to read about the rest of his gap year in Senegal.