Boston University Blog Contributor, recently interviewed student alumni Aniko Springsteel. See what she has to say...
Q: Did you know you wanted to take a gap year?
A: Yes, I definitely knew I wanted to travel because I’d loved doing it so much before. Because of what I was planning on studying, it also seemed like it’d be really useful to gain a more global perspective and learn as much about the world as I could the year before going back to school— so I took full advantage.
Q: Where did you travel?
A: The Pacific Discovery Southeast Asia program was mostly in Thailand (31 days
total), Laos (less time), Cambodia and Vietnam.
Q: What was your favorite part about the trip?
A: Thailand was my favorite country [that] I visited during my SouthEast Asia trip. The best parts were the Elephant Nature Park; volunteering with elephants who have been saved from the abusive tourism, logging, labor, or circus act industries. They had other animals too, so I volunteered with the dogs in my free time with some of my group members. PSA: DON’T RIDE ELEPHANTS!
Scuba diving in Thailand was also amazing! We were in the south of the country near
Krabi, where I did a dive lesson and tried to dive. I went down about 30 feet by the end and it was amazing to swim with all the fish and sea creatures.
Q: What was your least favorite part of the trip?
A. In Thailand, the meditation retreat! The days started at 5:30 AM! There was nothing to do but sleep, reflect and journal, or read. We did a few “activities”
like listening to monks talk, or meditating at a river. I am pretty impatient and get bored easily so it was definitely my least favorite part, although I understood the goals of it.
Also, the bugs and climate in Southeast Asia: the bugs are huge, and there’s a lot of
them— a few times I went to bed with 4 inch wide spiders in my room hiding because I had no other options! Gross, I know. There’s a ton of mosquitos too so bug spray or lotion is a must. The climate’s also extremely hot, so it took a week or two to adjust to it.
Q: What was your biggest takeaway or thing you learned from your travels?
A: Every one of my best life decisions has occurred outside of my comfort zone: from choosing to do a gap year, to going to countries I wasn’t that familiar with and adjusting to all these new cultures in each one. Rock climbing, rappelling, speaking foreign languages, scuba diving, meeting tons of new people and friends were all things I was afraid or anxious about doing but I’m so glad I did. I also learned a lot of independence, because I was out on my own for the first time, and I did some solo travel and trip planning along the way which was new for me. Finally, and one of the most important for life, was that I learned how to live with, or even get along with, all different types of people, both Americans from different places and backgrounds than me and the people I met in all these countries such as classmates, tour guides, or strangers.
Q: What do you want to tell others about taking a gap year?
A: Do it! There may never be another time in your life where you can take the pressure off of your schoolwork and career for a year or even just a semester, and truly live, discover yourself, and see the world. So many programs offer scholarships and aid to be able to do them, and college credit too, but I think gap years can be even more than just traveling. You can use the time to learn a new language, start a small business or non-profit, volunteer at organizations, or get a job if you want! The possibilities are endless, and it is so helpful to guiding you and giving you the space to discover what you truly want to do: college or no college, what major, what job or program. I had an idea going in, but my year really cemented the idea that I want to spend my life traveling, learning about other countries, and solving problems in the world.
Take a gap year, it’s the best decision you’ll ever make!
Read the full article here