Past student Abby recounts life after her Pacific Discovery program.

I distinctly remember the day after I had flown home from Costa Rica. It was a sunny day in mid-April, and I could barely process what had just happened.

I had just had the adventure of a lifetime. I had spent the last seventy days seeing and doing more than some people get to do in their whole lives. I had jumped from waterfalls, seen a volcano erupt in front of my eyes, dived the crystalline turquoise waters of Mexico.  I had laughed, cried, and met the most amazing people who I knew I would probably not see for a very long time, if ever again. 

I will be honest: for the first few weeks after my trip, I was sad. I had caught the travel bug, and all I wanted to do was to adventure again. My family wanted to support me during this time, but they had not experienced what I had, and so they couldn’t really understand what I was going through. I was fundamentally changed as a person and I needed to process. I decided to go to therapy, which ended up being the best decision post-program. Therapy helped me reflect on what an incredible experience I had and how to move forward.

I could also see the changes in my character as a result of my gap year travels. For example, the day I returned from Central America, I knew I needed a summer job. I drove myself to a local restaurant that I had always liked and asked for a job as a hostess. I got the job. In addition, I had wanted to get more ear piercings for a few years, but fear had held me back. One week after returning from Costa Rica, I drove myself to a tattoo and piercing parlor and got my ear piercings. I didn’t need anyone to hold my hand or push me through it. I just did it. 

As I progressed through my first semester of college, I realized how many of my friends would have benefited from a gap year. Their struggles, such as being overworked and stressed by their academics, reminded me of how I felt before my gap year. When I started college, I cared about my academics, but taking that year-long break allowed me the space I needed to enter college recharged and ready to do demanding work. So many of my new friends at college were worn out by their academics because they had had twelve nonstop years of school. 

Throughout my first year of college, I missed travel. I had seen a small part of the world, but now I was addicted. Traveling on a college student budget is really difficult, however. So I found WorkAway. WorkAway is a working holiday program where people post opportunities to work in exchange for room and board. Having taken several years of French, I applied to work for a family in the French Alps over the summer. WorkAway allowed me to travel on the cheap; I had to pay for my flights and transportation, but my room and board was taken care of. 

Taking a gap year made me want to pursue more opportunities for travel and personal growth. I am so grateful to Pacific Discovery for my gap year, because while I knew I would have an incredible trip, I did not anticipate how deeply I would be changed and how I would still be benefiting from my program long after I boarded the flight home. 

Check out our range of Gap Semester programs here.

by Abigail Hasselbrink


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