OUR MENTORSHIP TEAM

We are a group of students who have recently been in your shoes...We know first hand what kinds of questions you are working through and are here to help, so shoot! We promise to respond in 48 hours, FREE of charge. Browse through our profiles and request a specific mentor, or ask general questions to any of us!

FYI… THE ✪ SYMBOL NOTES 100% SELF-FUNDED GAP YEARS :)

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✪ Jiyoung J | Stanford '21

WHAT I DID:

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Homesickness

  • Gaining my parents' support on the idea of taking a gap year

  • Figuring out what to do (hence this website!)

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Sasha L |  Stanford '20

WHAT I DID:

May: Shadowed a neurosurgeon at Einstein College of Medicine
June-July: Family time
August: Worked on organic farm in California and took self-defense classes
September-November: Traveled through Europe working on farms (helpx) and as an au pair with a friend
December-January: Lived and traveled in New Zealand
January-March: Volunteered teaching English in a monastery (RCDP) and trekked in the Everest region of Nepal
March: Joined a leadership and environmental conservation expedition to Antarctica (2041)
April-May: Trekked and worked on farms in Argentinian Patagonia with a friend
May-September: Family time and building Gap Guides!

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Choosing to take a gap year

  • Trying not to plan each moment of the year ahead of time

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Aeshna C | Columbia '21

WHAT I DID:

 

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✪ Kate N | Carleton '20

WHAT I DID:

August-January: Traveled throughout the UK and mainland Europe, utilizing Workaway as a means of finding accommodation with a variety of host farms and families
January-March: Came back home to work several jobs and raise up enough money to get out into the world again
April-May: Worked on a coffee farm/animal sanctuary in Kona, Hawaii, found through Workaway. 
June: Went on a month-long backpacking and rafting trip in Southern Utah with Outward Bound
July-August: Returned home and worked on an organic farm/kids' day camp just outside of Portland.

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Balancing independence with community

✪ Ronen S | U Chicago '20

WHAT I DID:

May-August: Worked as busboy at pizza and Greek food restaurant
September-December: Did work for room and board in France, Italy, and Germany through workaway
January-February: Worked as delivery boy at same restaurant in New York
March-August: Thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, 2189 miles from Georgia to Maine

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Balancing other people's expectations for my year

  • Learning to work with my hands

✪ Sterling D |  Stanford '21

WHAT I DID DURING MY GAP YEAR:

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH MOST: 

  • Language barrier

  • Paying for the whole thing

  • Finding places to camp or sleep for free

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Anna G | Stanford '21

WHAT I DID:

  • Backpacked/hitchhiked around Eastern Europe

    • Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Ukraine, Moldova, Poland and Germany

    • Worked on an organic farm in rural Romania

    • Worked at a hostel in Skopje, Macedonia

  • Worked for the Alabama State Legislature

  • Waitressed at a restaurant at a ski resort in Colorado (Copper Mountain)

  • Waitressed at a sushi restaurant in Alabama

  • Backpacked around Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru

    • Worked at a surf hostel on the coast in Ecuador

  • Wrote a lot of poetry and read a ton of books

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Having to provide all of my own money

  • Figuring out what to do

  • Finding a job

✪ Jack G| Stanford '20

WHAT I DID:

July-August: Interned for Facebook, developed content for inspirED website
September: chilled
October-December: Interned for Brooklyn Nets, worked for the equipment manager
November: traveled around Vietnam, visited former VietCong and talked to Vietnam war veterans
January-July: teaching at Maru-a-Pula school in Gaborone, Botswana

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Planning out the year ahead of time

  • Spending time alone and building a community

✪ Leah L |  Stanford '20

WHAT I DID:

Year 1: Aardvark Israel Immersion Program
August-December: Lived in Jerusalem and volunteered with Israeli soldiers while learning Hebrew and politics. Traveled Israel with my program and also traveled to China
January-May: Lived in Tel Aviv and volunteered in a jewelry shop while learning Hebrew and psychology. Traveled Israel with my program and also traveled to Ethiopia, Germany, and Holland

Year 2: My solo journey
June-December: Came home from Israel and worked a couple jobs to save up money for a solo trip to South America. Also did a personal fitness training course and applied to college
January-April: Backpacked in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia
May-August: Came home and worked as a nanny and fitness trainer before starting college

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Applying to college while abroad

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Minh Anh D |  Stanford '20

WHAT I DID:

July-August: improv training at the iO Theater in Chicago
September-December: theater training at the National Theater Institute in Connecticut
January-May: acting, dog walking, writing in NYC (Bed-Stuy specifically)
June-August: working as the Assistant Technical Director at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Coping with unstructured time after the extreme structure of the NTI program

✪ Katerina P |  Vassar '20

WHAT I DID:

September-November: Travelled and did work/stays in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, France
November-April: Worked at a local organic bakery, as a babysitter, and choreographing at my old high school
April-May: Traveled in to Prague, Athens, and New York to explore and visit family/friends
May-June: Worked reduced hours at the bakery and relaxed at home
July-August: Travelled through Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Balancing my desires for the year with those of my parents

  • Paying for the year

 

Maddy B |St. Andrews '18

WHAT I DID:

August-October: Córdoba, Argentina - Volunteered Projects Abroad Human Rights office
October-December: Worked in retail at home in Washington DC
January-March: Travelled around Israel and surrounding places (10 day Birthright trip, then independently backpacked around Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Galilee (3 weeks spent WWOOFing on a goat farm), Negev Desert (hiked in the desert and travelled to Jordan), West Bank
March-April: Studied French at L'Institut de Touraine in Tours, France May: Interrailed around Europe with 2 friends for 14 days

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Adapting to the flexibility needed for travel

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Nathan W |  Johns Hopkins '20

WHAT I DID:

August-October: NOLS Wilderness Medicine Rescue semester
October-March: Worked as a wrestling coach at my old highschool and volunteered at rockmed, offering emergency medical care at rock concerts
March-June: Worked at the Kieve Wavus Education Leadership School, providing outdoor leadership clinics to local schools

MEMORABLE MOMENT:

On one of my days off from the Kieve Wavus, my coworkers and I did a whitewater canoe race. It was awesome to bond with the adults I really respected and be a part of such a stunningly beautiful environment.

Emily M | Stanford '20

August: I planned!
September: I traveled to Japan, first with my family and then I met up with a friend from high school. We traveled around central Japan using the incredible train lines they have there. 
October: Volunteered in Vietnam with IVHQ. We taught free English classes for a few weeks and volunteered at a food bank that served over 500 meals a day. 
November: Traveled up the coast of Vietnam
December: Home
January: Worked at a blueberry farm with a friend found through WWOOF
February: Travelled around the North Island and WWOOFed for a large group of German ex-pats on an idyllic farm near a bay. 
March: After leaving Diamond Harbour, we used Stray buses to travel around the South Island. 
March: Traveled to Australia where we got SCUBA certified on the Great Barrier Reef
April-June: Worked at home
July: I traveled to South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe with my family. 
August: Backpacking and working

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Not having a schedule

Ryder K |  Stanford '19

WHAT I DID:

October-December: Oxford Tutorial College
January-March: Southeast Asia with Pacific Discovery
April: Travelled through Cuba
May-August: Worked various jobs

BIGGEST REALIZATION:
I had a creative writing professor at Oxford who I would meet individually a few times a week. It sounds funny to say, but he honestly helped teach me to think. We would read and analyze literature and politics constantly and in doing so, he broke every high school guideline in the most creative of ways.

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Ayesha P | Stanford '21

WHAT I DID: 

June-August: On vacation with family in Japan
September-December: working full time in retail at home (M&S (men's formal wear)) 
January-April: worked for public health NGO (Public Health Foundation of India) in India and traveled; also traveled through Egypt for 2 weeks
May: Traveled around the U.K. visiting high school friends in college
June-August: working part time and finishing up off-site research for Public Health Foundation of India

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Loneliness (all of my friends being in college, and being in a different phase of life from me)

  • Not having a tight group of people who are around my age

Andrew B |  Santa Clara '20

WHAT I DID:

August-November: NOLS semester in the Rockies; Canoeing, Rock Climbing, Hiking, Canyoning
January-February: Spanish program in Cusco. Maximo Nivel
MarchAntarctic Trip with the 2041 Foundation (Sasha L also did this; check out her experience here!)
April-May: traveled through Argentina
May: News Foundation Internship through the GroundTruths Foundation
June: EMT Course with SOLO Schools  

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Being open and social with strangers

Maggie P | Kenyon '20

WHAT I DID:

June-August: Counselor at summer Camp
September-December: Cultural exchange in India with Where There Be Dragons. 
December-January: Skied in Jackson Hole, WY
January-March: Participated in the Island School/Cape Eleuthera Institute gap year program
March-June: Interned with a small theater company in NYC on the World Premier of Cal in Camo, nannied
June-August: Camp counselor

WHAT I STRUGGLE WITH:

  • Figuring out what to do halfway through the year

  • Not being surrounded by my peer group for the first time

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Mica B |  Carleton '20

WHAT I DID:

June-August: made money working at the general store on Martha's Vineyard
September-November: Interned on a farm in upstate New York through WWOOF
December-January: worked as a secretary at my dad's job to make extra money.
January-February: research and conservation for lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, and buffalo in South Africa through African Impact
March: care and rehabilitation of chimpanzees in a sanctuary in Zambia through African Impact
April: Traveled through South Africa, Amsterdam and Paris

WHAT I STURGGLED WITH:

  • Being lonely

George S |  Lewis and Clark '18

WHAT I DID:

August-November: Ecuador to Rockies Semester with Outward Bound which included backpacking, rock climbing, canyoneering, and mountaineering skills
February-March: Intercultura Language School, lived in a homestay
April-May: Internship with the Tamarindo Foundation, Guarjila, El Salvador

MEMORABLE MOMENT:

It was mango season in El Salvador, and I was hiking with a group of little kids to the Poza Azul, a refreshing pool of water in the foothills. There were lots of mangos that had fallen to the ground and so we had an epic rotten mango war

Nan M |  Stanford '20

WHAT I DID:

September-December: Ballymore Cookery School 12-week intensive course
December-January: Hung out at home
January-May: ISA Spring 4 Semester in Spain at the University of Salamanca

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Accepting that not everything goes according to plan

  • Deciding to take a gap year while worrying about being a year behind all my friends

 

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Caila M | Georgetown '21

WHAT I DID:

  • Received National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship to study Arabic in Morocco

  • Studied Arabic in intensive classes every day

  • Worked as an intern at the Amal Center, a non-profit helping empower disadvantaged women through culinary skills

  • Learned how to play the oud and the drum and write Arabic calligraphy

  • Traveled around the Morocco (including backpacking in the Atlas Mountains)

  • Taught English classes (& got TEFL certified)

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • packing

  • reverse culture shock (returning to life in the U.S.)

 

Manoela S |  Columbia '20

WHAT I DID:

September-December: Myanmar trip with Where There be Dragons
December: Rio de Janeiro with family
January-February: Amazon 5 day boat trip with Katerre, Amazon tree climbing for 3 days, Brasilia with family, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
March: one month backpacking in Peru with a friend
April: online plant-based cooking and nutrition course through Matthew Kenney
May: Jivamukti Yoga teacher training course at Omega Institute
Summer: Worked for the IRC and at a local gymnastics studio

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

My biggest anxiety was picking between all the options. The best thing I did (backpacking in Peru) was not an initial option and only planned a few weeks in advance. Be open to the unexpected and don't flip out if you haven't planned every month - things will come your way.

 
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Jessica G|  Wellesley '21

WHAT I DID:

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

I struggled with planning the trip, saving money to budget, networking to find internships and work experience, and the shock of being in a third world country

 
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✪ Caroline C | Carleton '20

WHAT I DID:

June- August: Worked at a summer camp to finance my year
September- October: WWOOFed (worked on organic farms) in Oregon and Virginia
October-December: Worked at an art fair in Paris and traveled around European cities with a friend
January- February: Interned at a ceramics studio in NYC
March-May: Traveled through Chile and Argentina, trekking and working on farms

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

Expanding my definitions of “productive” and “valuable” to include time spent thinking, conversing and observing - rather than simply time spent working towards concrete achievements or goals

 
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Dan B | Cornell '12 | Stanford PhD

WHAT I DID:

Year 1

  • Research Assistant at Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin

  • Climbing in Sarco, Italy

  • Traveling and climbing in Vietnam

Year 2

  • Car camping and climbing across America

  • Living in Las Vegas and applying to grad schools

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Language barrier in Germany

  • Juggling grad school apps and completing a paper for publication while on the road

 

Amanda C | Grand Canyon University '21

WHAT I DID:

June-August: Camp counselor at Wavus Camp for Girls
September-March: Communications intern at American University of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia and traveling through Europe
March-May: experiential educator intern at The Leadership School in Jefferson, Maine

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

Being away from my family and friends. When things weren't going right, I didn't really have anyone to go to.

 

Marit B | Williams '18

WHAT I DID:

August-November: Projects Abroad Argentina, human rights volunteering
November-January: Paid internship at home at an international development firm
January-March: Projects Abroad Senegal, microfinance volunteering
April: Studied French in Tours, France, at L'Institut de Touraine L'institut de Touraine
May: Eurotrip for two weeks with two close friends who had traveled with me for parts of the gap year

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

I was 17 for half my gap year, which was a really difficult. I couldn’t do a lot programs I wanted to until I turned 18, and needed a parental signature for lots of stuff.

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Zoe Z | Technion University

WHAT I DID:

September-October: WWOOFing in South Wales
October-December: WWOOFing in Central France
December-February: Kibbutz in southern Israel. Stayed as an ecotourist at Kibbutz Lotan, which has a center for creative ecology that does theoretical and practical workshops about sustainable living
February-March: moved to organic farm in central Israel
March-April: flew back to France, worked on fruit tree nursery through WWOOF. Living arrangements were very basic but sufficient. Lived with a couple and their 4 young children. Learned about fruit trees and how to do grafting. April-May: stayed at a permaculture commune in northern Israel

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

Towards the end, I was very anxious about what it would be like returning home. No one understands your experience, even if you talked to them throughout it, because they weren't there. For everyone else, you're just plopping back into their life, but the issue is that while you're away, roles shift to make up for the hole that you left behind.

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✪ Natassia W | Stanford '20

WHAT I DID:

June-September: spent the summer with my family out in Quogue, Long Island, working as a sailing instructor
September-June: moved to Hamburg, found an apartment with a bunch of other students, worked in a cafe and a bar, joined a regional league volleyball team, and took one history class at the University of Hamburg and worked as a research assistant to an english professor. 
July: quit my jobs and did an Interrail trip through Croatia, Italy and the South of France with my best friend Anouk
August: Returned to Hamburg, made sure to see everyone, went to a 5 day music festival (Dockville), and dealt with bureaucratic nonsense (terminating health care and residency, recollecting taxes) and moving out.

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

 I worked in a cafe, and in a bar/restaurant that had just opened. The newly opened restaurant was poorly run and understaffed, and we didn't receive the tips we were expecting (someone higher up was pocketing them). I was working 7am shifts 3x a week, working really hard, and I felt like I wasn't be appreciated, rather was being blamed for structural problems (shortage in staff, in supplies/produce). It took my too long to realize this because I liked the people I was working with. But when I finally quit the friends I had made stuck anyways. My experience there let me demand a part time salary and more hours from the cafe I had started in.

Maryam J | Bryn Mawr '19

WHAT I DID:

August-October: Work as an assistant to an innkeeper at an Inn in Vermont to make money before travels / explored Brattleboro
October-December: Studied Arabic Calligraphy in DC and sat in on classes at George Mason University / explored Washington, DC.
January- February: Worked as an intern at CB1 gallery in LA for an exhibition on Sacred Geometry / explored LA
March-April: Interned at Soumaiya College at the School for Experiential Learning in Mumbai / explored Mumbai
April-July: Studied Oud and Persian Calligraphy in Iran

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

Learning to go with the flow about what I would be doing - I didn't know where I was going to be and what I was doing until about a month before each place.

 
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✪ Azra H | MIT '13 

WHAT I DID:

June-November: Worked as waiter in Italian restaurant in Boston and audited physics classes at MIT

December-August: Worked at a biophysics lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH

  • Living independently

  • Getting along with coworkers in the restaurant

  • Spending a long period of time in a city far from home

 

Maya B | Wesleyan '20

WHAT I DID:

September-November: lived on a kibbutz in the Negev
December: worked on a mango orchard near the Kinneret
January-March: lived in Rishon lezion and taught English in schools and afterschool programs in Jaffa
March: learned about the Holocaust in Poland (visiting concentration camps etc)
April-May: back in Israel teaching English

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

  • Trying to tell kids not to be racist/sexist in a language I barely know

  • Living a socialist lifestyle in a house with 20 people

 
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✪ Netta W | Stanford ‘20

WHAT I DID:

June-August: Worked at a high school entrepreneurship summer camp 
August-December: Worked at at start-up in Palo Alto
January-February: Stayed at home
February-June: Traveling and volunteering with refugees in SE Asia, Western Europe, Peru
June-September: Working with a film team

WHAT I LEARNED:

Traveling as a female is not as scary as you imagine, there's lots you can do to keep yourself safe. I learned how to make decisions for myself and my own values as opposed to doing it for other people or institutions.

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✪ Sarah N | George Washington U '20

WHAT I DID:

June-August: worked as a sailing instructor at a camp in Rhode Island
September-December: worked assorted jobs to save money (field hockey coach, sales associate, dog-walker, babysitter, you name it!)
January-March: Gap Year Program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas
April: traveled and worked around the Big Island of Hawaii and worked at a bed and breakfast in Kona through Workaway

MEMORABLE MOMENT:

Getting slapped in the face by a sea turtle flipper!

 
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Nina R | U Washington, St. Louis '22

WHAT I DID:

September - December: Went on Where There Be Dragons semester program in Nepal
December: Travelled around India mostly as a tourist, but did a week long Ayurveda treatment at Somatheeram in Kerala, India.
January-March: Worked at a ski mountain in Vermont to help finance my year
March: Volunteered at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas
April - May: Used the website Workaway to find a volunteer position as a bartender in a hostel in Peru. Also travelled around Peru alone for a while.
June-July: NOLS sailing and mountaineering course in Pacific Northwest

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

Plans falling through at the last minute. However, this actually ended up being a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to be a bit more spontaneous with my plans.

Kat M | Stanford '20

WHAT I DID:

June-August: Road trip in Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Idaho
October: Climbing in Greece
November-February: Editorial internship at Trail Runner Magazine in Colorado
March-June: National Outdoor Leadership School Semester on the Borders

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

I was anxious about not knowing anyone because being young but not in high school is a rare position and it can be hard to find similar people. 

 

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Tom S | Lewis and Clark '20

WHAT I DID:

September-November: Traveled though Australia where I scuba dived in the great barrier reef, surfed the gold coast, and hiked around Tasmania.
November-December: Hiked and hitchhiked around the south island of New Zealand, meeting up with old friends and making new ones
December-April: Kayaked with Patagonia Study Abroad and did a work exchange program for Pucon Kayak Hostel.

WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

My biggest anxiety was around meeting people, but everyone traveling in hostels or camping was very friendly and willing to branch out. I went on countless adventures with friends I had met only hours before.