Alumni Spotlight | Cailey Newton
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Alumni Spotlight | Cailey Newton

This month’s Alumni Spotlight is shining on Cailey Newton. She is a three-program Rustic veteran after traveling to Peru, Thailand and Laos, and fundraising for the programs on her own. Upon high school graduation and being accepted into numerous colleges, Cailey found herself researching taking a Gap Year and, ultimately, taking the leap.  Cailey spent her first semester traveling and volunteering in Southeast Asia, and is now living in Berlin. She is working as an intern for Linden Educational Services where she manages the social media accounts for Girls Gearing Up, an international all-girl summer educational camp. Cailey is going through the college application process for a second time this year. “I feel that I am a much stronger candidate since I am more sure of who I am and what I want. I definitely want it to be known that anyone can take a Gap Year and it’s definitely possible to change your mind.” Keep reading to find out how Cailey’s Gap Year experience has transformed her.

“After two summers with Rustic Pathways, I knew how passionate I was about experiential learning and the power it had, so I took a leap of faith and decided to take a gap year and defer college for a year.

Each day presents something new and entirely different than the last and the things I expected to learn when I first began my gap year only make up a tiny percentage of all the things I’ve learned from it thus far. I originally went into it with an attitude where I felt pressured to come out with tangible results. It wasn’t the easiest thing to convince people that taking a gap year was the right move to make and since I didn’t have a lot of support, I felt as though I had to prove something and say, “Look!! Here’s what I learned!!” At this point though, I’m on month five which is about the halfway point, and I think everyone would agree that choosing this path was the best decision I could’ve possibly made. I’ve realized that it’s not about showing off what I learned or producing tangible results, and it’s not even about what I hoped to get out this experience vs. what I have gotten out of this experience, it’s truly about the unique journey taking a gap year presents, and the things you learn that you never thought you would until you go out there and do it. My overall goal though is to take away a sense of self that I didn’t have before and as cheesy as it sounds, find purpose, direction, and a little more me.

Rustic has forever shaped me as a person and the experiences I had with them in Peru, Thailand, and Laos continue to impact me to this day. One thing that sticks out for me particularly, is how I’ve learned to interact with locals and be a respectful, knowledgeable and aware traveler. The relationships Rustic has built with the local staff really cultivates an understanding between the student and staff member that leaves your eyes opened to how meaningful it is to form friendships with people from all different walks of life and cultures. As a whole, Rustic has made me realize how much I value and thrive on experiential learning.

I have to say that how I tackle each of those things- my goals, jobs, and understanding of others, has also been influenced by the lessons I learned from my Rustic experiences. There are so many things that I still think about and still apply, and I will never have the words to convey just how grateful I am for that.

It applies to all aspects of my life in so many different forms. It leaves me more empathetic, open, and a million of other things I can’t quite grasp.”

If you’re a Rustic Alum with an awesome story to share, let us know at

About the Author

Rachel Levin

Brand Engagement Manager

Rachel joined Rustic in 2013 and led programs for three summers in Costa Rica, Peru, and Ghana. She’s also led programs in Fiji and Tanzania. A graduate of the University of Vermont with degrees in sociology and Spanish, Rachel focuses her love for travel, writing, and her unquenchable curiosity of our natural world as Rustic’s Brand Engagement Manager. Based in Tahoe, CA, Rachel is a talented ceramicist and lover of the outdoors.