This month, our Alumni Spotlights are two international Gap Year semester students: Zoe, hailing from north of Sydney, Australia, and Camila, from Mexico City, Mexico. In spring of 2015, Zoe joined us in Africa; traveling to Ghana, Morocco, and Tanzania. Camila traveled with us on a Gap semester in Southeast Asia in the Fall of 2015. Keep reading to find out about why they decided to take a Gap year with us!
What sparked your interest to pursue a gap year?
“I was about 13 when I decided to take a gap year. It’s pretty common here in Australia. I’d always been a hard worker at school. The more years I had at school, the more I knew I wanted a break from it. I grew up in a small town and, despite my fortunate travels overseas as a child, I was ready to see (more) of the world. Volunteering in Africa has been my dream for as long as I can remember, so when I saw the Rustic Pathways program to Tanzania, Morocco, and Ghana I was absolutely determined to be on it. I worked part-time whilst completing my last four years of high school at a cafe in town and saved as much as I could to fund my trip.
Do any memories from your Africa Gap Year still stand out to you today?
From summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro to snorkeling in the reefs of Zanzibar, and riding camels into the Sahara desert to swimming in waterfalls in Ghana, I’ve done some incredible things. The moments I value most are the times we spent with the locals, being in small villages, and enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime moments — like having bucket shower in Ghana surrounded by baby goats.
How did your gap year inspire you? What are you up to now?
I am currently studying Development Studies at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, which focuses on sustainable solutions to lift the developing world out of poverty. I reflect on my time in Africa almost everyday. I can relate to real world problems and understand from my travels and experiences a lot more than most of the people I sit next to in my lectures. My gap year in Africa has inspired me to pursue a career in International Relations and hopefully give back to this amazing world.”
How were you inspired as a result of your program?
Going on a gap year to Southeast Asia really opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know. Spending time in the villages, playing with and teaching kids, living like locals, and truly experiencing the culture made me realize how fortunate I am for all the opportunities I’ve had. Coming back from the trip, I have learned to appreciate all the little things in life I used to take for granted before. My gap year grounded me, and everything I experienced made me feel more ready and capable for college.
Do you have any future plans that were inspired by your experience?
Coming back I feel more committed to do something for my country. After spending three months in SE Asia I realized that things are not that different there than they are in Mexico. We share many of the same problems, and experiencing them firsthand has made me more conscious and devoted to do something.
On Saturday, January 23, my brother and I organized “The Street Store” in Mexico City, a social project for the homeless. It was the beginning of what I hope will be many projects to join Mexico’s youth to do something for our country.
Any stand-out memories you want to share from your gap year?
Prek Toal was our last village homestay and service project. We were staying at a floating village in the middle of a huge lake. It was the last two weeks of the program, and although we were extremely excited, we were also a little tired. In the mornings we would teach at the floating schools, and in the afternoons we would go build a floating house for a family who needed it. The way they lived in the floating village was incredible. Teaching was challenging, but one of my favorite things about the whole trip. Spending time with them and playing and learning was the highlight of my days. I remember one of the best feelings ever was one day when we got to the school, we started out seeing what they remembered from the day before. The moment we began to act out the different objects and words the whole class started saying every single word they had learned the day before with huge smiles on their faces. Their energy was contagious, and we were extremely happy to see how well they remembered and how eager they were to learn more.
Want to hear more Alumni Spotlight stories? Click here to see the rest. If you have your own story to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re interested in your own Gap Year, check out 2018.rusticpathways.com.
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.