Shwedagon and Sunrises | Brooke's Gap Experience
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Shwedagon and Sunrises | Brooke's Gap Experience

Happy Thursday! Since our Gap Semesters kicked off on February 1st, we thought we would check in with a former Gap participant and ask about their experience. Enter Brooke Cornetet.

Brooke traveled with us in 2013 on the South Pacific Service and Ocean Skills Semester and then again in 2014 on the Golden Lands and World Heritage Semester in the spring. She had an amazing time and and wanted to share her thoughts. If you’re researching your own Gap adventures, enjoy Brooke’s stories and photos below.

A woman prays at Scwedagon Pagoda in Burma.

Why did you decide to take a Gap Year/Semester?

Freshman year of college I decided that I wasn’t being challenged enough in school and wanted to explore and learn in other ways. I wanted something more unconventional and exciting. I graduated in 3 years from school in order to fulfill a long time dream of traveling and experiencing the world.

What will you remember most about the experience?

I will always remember the people I traveled with and met along the way. They hold a special place in my heart because it is not just about the experiences but whom you experience them with.

I learned a wealth of knowledge about culture, history, current times, and how to interact with people from all different walks of life. I learned to be independent but also interdependent on the people around me. The most meaningful things to me were the unexpected.

There is something great in seeing beautiful sights like the Taj Mahal but what meant more to me was the times where a group of us snorkeled for 3 times in 1 day and decided to sleep on the beach that night only to wake up to the sun rising.

A young monk receiving morning alms.

Describe a favorite memory.

Rising early at the hour of 4am in Bagan, Burma, five of us jam-packed into an open air jeep to be bounced around on a dirt road for the next 15 minutes. Most people wouldn’t recall the cold air stinging their face as their favorite moment of a 3-month long South Eastern Asia trip, but this was it and it was exhilarating.

We raced in our local guide’s jeep to one temple, in a landscape of many, to make it there and up the stairs before the sun rose. We sprinted around the temple like chickens with our heads cut off in search of the mysterious staircase. We made it, in what we thought was just in time, with actually about 30 minutes to spare.

Sitting out of breath laughing with four good friends in the early hours of the morning before the streets became bustling and daily lives resumed was indescribable. It removed us from the mundane little things that take over our lives at home and let time stand still for us for those thirty minutes.

The sun began to rise as we looked over a magical landscape with temples strewn across the land and the day began to pick up with cars filling the street in a hurry to their destination.

Sunrise over Bagan.

What are you up to now? Back in school? Where? What’s your major?

I am currently back in school doing a master’s program after taking a summer to create a photography book from my year. I am in Dallas, Texas at Southern Methodist University majoring in management while exploring a new city with the skills I learned.

Interested in making your own memories? Check out our Gap programs, email, or call 440.975.9691.

About the Author

Katey Finnegan