By Thinking Beyond Borders   Reviews (41)   97% Rating

Global Gap Year -- Thinking Beyond Borders

By Thinking Beyond Borders   Reviews (41)   97% Rating

A gap year should be more than just travel or service. This unparalleled adventure is TBB's signature program. You'll live, explore, and learn in six countries over two semesters with friends who'll be with you for life. This is the ultimate gap year program for you want to make the most of their gap year and discover how you can create meaningful change in the world.

Explore the challenges and solutions to critical global issues in communities around the world. This unparalleled gap year program includes:

- Living with Host Families
- Fieldwork with Local Experts
- Academic Study
- Language Learning
- Independent Travel Opportunities

Itinerary – 7 months:
Orientation: Guatemala – 2 weeks
Unit 1: Sustainability - Guatemala – 7 weeks
Enrichment: Temples, Lakes & Volcanoes – 1 week
Unit 2: Education - India – 7 weeks
Enrichment: Angkor Wat – 1 week
Unit 3: Public Health - Ghana – 7 weeks
Enrichment: Origins of Slavery - 1 week
Culmination: Washington, DC - 3 weeks

Locations
North America » United States of America
Asia » Thailand
Asia » India
North America » Guatemala
Africa » Ghana
Asia » Cambodia
Program Tags
Adventure Travel
Cultural Exploration
Hands-On Learning
Internships
Language Immersion
Post-High School
Study Abroad
Volunteer Abroad
Length
6-12 Months
Timeframe
Academic Year
Accommodation
Host Family
Inclusions
Accommodation
Activities
Meals
Transportation
Primary Language
English
Age Min.
16
Age Max
20
Starting Price
0.00
Cost Description
Program tuition is $31,000, including all costs except for airfare. Airfare is estimated at $5,000, though it varies based on fuel costs. Need based scholarships are available. Learn more on our <a href="http://thinkingbeyondborders.org/apply-now/financial-aid/">Financial Aid page</a>.

Rating Values

  • Housing
    87%
  • Support
    95%
  • Fun
    99%
  • Value
    89%
  • Safety
    93%

Program Reviews (41)

Georg
Male
20 years old
Germany
Other

#1 GAP YEAR PROGRAM WORLDWIDE

Overall
10

Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB)- the pioneer and best gap year program on the market. TBB is able to combine cultural, social, academic and personal learning in an incredible, enjoyable, challenging and exciting way.
Every students gets the opportunity to learn and grow in the area he/she wants to grow and learn in.
TBB provides a structured and safe learning experience all around the globe, that is hard to find somewhere else. The extremely well trained staff creates a web of support for students who need it. TBBs' program is far away from volunteerism and focuses on sustainable worksites combined with student focused seminars, taveling the world and learning about new cultures. Critical thinking and the ability to ask questions is one of the key values of TBBs mission.
I did the global gap year 2016/17 and all I have written above isn't to advertise TBB, it is a honest reflection of my relationship and time I spend and worked with TBB over the cause of seven months.
TBB global gap year program is the best way to learn about yourself, the values you hold and the world that surrounds you. If you are looking for something to do before college you should get into contact with TBB. Many TBB alumni students are happy to get into contact with further students and help them to get to know TBBs mission better. Next to a big number of American alumni students TBB also has many European almuni students, who will offer support in the process of getting to know TBB.

Dmitri
Male
19 years old
Minnesota
Other

Take A Gap Year

Overall
9

I wanted to do something that was off of the beaten path, the beaten path of course being going to college right after high school. This gap year program certainly fulfilled that "idea". I've learned and experienced things that no college freshman that went straight from high school to college would ever even dream of. I've experienced poverty, disease, death, hunger, and corruption in the countries I have visited. Amidst these pains, I have also experienced beauty and elegance in their oddest forms. From natural beauty of the ocean in South Africa, mountains in India, and the forest in Ecuador, to human beauty in its most unique forms. Individual human beauty...people that, despite suffering from several major illnesses, somehow manage to keep on living, struggling, and rising above some of the most daunting circumstances I have ever seen. People that have gone through hell yet still manage to put a smile on their face and laugh through the pain were probably the best things I experience. It beats out experiences such as the Taj Mahal, an African safari, and Machu Picchu. This trip changed my life for the better in countless ways.

Maddie
Female
18 years old
Ballston Spa, NY
Eckerd College

Gap Years are for EVERYONE

Overall
10

Words cannot describe how amazing my experience with TBB was. I came into this program burnt out from high school, wanting to travel and learn more about the world and myself, as cheesy as that sounds. To say that the program changed me would not be true, TBB gave me the safe space and the tools to truly discover more about the worlds issues and how I can become an effective agent of change. TBB gave me an amazing community of people and the opportunity to go live and work in these local communities. You cannot learn about the world in a classroom, we learned through interactions with our host families, through readings and seminars, through discussions with each other at anytime of day, through random adventures, and through questioning what we saw around us. If you get the chance to do TBB, take on the challenge and just do it, you won't regret it.

Abby
Female
18 years old
White Salmon, WA USA
Middlebury College

Thinking Beyond Borders--DO IT!!!!

Overall
10

Thinking Beyond Borders is an amazing program. I grew so much on my year with them, both intellectually and emotionally. The homestays allow you to make deep connections with local communities and literally make families all over the world. Travelling with a small group of students is a lot of fun, and you always have a support system. Doing TBB was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I have no regrets. If in doubt, do it!!!!! You will have sooo much fun and grow so much. College will still be here when you get back.

Katy
Female
18 years old
Davenport, Iowa
Dartmouth College

Take a gap year!!

Overall
10

All through high school, I researched and dreamt about taking a gap year, but it never seemed like something I would actually do. I enjoyed academic rigor and I was excited by the collegiate level of learning. However, as I struggled with the college admission process senior year, I finally realized that the opportunity to pause my education career and explore the world might not come again for a long time and there is no better way to expand your horizons and explore your passions and potential through immersion to new culture and ideas. Thinking Beyond Borders was one of two programs I strongly considered. Looking back at it now, it is by far the best decision I have made yet. TBB fosters an inmate learning community through seminar style learning, reflecting the global issues you are witnessing, living and working to understand how to fix in daily life. Everyday you will pull information and connections from field work in local organizations, group dynamics and excursions, meal times with host families, student exploration through communities and TBB's curriculum of seminar and literature. I explored ideas I had never thought about and delved into topics that I understood, but I came away with a more grounded and holistic perspective. Every student walks away with unique thoughts about our global world, but all share the same drive and determination to be effective agents of change in the future.

How can this program be improved?
Don't be alarmed by the seemingly small amount of information that is disclosed pre-departure (my mom was definitely worried about what I was actually doing and if I would be safe in all these foreign countries). Trust the process and accept that living day to day is an incredibly rewarding opportunity that many people don't get to step back and enjoy.
Mattie
Female
20 years old

Radical Love

Overall
10

It's been over a year now since I graduated from Thinking Beyond Borders, but I am still an active member of my group's community, as well as the larger and bountiful TBB Alumni community. As I go through the typical ups and downs that life throws at us, I wonder how I could do it without TBB. Without learning what it meant to challenge my assumptions. Without the guidance of my TBB Program Leaders and Mentors, whom I am still in close contact with. Without learning what it meant to love radically--both others and myself. Sitting on my campus lawn, I still have moments when I realize that a lesson from TBB has finally kicked in. It takes a long time to process such an extraordinary experience, and it truly is a gift that keeps on giving. I am who I am today because of TBB. I am strong and loving and resilient and honest and humble and growing because of TBB and the people I met on it. This is not a trip for those who just want to "see the sights." This is a trip for those who want to learn radical love, vulnerability, humility, reflection (and also "see the sights").

Mandy
Female
20 years old
Duluth, GA
University of North Georgia

Best Decision of My Life

Overall
10

It has taken me a couple of months after graduating from the Thinking Beyond Borders Global Gap Year program to begin to get an idea of how I could write this review. It's absolutely easy, and true, to say that this program is phenomenal. Every day, I question myself about what I'm doing in ways I probably wouldn't have learned without TBB, and I become a better person each day because of it. This program revolves not only around traveling, but is focused intently on personal growth and consciousness about the world around me. The main takeaway from TBB is that I feel like once I graduate college in a couple years, it will be easy to say "wow there were so many other colleges that maybe would have fit my values and learning style better" but looking back, I can honestly say I wouldn't want to go on any program other than Thinking Beyond Borders. It's an incredible program that will challenge you in every way possible- physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, religiously, but I now have a greater sense of who I am because every part of me was challenged. Also, with the different aspects of international development we studied, it absolutely changed my interests in the world and what my major will be in college. If someone had told me a year ago that I would want to major in environmental studies/sustainability and global issues, I probably would have laughed. The growth this program creates in each person that graduates from it is incredible, and I wish I could go on another gap year! If you have the chance to go on TBB, do it and don't look back. It's the best decision I ever made!

Alea
Female
19 years old
Boston
Wesleyan University

I LOVE TBB

Overall
9

This trip was incredible on a lot of levels. I not only learned about myself but I learned about the world. I met so many incredible people and each place was so unique and special. I really want to keep up these connections from TBB and maybe visit these places again one day. I think that the organizations that we work with have really helped me grow and be aware of the issues from around the world. One thing I would change is to update the books and readings, sometimes they were very out-dated.

How can this program be improved?
I would have more independent student travel and have a little more freedom at times. ISTs felt a little rushed and I would have loved to explore more and become more independent.
Erin
Female
19 years old
New Canaan, CT
Duke University

Everyone Needs to Do This

Overall
10

I have learned more on this year than I ever could have anticipated. There were definitely times when I missed home, but getting super close with my host families, having adventures like skydiving and bungee jumping, participating in really reflective conversations with my friends at any hour of the day or night in and out of seminar, really distracted from feelings of homesickness. My perspective has widened drastically and I am so much more ready to go to college than I was before I left. I highly recommend this program to anyone who is interested.

How can this program be improved?
Definitely making sure the people signing up for this trip are genuinely interested in learning and reflecting on the world around them is a really important component to making this a positive experience for everyone. I think some of the disinterest in the program coming from a few people made it hard for everyone else to feel good about participating.
Mara
Female
20 years old
Chicago, Illinois
Yale University

BEST GAP YEAR PROGRAM OUT THERE

Overall
10

Thinking Beyond Borders is hands-down the most self-aware, balanced, and socially/culturally conscious gap year program I have ever heard of. I have loved every moment of my experience, from connecting with my indigenous Tsa'chila host family in Ecuador, to shadowing health care professionals in the townships of South Africa. I will forever cherish the stories I've collected and the friendships I've forged over the past 7 months. No matter what your background or your interests, as long as you are a passionate and curious person who seeks out learning, you will love this program. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

How can this program be improved?
Longer time spent in each host family.
Nelsen
Male
20 years old
Hannover, Germany

Best Decision of My Life

Overall
10

Before TBB all I new for sure was that I needed TBB. I knew, that it would be the thing that allow me to become more of who I am and that I would be doing that with a potentially amazing group of people in places far away and exotic. Like many things I knew these things were filled with assumptions. Mostly correct in how amazing TBB was, but I didn't truly understand what I would learn to be. That I would learn to understand the world for more of what it was, that I would understand who I am and how the personal and the social fit together. That I would learn to question everything, assumptions everywhere.

I can only say that it has been the best "gap time" if my life.

How can this program be improved?
I have a lot of food restrictions that make any travel hard, which is why I understand that our travels didn't always run smoothly, but it would have been nice to have more consistent and reliable support on occasion. Other than that, it would perfect in the fluctuality that it is.
Hannah
Female
20 years old
Winston Salem, NC
George Washington University

TBB is unlike anything else

Overall
10

TBB is unlike any other gap year program out there. Through this year I have learned more about myself and about the world than I ever thought possible. TBB taught me about development, identity, and more and it's hands-down the best gap year program you could go on. This gap year was very challenging and could be hard at times, but I learned so much and made friends for a lifetime. Being away from home for so long had made me feel better prepared for college than I ever was before.

Maggie
Female
23 years old
Eagle Colorado
Fort Lewis College

Too good to be put into words

Overall
10

My experience with TBB has been the best thing that has ever happened to me and I know that a lot of my new friends and family can say the same. The hardships you see, experience and live in, along with the liberating education you receive, is un imaginable until you have done it, and for each person it is different and unique. What I love about TBB is that, it is an environment setup for personal growth, that way you can help the growth of the planet. You become aware of many new things in your self as well as your role here on Earth and with other people. Now that my trip is done, I miss the people I was with and I miss the community feeling that we had between the 20 of us. The last thing I will add, is that I did not choose this trip for personal growth, I wanted to travel and learn. But the most important part of my trip turned out to be that TBB gave me a space to process and see the importance of reflection and talking about events that taken place in my life. If you don't take time to process and discuss what is going on, you never truly learn the lessons that life is putting before you.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing, I would change--hmm well honestly my experience was so great and I am grateful for every thing that happened. Even the hard parts or the parts that might have been unorganized taught me something.
Jordan
Female
23 years old
Franklin Lakes, New Jersey

Thinking Beyond Borders Global Gap Year

Overall
10

Taking a gap year with Thinking Beyond Borders is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I applied for TBB because I knew that going to college right after high school was not the right path for me. I was leaving my family and friends for seven months to immerse myself in new cultures, further develop my passion for helping others and to find something that makes me want to get out of bed every morning. It didn’t really hit me that I was embarking on this trip of a lifetime with TBB until I was checking my bags at the airport. My TBB journey has been one of great highs and a lot of lows. Most of the time I wasn’t giving myself what I needed and the new living environments posed quite a challenge for me. Though it was not always easy and the environment was not what I was used to, I was able to question critically the assumptions I had about the role my society plays in global development because of TBB which is something I am eternally grateful for. My peers were in the same position as I was and this created a bond between us that is like nothing I have ever experienced. The unconditional love, support and protection that radiates from my peers each and everyday is something that I have realized I could not live without. Thinking Beyond Borders has changed the way I look at the world and the way I look at myself. I am forever grateful to have had this experience and become a part of the Thinking Beyond Borders family. Taking a gap year with TBB is something that has shaped my life and hopefully you take the opportunity to join its amazing community!

How can this program be improved?
TBB is amazing however we were pampered at times. I feel that the program would improve if we were living in solidarity with the individuals we work with while abroad.
Aaron
Male
23 years old
Berkeley, California

Travel opportunity for change makers!

Overall
10

Thinking Beyond Borders was an incredible opportunity to be humbled and awed by the beauty this world has to offer. My learning process with TBB was deeply personal and was nourished through a curriculum that is both flexible and democratic. Whatever ways people learn best is accommodated to every learner or traveler. I was a little nervous traveling the world as gay, but the TBB program leaders, US staff, and my fellow students gave me support I needed to feel safe and proud of myself. So don't worry about any part of yourself holding you back from experiencing this gap year with intention!

Emma
Female
18 years old
Big Rapids, Michigan

The Best Learning Happens Far Beyond The Walls Of A Classroom

Overall
9

I had known that I wanted to take a gap year for quite some time when I came across Thinking Beyond Borders. I was a bit burnt out from school, and I was also hoping to learn more about myself and the world as a whole. I did not really enter TBB with many expectations as I am not a huge fan of them, but the program ended up being more than I could possibly have imagined. Looking through the website, the amount of countries covered initially jumped out at me above everything else, but I came to the quick realization that the travel aspect hardly skimmed the surface as to what was to come. Do not get me wrong, the travelling was great and absolutely eye-opening. I lived with an indigenous community in Ecuador, I hiked Machu Picchu, I saw the lantern festival in Thailand, I farmed rice with my host family, I walked through the killing fields in Cambodia, I taught in schools in India, I jumped off of a bridge in South Africa, I most definitely experienced the world. The travelling was great, but that coupled with the individuals that I travelled with and the in depth discussions we had together made the program incredible. During our seminars eyes were opened and perspectives were changed. Everyone always had the opportunity to share their ideas, thoughts, and questions with the entire group; people brought up ideas that had never even crossed my mind before. We were pushed to think deeply and in completely different ways day after day. The program staff always emphasizes that this is our program, so we have a say in what we do. They take our input seriously if we want changes in the curriculum or in the work experience or in the homestays. They have a rough guideline as to what we should be doing, but we stray from it over and over to our benefit. It is also important to know that everything is optional; not once were we forced into doing something we were not up for or comfortable doing (all about consent culture). During this gap year I not only learned about environmental problems, sustainable agriculture, problems in the educational system, and healthcare, but I also learned how to question authority, how to be my own source of truth, how to be part of a community, and how to be who I am as an individual.

How can this program be improved?
Some of the homestays could have been better. They were all pleasant experiences; It is just that some of the homestay families were a bit distant and I was not able to connect with them to a great extent. Saying this, I think that they are making changes to homestay families next year because of this.
Edvards
Male
23 years old
Latvia

World is like a book. If you stay at one place you read only one page.

Overall
8

Morra; Namaste; Savadi-krap; buenas dias.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone and this is where personal growth accelerates the most. Going abroad with people you don't know, going to countries that you are not familiar with and learning about things you have never heard about will give you a broad perspective of life and change you for sure.

How can this program be improved?
More freedom. The best place for people to learn independence.
Anna
Female
18 years old
Seattle, Washington

Sign Up Now!

Overall
9

Thinking Beyond Borders is a gap year for anybody. If you love beautiful places, getting to form close relationships with other people, and are interested in other cultures, then TBB is the gap year for you. The type of traveling you get to do with TBB is amazing because you get access to things I don't think I could traveling alone or with friends. Staying in home stays was my favorite part of the program as you get to become close with people you wouldn't have known otherwise. TBB provides an excellent academic portion of the program that you can choose to use how you like, I suggest taking advantage of the eye opening readings and seminars they have prepared. Along with that the access to fun activities is fantastic, my personal favorite being "Africanyon" a canyoning adventure we did in South Africa repelling down waterfalls and jumping off rocks in a canyon river. I don't feel like I missed out on anything not going to college as I gained so many amazing experiences, and now know what I want to study and where I want to go!

Elena
Female
21 years old
Minnesota
University at Albany- SUNY

A Year of Immense Growth

Overall
9

Thinking Beyond Borders was an incredible experience and a decision I am very glad I made. The program is one of informal learning through seminars, experiential activities, and travel. The academic portion of the trip is focused on the question, "What is development?", which was then framed within the contexts of global issues such as education, the health system, sustainable agriculture, and the environment. As students we were able to do as much learning as we wanted to for ourselves; readings, seminars, and activities are provided, but everything is optional (though the more you do the more you gain!!), so you really have control over your experience in that way. We got to live with host families in incredibly diverse locations and were able to really get to know the communities we lived with as we were there for 4-6 weeks. Beyond the academic portion of the trip, there were enrichment weeks filled with fun activities and "touristy" things (i.e. the Taj Mahal, Macchu Picchu, bungee jumping, exploring new cities, etc.). Overall it was a wonderful experience that cannot be rivaled by classroom learning. If you want to push yourself emotionally, academically, socially, and physically you should absolutely take part in TBB. It's not always easy, but you have support systems through the program itself, as well as in your peers -- the relationships I built on my gap year are deeper than any I've ever had and have taught me so much -- so do it!! You'll grow and hold a unique education that will assist you in whatever you choose to do next.

Madison
Female
18 years old
Pinehurst, North Carolina
University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill

Life changing gap year for sure!

Overall
10

Thinking Beyond Borders was more than just a gap year where you got to travel the world. It is not a gap year where you get to just travel about the world but you get to do deep exploring of the world and of yourself. You get to join a community of people who also want to change the world but that will also become a family over the seven months together. You learn so much that you would never think possible and it is such a good experience to have before college. We got to live with host families, which is sometimes difficult, but in my opinion one of the best ways to experience a culture! Being away from family for so long right after high school can be hard but living with another family in a way can alleviate that homesickness. TBB was a once in a lifetime experience that I would recommend to anyone who is looking to learn about the world, about their place in the world, and just about themselves in general. It does that and a lot more if you are willing to let it!

Helen-Grace
Female
18 years old
Laurens, South Carolina

I Love TBB

Overall
10

I can't express how lucky I feel to have participated in TBB. I learned so many valuable lessons and had so many incredible experiences that I will never forget. Thinking Beyond Borders is a Gap Year program with a purpose and I would recommend it to anyone!

Tracey
Female
23 years old
Saratoga Springs, New York
Skidmore College

An Eye Opening Experience!

Overall
10

My decision to do Thinking Beyond Borders Global Gap Year is probably the best decision I have made in my life. It was truly incredible in ways that make it hard to put into words.
I'll start by saying that TBB creates an amazing way to push students out of their comfort zones, both with experiences and concepts, while surrounded by an awesome group of peers and mentors. I loved the readings and discussions about the four topics covered in the program because I felt I was learning information relevant to my life and participation in the world. As I said before its truly hard to describe but I will briefly explain the four main countries I went to.

Ecuador: My group planted trees in the Tsachila Community of Búa. I spoke Spanish after taking it in high school and really connected with my host family. The work project was physically demanding at times but always rewarding. The community was very welcoming. Be prepared for the fact that it is quite rural though. Bathing in the river and using compost toilets are the norm! It also helps if you love bananas!

China: I don't think TBB is going back to the community I visited in China. That being said the sustainable agriculture unit was my favorite! I became passionate about the food issues in the United States and am still motivated to do something about them now that I am home.

India: In India, we taught English in schools. The education unit was certainly the most challenging for me because I was teaching in school without a translator. The readings covered in this topic area also really get you thinking about the reasons you are teaching and if they are valid.

South Africa: The Public Health Unit was also a surprise to me. I knew next to nothing about public health issues, especially in Africa. I followed a caregiver around in a township as he did routine check ups on patients with everything from high blood pressure and diabetes to tuberculoses and HIV/AIDS. The patients really welcome you into their homes and offer a whole new perspective to learn from.

How can this program be improved?
Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything that I really want to change about TBB. I will say that I was hoping to leave the program with a clear direction in what I wanted to study. I didn't find that but I have found that the experiences I had on the program are still relevant in my everyday life in college.
Thomas
Male
23 years old
Colorado Springs, Colorado (but currently in Beijing, China)
Colorado College

A Fun, Deep, Not Watered Down Gap Year

Overall
10

I chose Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB) because it gave me the unique experience of traveling to 7 different countries in 8 months, without returning to the US or seeing my family. I had never traveled like that before, and had only traveled with my family in hotels previously. TBB's arranging homestays for its students gave me the rare opportunity to learn and engage a culture intimately with a local family I got to know over the course of 6-7 weeks. Despite TBB's staff and teachers being there to help me with cultural difficulties, the program forced me to address and overcome cultural difficulties myself, giving me a greater understanding of my own cultural assumptions. I continue to glean new meaning from my year with TBB, even now as a junior in college.

How can this program be improved?
I think Thinking Beyond Borders' program is set up really well for students to take responsibility for their own academic and cultural learning; looking back now, I wish I took more responsibility for my experience and learning. Our teachers supported us in all of our questions, but sometimes I look back at how they may have supported me less so I learned more for myself. It is a minor change, but something I wish I asked for more explicitly; I now realize that despite my increased responsibility for personal growth, I wish I took more opportunity to learn more about the different countries' cultures without the direct support of the group.
Emily
Female
23 years old
Denver, Colorado
Metropolitan State University of Denver

Thinking Beyond My Borders

Overall
10

Thinking Beyond Borders global gap year program is an amazing combination of travel, volunteer work and global studies. The global gap year is both challenging and rewarding, traveling with a group of 18 provides amazing friendships and community. Seminar discussions allow for processing and critical thinking. My experiences reframed my thinking and changed the way I engage with my community and the world.

How can this program be improved?
Increased Diversity
Mary
Female
23 years old
New Orleans, LA
Tulane University

Worth it

Overall
10

I knew I wanted to do something different on my gap year, though at first the idea of being away from home for 8 months was pretty intimidating. Though I was nervous and unsure of what to expect, I plunged into my Global Gap Year with Thinking Beyond Borders, and I am so glad I did. The program structure is, I believe, a perfect balance between academic, travel, and immersion experiences. Overall, it changed the way I saw the world and has allowed me to make the most of my college experience. I made some of my best friends on this program, as well as some of my dearest memories. One of my favorite things about the program is how the extraordinary becomes ordinary. My routine in Ecuador might include being woken by roosters, breakfasting with my host family, planting trees in the jungle, bathing in the nearby river, relaxing and playing with my host sisters and then settling into a seminar in a straw hut with my fellow students to have critical discussions about water shortages. It is definitely a challenging year, but the process of overcoming the hardships you encounter--the difficult questions, the homesickness, the culture shock--is part of what makes this year so valuable.

Renee
Female
23 years old
Brooklyn, New York
Barnard College

Unique Gap Year

Overall
8

Thinking Beyond Borders allows you to connect broad concepts of international development and globalization to specific situations. If you are in a classroom, abstract concepts or even political policies are always some degree removed from reality. TBB is the opposite in that you are learning mainly from your environment, the organizations you work with, the people you get to know. It is a challenging experience to be confronted with gross inequality and your own privilege, to travel in a small group, to be out of your element. But it is worth it for what you learn, question, become. I met some of the most incredible people on TBB, including my best friends.

Andrew
Male
31 years old
China
Columbia University

A Completely Unique and Invaluable Experience

Overall
9

I was a leader for TBB a few years ago and while I saw a different side of the program than the participants did, I was still a hugely important experience for me and one that still informs many of my decisions and interests currently. I've also led and had experience with a few other student travel organizations and while I know many of them run valuable programs, TBB's are special. Here's a few reasons why:

1) The quality of the program. The program is more than a curriculum, more than an itinerary, more than work projects, more than a set of goals - though all of these things are addressed with such thoroughness and intentionality you'd think there'd have to be a staff of 15 people designing this course and not just the handful of exceptional individuals who do it. The curriculum entails a college-level reading list with accompanying seminars and creative projects that changes the ways students are used to interacting with 'academic' material. Readings can cover both classics and the latest literature on a given problem. Moreover, traveling with laptops, kindles, and academically experienced leaders, the group always has the option of modifying the curriculum to meet student interests or address current issues. The 'work projects' can sometimes seem fruitless to students - as there might not be a new school to marvel at by the end of your stay in wherever - but they are more focused on exploring an issue than they are producing a tangible result. The program is perfect for students who are interested in learning.

2) The comprehensiveness. Virtually nothing is excluded from TBBs scope. Students are given the opportunity to explore every aspect of themselves, internal and external, personal and social, academic and physical, their personalities at work and on vacation. The range of geographic locations (city to forest) also vary widely and students are able to explore across environments and issues - as well as simply experience life abroad in some of its many settings. For example, too often Gap Years feature nothing but the exotic jungle of Bali or wherever, forgetting that the vast majority of people in the world are dealing with issues of urbanization more immediately than they are with issues of the destruction of coral reefs. Not that reefs aren't cool, but you get my point!

3) The change entailed. This program is hard, long, not for the weak or those who just want something - anything - besides school. This means, however, that students can emerge from the program rather differently than they entered. After returning from a summer or even semester abroad, it is easy to fall back into the same habits and worldviews that you had before you left because you didn't spent all that much time breaking or at least reconsidering these assumptions. TBB is long and intensive enough to develop a significant change in personality. I think nearly half the students on our trip changed the university and/or major by the time they finished TBB. The people who come out of this program - students and leaders both - are very different than they people who went in.

The only downside of TBB is the price - though it has dropped significantly in recent years. Moreover, the TBB staff is committed to helping students fundraise for their own trip - a valuable skill to acquire at such a young age. This should also help attract a great diversity of participants, which would also benefit the program greatly.

From it's own side, TBB is an incredible program deserving of almost any student. A better question to ask yourself is: are you deserving of TBB?

How can this program be improved?
See above.

- Lower Price
- Increasing Student diversity
- Students must go on this program for the right reasons.
Lindsay
Female
23 years old
Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado College

Question your assumptions

Overall
10

Though I graduated from Thinking Beyond Borders a few years ago, the lessons and experiences from the program affect how I think and interact with the world every day. We were constantly challenged by the program leaders, content, and projects to question our selves, our place in the world, and our understanding of development. I don't feel that I can speak to the specifics of daily life during the program, because TBB has evolved a lot over the past few years, but I can definitely vouch for the integrity, intelligence, and compassion of the staff and the quality of the curriculum.

Faith
Female
23 years old
Boston, MA
Boston University

TBB

Overall
9

It was the most amazing experience to be able to combine travel and learning in such a way. The home stays can be hard but also some of the most rewarding parts of the experience. Ecuador was my favorite part of the whole trip. The tree planting project makes you feel like you are really making a difference. South Africa is also an amazing part of the trip very demanding emotionally but extremely rewarding.

How can this program be improved?
Needs better response to health issues. It would be cool if you could get college credit for the program.
Luisa
Female
23 years old
Boston, MA
Boston University

The greatest trip you will ever take

Overall
10

My experience with Thinking Beyond Borders was amazing. From bathing in a river in the ecuadorian jungle or shadowing health care workers in South Africa, it taught me about the world, myself and how we both work together and make it a better place.

How can this program be improved?
Communication and taking action about health issues of the participants needs to be improved.
Rachel
Female
23 years old
Chapel Hill, NC
University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill

TBB Enriched My Life

Overall
10

TBB enriched my college experience (and my life more generally) in more ways than I could ever express. I am no longer a passive learner - TBB gave me the skills to take ownership of my educational experience. The curriculum opened my eyes to global issues and forced me to challenge the assumptions I held about the world and my place in it. In every course I've taken thus far in college, I have been able to relate abstract ideas and statistics to individuals and concrete experiences I encountered on my gap year. I learned an incredible amount about myself and my capabilities while nurturing a sense of adventure and curiosity about the world around me. Cultivating a strong sense of self is critical for making the most of your four years in college. Living in homestays, working with local experts on a variety of projects, taking language classes, traveling, reading, and discussing important global issues with my peers... all of TBBs program components combined made for an unforgettable year that has shaped my life for the better.

Rayn
Male
23 years old
Boston, MA
Tufts University

Excellent program!

Overall
10

I studied international development issues through readings, seminars, capacity-building projects, and research projects in the field. Traveled for 8 months in 8 counties. Lobbied for international development funding to Capital Hill Congressmen and presented to high schools in D.C.

Anna
Female
23 years old
San Francisco, United States
Columbia University

Meaningful experience for those willing to make it such

Overall
10

TBB is a unique and transformational experience. You will learn a ton from qualified teachers (they all have masters degrees!) and community members, you will live with welcoming families, you will challenge what you know. Together with a close group of peers you will live, work, and play in a variety of countries, probing deeper into issues that typical travel allows

What it is not:
+ 100% easy every day
+ A fun way to party for a year
+ A luxurious vacation in fancy hotels

How can this program be improved?
The program being great requires participants to engage actively -- encourage your peers to do this and set the tone up front.
Ali
Female
23 years old
Hanover, NH
Dartmouth College

Get uncomfortable!!

Overall
10

I took a gap year, because I felt like I was living in a bubble: a bubble of privilege shielding me from the real world. Thinking Beyond Borders forced me to step outside of myself, my community and my home country, and turn my eyes to the most pressing issues of our time. I learned the real side of how complicated development work really is rather than just completing some band-aid service project that ultimately served me, not the people I am trying to help. Traveling with eighteen of my best friends was an incredible experience that I wish I could do again! Living in home-stays reminded me of the innate humanness we all share and the ways we communicate without words. Nights sitting in silence, eating noodles, making hand gestures, and sharing photographs with my Chinese host mother, are my most precious. Every work project provides an opportunity to gain a glimpse of the authentic struggles and joys that people face on a daily basis.Thinking Beyond Borders enables students to gain a comprehensive outlook on the world and a new perspective, that will undoubtedly shape their college life and beyond. Every belief I had prior to the experience was shaken and reaffirmed, making me a stronger, more informed, agent for change. Thinking Beyond Borders has been one of the most challenging and best experiences of my life.

I am now a student at Dartmouth College and feel that I would not have been as intellectually motivated or emotionally capable to be as successful as I have been, without my TBB experience.

Clare
Female
23 years old
Washington, D.C.
George Washington University

Best investment I could have made.

Overall
10

Thinking Beyond Borders changed the trajectory of my life. This is not an easy trip. This is not a vacation. This is an investment in your future and a journey of incredible personal growth. If you are looking to challenge yourself, broaden your perspectives, and meet some incredible people in some incredible places- this program may be for you.

Chris
Male
23 years old
Greeley Colorado
University of Northern Colorado

Best Year of my Life

Overall
10

I was unsure about Thinking Beyond Borders when I began the trip (I did the full 8 month program) as it was quite the undertaking for me just graduating from high school. I now look back at it as the best, hardest, and most fulfilling year of my life. It had its set of challenges (language, separation from family, etc) but since you travel with the same group the whole time you develop a connection to the others.They become your family that helps you through anything you need. I believe I learned more in that year alone about myself and the world than I learned in two years at UNC(colorado).

Lizzie
Female
23 years old
Los Angeles
University of Southern California

Epic Experience

Overall
9

If you are looking for an experience that will shake you to your core and leave you with a fresh perspective on just about everything, Thinking Beyond Borders is the right gap year for you. TBB isn't the euro trip where your time is spent in museums and clubs. It isn't for the faint of heart, and it isn't for anyone who isn't willing to rise to a challenge.

Taking a gap year with TBB will reshape your view of yourself, the world, and of the core assumptions you've always been taught to be true. By matching rigorous (not mandatory) curriculum and discussion with every day experience, there is no way to avoid some serious critical thinking. The day to day "ordinary" experiences of this trip will teach you more about yourself and the human experience than any year sitting in a college classroom, trust me.

TBB is a difficult trip. It is long, exhausting, and it would be impossible for any group of leaders to offer 100% of the support any floundering eighteen year old needs while facing the harshest and most abject poverty they've ever witnessed. If you need to be coddled and given lots of individual attention, you won't like this trip very much. If you can get through the tough stuff, you will experience an extraordinary amount of personal growth, inspiration, and learning.

I would recommend taking a gap year with Thinking Beyond Borders for any individual that is willing to take on a life changing challenge. There will not be one boring day the entire length of the trip. Excitement, adventure, challenge: Thinking Beyond Borders.

How can this program be improved?
The year I went there was a lot of problems with the technology rules that caused tension and conflict. I think these should possibly be re-examined as they caused tension and conflict, not because they are bad rules.
Kristen
Female
23 years old
Washington DC
Colgate University

An Investment of a Lifetime

Overall
10

Thinking Beyond Borders was exactly the kind of program that I was looking for after high school. Each day consisted of a combination of working with the community that we were staying in, having seminars where we discussed an international issue that tied into the work we were doing in the community, and developing media projects that explain a certain aspect of that international issue and its importance. No matter what I was doing, I was always learning. I was exposed to cultures far different from my own, and I bonded with people within my group from other parts of the country as well as abroad. My assumptions about the world drastically changed. I came into the program believing that I have a minimal impact on the world and that it would be hopeless for me to institute any noticeable change. Now, I see myself as a "proactive agent of change", which is the purpose of Thinking Beyond Borders. I now see that my actions do have an impact on the world, whether it be large or small.
I was put outside my comfort zone numerous times, often feeling as if I was a lone foreigner in a huge country whose customs are vastly different from my own, but as I look back on my experience, I realize that I grew the most from living in the countries that I had the most struggles dealing with.
I highly recommend this program for post high school graduates who want a change of pace to see the world and understand it better. The program has even affected my experience in college, for I am more active and interested in my classes than I would have been had I not taken a gap year and done this program.

Nicki
Female
23 years old
Denver, CO
Quest University

Thinking Beyond Borders

Overall
10

Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB) was an excellent experience and was one of the best experiences I've had. One of the best parts of TBB was getting to live with home stay families because it really allows you to understand the daily life of the people from the culture. It also challenges your thoughts on your own culture and on what is normal. TBB also taught me a lot about development and the complications of a global society. While learning a lot and challenging your assumptions, you also get to have a once in a lifetime experience. Traveling to incredibly awesome places and seeing things that you would never be able to see at your home town. TBB was a great experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone!

Ben
Male
23 years old
Athens, Georgia
University of Georgia

TBB Changes Lives

Overall
8

Thinking Beyond Borders was one of the most powerful experiences I've encountered in my life. There hasn't been a moment since I've returned back to the United States that I have regretted my decision to take a global gap year with TBB.

While on TBB, I was challenged immensely to question the "norms" I had accepted in my daily life as an American. Before going on the trip, I expected to experience cultural disconnects with the communities we visited; however I was not expecting to learn so much more about the diversity and differences that we, the students, had by simply coming from all across the country.

On a daily basis, we experienced the extraordinary. I learned Spanish, how to farm, how to teach, how to learn, how to question my own assumptions, how to value diversity... Ultimately, I learned how I want to live my life--it has influenced who I am today, what my area of study is in college, and the organizations I have chosen to pursue back in the United States. TBB changed everything for me.

If you have the opportunity to participate in Thinking Beyond Borders, without a doubt, do it. The trip itself is rigorous and challenging; the growth one experiences is immense. TBB is in no way easy. However the rewards are vast and endless. Thinking Beyond Borders is one of the BEST investments you can make in your life! DO IT!

How can this program be improved?
While I was a participant, I thought that the mentor-mentee (Program Leader-Student) relationships and dynamics could be improved. No doubt the PLs go through immense training; but I think that there is definite room for growth in selecting PLs and how to equip them with potential group issues.
Provider Response

Since his Global Gap Year, Ben has served as an exceptional leader on his college campus. He's worked tirelessly with other students to engage with his local community in Georgia to support young children in their education and growth.

Ben's feedback regarding our mentor program -- along with the feedback from other TBB students and Program Leaders -- led to significant changes in our approach to mentoring. We pride ourselves on being a team and organization that is constantly learning and improving.

Hannah
Female
23 years old
Raleigh, NC
Other

Life-changing experience!

Overall
10

The day to day experience on Thinking Beyond Borders' Global Gap year varies depended on which country/unit we were in. However, whether it was planting trees in Ecuador or visiting patients in South Africa, there was always something to learn and gain from each day. I learned patience and flexibility, humility and compassion. I learned to live simply, to be grateful, to make my life full, and to love people. And even when I was exhausted, homesick, or just feeling miserable, I still gained so much from my experience on TBB. I am still learning from my time traveling--when I hear about China, Cambodia, India, or other countries we visited, I am immediately flooded with memories. Even the less exciting memories have a certain sweetness to them. Because during my time on TBB, I had the opportunity to be introspective while seeing the world around me. I was able to consider my values, motivations, passions; simultaneously because of the travel we did, I was forced to see the vastness of the human experience.
TBB changed my life completely! I am a better person for having this experience, and it continues to have an impact on me. Reflecting on my travels with TBB constantly grounds me and reminds me of who I am. It is absolutely worth it!

How can this program be improved?
The program has changed a bit since I went on it, and I believe they've fixed the curricular/travel aspects that I wasn't too keen on. The great thing about TBB is when something doesn't work well, they assess the problem and do what they can to adjust or fix it!

About The Provider

A gap year is your time to get outside of the classroom and learn in the real world. It’s a time to find the direction you need to make college meaningful.

Take a gap year with purpose.

Go beyond just travel or service. Our global community faces complex challenges that require more than simple responses. TBB provides the skills and experience you’ll need to find lasting solutions. You’ll live alongside families and study with leaders working to address issues like public health and environmental sustainability around the globe. You’ll join a community where young people are finding their voices and learning to transform our world for the better.

What You'll Gain with TBB:

- Direction and Purpose
- Ownership of Your Learning
- Community

*TBB is a 501c3 educational non-profit.