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.
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.