During the summer of 2015, I visited a gap year counselor at my university and shared a few of my interests with her: Canada, the cold, hockey, animals...and that was it. She recommended a program called the International School for Earth Studies, put me in touch with the director, and the rest is history.
Haley is from outside of Philadelphia and is a student at Wesleyan University, currently taking a gap year. While she has yet to decide on a major, she plans to graduate as part of the Class of 2020.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
Do it. The new experiences will open your eyes to a whole new way of living life. Not only will you be more mature and experienced, but you will also have once-in-a-lifetime adventures and create lasting and meaningful relationships.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Go in with an open mind. There are many types of people who do programs like this - remember that you are one of them. Though all groups are different, they all have one thing in common: each individual made a decision to go on this adventure, and you all are in it together.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
After arriving on-site, we went on a tour of the property. We were introduced to the dogs later, and one of the dogs, Lucky, was not as friendly or curious as the rest. I found out he was somewhat of a "rescue" and was not keen on new people. He rarely interacted with students and usually kept to himself. Of course, that just made me want to connect with him more!
One day, after about two weeks, I was in the kennel with one of the family members (Kirk) and Lucky came over to me, sniffed me, and licked my face. I nearly passed out on the spot. When I looked up, Kirk's jaw had dropped. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
When I returned in the winter, I was so excited to see Lucky that I forgot to think about the fact that he may not remember me. I need not have worried, as within a few minutes of being reintroduced to the kennel he came right over, tail a-wagging.
Haley's Take on Being Disconnected from the "Real World":
The location of the program was a bit concerning for me as there is little to no cell service, and there is only Wi-Fi in the main dining area. This at first seemed like a negative; how was I supposed to stay connected with the world? Once I arrived, I soon realized that I did not need to be connected with the world - my world was here.
For the short time you will be there, and it is indeed short in the grand scheme of your life, allow yourself to be fully immersed by taking full advantage of the fact that you have limited communication with the outside world. The negative becomes a positive when you connect with the people, the animals, the nature. The program is incredible, but it is still only going to be what you make of it. Everything else - home, friends, technology, etc. - will be there if you need it. Me? I didn't need it. I don't think you will either.