Why did you pick this program?
Elena: I chose TBB because I wanted a gap year program that was not only diverse in its destinations so as to offer plenty of exciting cultural experiences, but also a program offering academic components. I was drawn in by TBB's healthy combination of fun, academic engagement, cultural immersion, and fresh perspective.
What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?
Elena: I wish someone had told me rather straightforwardly that despite my eagerness to go to new places and my willingness to engage in new experiences that I would undoubtedly become uncomfortable at times. But more importantly that discomfort is perfectly normal and okay. Don't judge your experience, embrace the tough stuff and learn from it. You won't regret it.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
Elena: It is difficult to concisely express both the depth and the magnitude of the lessons I learned abroad. In the end though, I believe that leaning into vulnerability was my most important lesson. I learned that when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with others you share your humanity and are able to truly give and receive love. This is important because it is what allows each of us to connect as humans. This connection is what enables us to learn from people of other cultures and value them as we embrace them, no matter their differences.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Elena: Stick with it! Thinking Beyond Borders is an incredible program with opportunities that you'll be hard pressed to find somewhere else. That said, it can be emotionally, mentally, and physically draining. But I promise you it's worth it. The personal growth is absolutely priceless, and every time you push yourself beyond what you believe yourself capable of you'll gain more than you ever thought possible. It may not be instantaneous, but it's worth it.
What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions or future path?
Elena: I honestly gained so many meaningful things from TBB. Experiences with intimate cultural immersion, student driven conversations about big picture development ideas (something I wouldn't have approached on my own), memories of breathtaking natural and cultural beauty, the list goes on and on. But when all is said and done the relationships I formed, with my peers, program leaders, host families, and host organizations were what stole my heart. I cannot express to you adequately the impact each person I encountered made upon my life.