Alumni Spotlight: Maggie Gilman

After growing up in the Small town of Eagle Colorado, I traveled with Thinking Beyond Borders Global Gap year and saw much more than my small town could offer me. Now I am studying Anthropology and Environmental Studies as I explore a part of the world I have just discovered.

Why did you pick this program?


Maggie: Thinking Beyond Borders stood out to me because it was a small personal program that was more than just a ticket around the world. It is a chance to engage with the communities you are in and an amazing opportunity to explore different global issues that you are surrounded by.

What is the most important thing you learned abroad?

Maggie: Being abroad I not only learned about the different cultures and societies around the world, I had a chance to look back at American society and the life I once lived.

I saw how my everyday choices affect many people throughout my country and many more through out the world. I learned about globalization and how interconnected the world has become. The greatest thing I learned was to consider my impact when making simple decisions, because turns out they are not so simple.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

Maggie: There are some things you just can't learn at college. These can be life skills, experiences, friendships, hardships and too many more. Going aboard got me excited to come home and start learning again. It helped me find my self, so now I am more passionate about the things I am learning in school.

What was the hardest part about going abroad?

Maggie: There were so many hard parts, like being away for the holidays, staying with host families, group dynamics, seeing the world through other peoples eyes and then coming home and not knowing how to fit back in. But I am so grateful for every hardship and every moment I felt lost or scared, because those were the moments I learned the most from.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

teaching volunteer

Maggie: With out going to school, having a dead line, taking tests, getting grades, sending transcripts to colleges, getting accepted and denied, I gained a new perception of learning.

I would attend seminars because they interested me, read books because I wanted to, and soon realized that my whole education this far was so I could look good on college transcripts. I did not stay awake till 3:00 am studying so I could understand the Cambodian genocide, or memorizing every muscle in the body so I could learn more about how I function, it was all for some one else and never for me.

On my trip, everything I did was so I could become more knowledgeable about issues and because I was interested and passionate about them. Had I stayed home and not gone on this gap year, I might still not see that what truly matters, is your relationship to the material you are learning and how you choose to use that information in the future.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Maggie: Never say no to an opportunity for new experiences, to meet new people or to do something you are afraid of.

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions or future path?

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Maggie: This trip was meaningful because it was a combination of exploring the world, learning about current issues, discovering my self, being a part of a supportive group, and begin responsible for all my decisions.

My perceptions of the world changed, specifically my perceptions of me in the world. I realized the importance of local leaders creating change in their communities and that it is not my role to go in to community that is not seeking out my help, I realized the impact I make by simply purchasing clothing or food, I began to see the values our society holds and more importantly that I don't agree with some of them.

However, I only learned a tiny bit of what there is for me to still learn about my self and my relationship with the world around me. Therefore I am double majoring in Anthropology and Environmental studies so I can continue to explore the world, humans and current environmental changes.