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Thinking Beyond Borders

COVID-19 Program Updates

Due to global health & safety concerns and travel restrictions related to the coronavirus, Thinking Beyond Borders has decided to offer flexible booking options for some of their upcoming programs. Learn more about COVID-19 updates to stay tuned regarding program information.

About

A gap year is your time to get outside of the classroom and learn about yourself and the 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 sustainable solutions. You’ll live alongside local families and learn from 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 preparing for lives of informed social action.

What You'll Gain with TBB:

- Direction and Purpose
- Ownership of Your Learning
- Community

Founded
2007
Headquarters

One Kendall Square, Ste B4202
Cambridge, MA 02139-1562
United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Sidra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had truly the best experience on Thinking Beyond Borders Global Gap year program. From the very first day I had support from the program leaders and the other students. TBB prioritizes making deep connections so my program leaders and the other students were both my friends as well as mentors. Thinking Beyond Borders focuses on critical thinking during seminar as well as in our field work and our homestays. I was constantly reflecting throughout my time which forced me to grow as a person intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. Now heading off to college I feel more prepared than ever and I know I have learned valuable things I will always hold onto.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I had never been more nervous than right before we moved into our first homestay in Guatemala. I didn't know a lot of Spanish and doubted my abilities to have a conversation with my Guatemalan family, and thought I'd feel like a fish out of water for the next 6 weeks. All my peers and both my leaders reassured me but it wasn't until I had dinner that night with my family, speaking all in Spanish, that I calmed down. And now I will always have family in Guatemala.
Default avatar
Ethan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

If you are looking for a gap year program with global travel, cultural connection, new experiences, and amazing leaders, TBB is the perfect program for you! I cannot stress enough how amazing this program is. When I was looking for a gap year program, I wanted something that would challenge me and help me grow as a traveller, student, and human. This program is different from any of the other programs that I looked at. By the end of this program you will have learned something. Throughout all of your time on the program you are learning about other cultures, yourself, art, history, and even how to cook. But this type of education is not boring, it is immersive. The experiences you have will be remembered for the rest of your life and the relationships you form with your group and leaders will last just as long. I highly recommend this program to anyone looking for the most amazing gap year on earth!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't be afraid to dive into the unknown! I promise you will encounter so many things that you are sacred to do or have never done before, but this is the best place for growth! Not all of the program is going to be easy, but you will have grown so much by the end! I would do it all over again if I could!
Default avatar
Mason
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I cannot imagine growing more over six months. This gap year program allowed me to broaden my perspective, learn new languages, immerse myself in new cultures, make lifelong friendships, and learn new academic subjects. I was challenged emotionally, socially, and academically while receiving support from the other students on the program and my two leaders. We lived in Guatemala, Ghana, and Thailand for six weeks each, and in every country I was able to learn about myself through observing a different culture. I would highly recommend this program to anybody interested in learning about international development or their role in the world. You will see a variety of different cultures and be taught about how each one functions, which will allow you to learn more about yourself.

What would you improve about this program?
On the program we weren't allowed to have our personal phones or any device that could connect to wifi, so the program got to facilitate our connection to the outside world. Typically we had one to two hours of tech time a week to talk to our family and friends. While I think students having their phones at all times would be destructive to their learning, I wish we had more time to communicate with home.
Default avatar
Isabella
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I initially didn't want to take my gap year with a program at all. I'd convinced myself it was hypocritical to try "connecting with other cultures" while being surrounded by a group of white, affluent kids. I thought I was better off confronting my privilege and doing service on my own, rather than paying–in and of itself, a privilege– to learn about it. I WAS SO WRONG. After deciding with my parents that traveling with a group was the safest option, I chose TBB and I am so glad.
TBB was the only program that was asking the real questions. Is global development helping or hurting? Who's definition of "development" are we using anyway? TBB challenged me in so many ways (many of them ways I didn't even know I needed) and I am so much stronger for having done it. If you want a raw, emotional program that's going to challenge you to think critically, TBB is it. I met passionate people that pushed me to innovate for seven months straight. I am so lucky to have done this program and, if you're lucky enough to be considering it: GO. I promise you will not regret it.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I have endless answers to this question, but one of my favorite memories was running my first half marathon in Chiang Mai, Thailand with my best friend on the program. We lined up at 4 am at Tha Pae Gate beside 1,000+ people from all over the world. It was an amazing way to see the city lights and the energy was infectious. We blasted music the entire time through our handheld speaker and crossed the finish line just in time for sunrise. Such a pinch me moment.
Default avatar
Isabella
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I initially didn't want to take my gap year with a program at all. I'd convinced myself it was hypocritical to try "connecting with other cultures" while being surrounded by a group of white, affluent kids. I thought I was better off confronting my privilege and doing service on my own, rather than paying–in and of itself, a privilege– to learn about it. I WAS SO WRONG. After deciding with my parents that traveling with a group was the safest option, I chose TBB and I am so glad.
TBB was the only program that was asking the real questions. Is global development helping or hurting? Who's definition of "development" are we using anyway? TBB challenged me in so many ways (many of them ways I didn't even know I needed) and I am so much stronger for having done it. If you want a raw, emotional program that's going to challenge you to think critically, TBB is it. I met passionate people that pushed me to innovate for seven months straight. I am so lucky to have done this program and, if you're lucky enough to be considering it: GO. I promise you will not regret it.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I have endless answers to this question, but one of my favorite memories was running my first half marathon in Chiang Mai, Thailand with my best friend on the program. We lined up at 4 am at Tha Pae Gate beside 1,000+ people from all over the world. It was an amazing way to see the city lights and the energy was infectious. We blasted music the entire time through our handheld speaker and crossed the finish line just in time for sunrise!

Programs

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3
Thinking Beyond Borders
Gap Year Opportunities Around the Globe with Thinking Beyond Borders
Multiple Countries
9.71 •49 reviews

We believe that a gap year should offer more than just travel or...

Thinking Beyond Borders
Gap Year Semester in Latin America with Thinking Beyond Borders
Multiple Countries
9.68 •22 reviews

Explore solutions to critical global issues in communities throughout...

Thinking Beyond Borders
Gap Year Semester in Asia with Thinking Beyond Borders
Multiple Countries
10 •7 reviews

Are you ready to make a difference? Then this may be the program for...

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Mattie Leila Wyndham

Mattie is an Anthropology & Women's, Gender, and Sexualities Studies double major at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Though a current Mainer, she was born and raised in Pawleys Island, South Carolina with a fierce love of grits and sweet tea.

Why did you pick this program?

I get this question all the time, and I still don't have a succinct answer. Essentially, I first found Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB) because of its scholarship program, which I knew was a necessity for me. When I found TBB, though, I knew it was perfect for me. I read the Global Gap Year itinerary on their webpage and was blown away by the balance of the program.

TBB's Global Gap Year is not just about "seeing the sights" and "having adventure." You have that, sure, but TBB is for students seeking a path to becoming an agent of change. The combination of travel, education, and community speaks to that.

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

I urge them to question why they are going and what their role will be once abroad. Thanks to TBB, I understand the harmful effects of some humanitarianism, voluntourism, and general travel. I have lots of friends here at Colby talking about study abroad or doing service work abroad, and I know some of them have not actively engaged in the type of conversations that raise these questions, but I personally try to have these conversations and pose these questions regularly.

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

Just one piece?! There's so much! Well, I think it helped me a lot to read the student blogs prior to the trip and connect with alum. I think it was a big advantage to my personal journey that I knew what I was getting into and had expectations for what was ahead of me. I knew the connections, community, and change work students before me had found, so I knew to take advantage of the opportunities TBB provided us.

With this in mind, I would also say get close to your program leaders! It is in an extraordinary gift, having three incredible, beautiful, dedicated, loving mentors who can help guide you through the challenging and transformative pieces of your Global Gap Year.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

My favorite story? Well, I have funny stories, sentimental stories, humorously tragic stories. But I suppose for this interview, one of my favorite stories to tell was actually told to me by one of my best friends, Aaron.

In Ecuador, which was our first country, we were living with the indigenous Tsa'Chilla tribe in Bua, Ecuador (close to the city of Santo Domingo). Like most of us, their second language was also Spanish, so it made communication that much harder. One morning, Aaron was at breakfast alone with his host father, Fausto - the community shaman.

Attempting to make conversation, Aaron picked up the jam from the table, which was branded "Snob," and proceeded to inform Fausto that in English, "snob" means "un person estúpido con mucho dinero" ("a stupid person with a lot of money"). Hearing this and not fully understanding Aaron's attempt at Spanish, Fausto nodded and silently removed the jam from the table. The jam was never seen again.

I love this story firstly because I find it absolutely hilarious, especially knowing Aaron and Fausto as people. Two pretty eccentric dudes.

But I also love this story because it reminds me of the warmth and relation we cultivated with our host families, especially in Bua. Across linguistic and cultural lines, we found deep connection with people from such different ways of life.

These lessons in love and community continues to guide me over a year later.

More on Mattie's transformational experience with TBB:

If you want to be radically transformed and guided into becoming the person you were meant to be, take a gap year with Thinking Beyond Borders. This program is not for everyone, but those who do it learn to love radically and question intensely.

I truly learned what love looks like on TBB. I learned how to love myself and how to love others. I developed the capacity for higher order empathy and for honest forgiveness. I discovered an ability to challenge my assumptions and look inward. Beautifully, I have come into college with a sense of self, which most of my peers cannot say. TBB helped me develop my own set of values; I am who I am because of TBB.

At 17, 18, 19 you are at a critical junction in your life with so many options ahead of you. I hope everyone has a chance to experience the kind of love I found on TBB.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Chris Morales

Job Title
Program Leader
Chris is a teacher, mentor and guide. He is passionate about facilitating deep experiences for young adults whereby through exploration of the cultural and natural wilderness, young adults come to understand themselves and the world more deeply.

What is your favorite travel memory?

This is such a tough question - each experience is unique and speaks to different parts of me. One amazing memory that easily comes to mind though takes place on the coast of South Africa, in Tsitsikamma National Park. I was with a small group of students on a weekend of independent student travel (that I was lucky enough to be a part of). We had rented a small cabin on the wild shores of the park, overlooking a large rocky reef and even bigger waves crashing against it. From where we were, we were able to watch the sun set over the ocean in the west, watch the moon rise over the ocean in the east, gaze at the beautiful stars all night, and then watch the sun rise over the ocean in the east. It was the first time I was able to see the sun both rise and set over the ocean, and truly a magical experience to share with my students.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

There are so many people involved when it comes to a gap year - students, parents, employees, and people all over the world with whom the travelers interact - and success probably looks a bit different to each of those groups. I think, however, that no matter the company, evaluation and assessment are HUGE factors that often get overlooked but are crucial to longterm company success. Getting feedback from all involved and having the openness to adjust programming while still maintaining the mission and vision or the organization is key.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Absolutely. Throughout my time with TBB, my view of how to create change in this world shifted. I knew that education was a key mechanism in creating change, but as we learned and discussed education as part of the TBB curriculum, I realized that education can still be quite oppressive, and true liberation, an essential part of peace and justice, can only come from a liberating pedagogy where truth is something co-created by teachers and students and is forever and always changing to the current context of the world and our lives.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

I think TBB deeply understands the potential for negative impact involved with international travel and has structured its programs accordingly to maximize learning and minimize negative impact.

It is a humble organization that values learning over service and brings this attitude to itself as an ever-evolving organization, and the communities it visits.

This filters into the curriculum in deep and beautiful ways, and thus into the students, and because of this, I believe it brings the potential for humanizing relationships - what should be a key part of all international travel.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

It's beautiful to see the transformation that occurs in the students from the time they enter the program to the time they leave. Even more beautiful is when I get to witness the continued transformation as they bring back their learnings to their home country and communities. As a long traveler and global learner, I know that this return and reintegration is often where the hard work exists. Some of the best stories I've heard from return students are often some of the most painful conversations I have. The deep questioning that the students have learned on the trip often makes it difficult to reintegrate into their former social circles. Stepping into college, I find some students with one foot in one foot out of this society, not really sure about how to make sense of the world anymore. Although it is difficult for them, it is inspiring to see, and I know that the hardship is all part of a longer journey that will eventually lead to immense internal growth and societal transformation.

Professional Associations