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Thinking Beyond Borders

About

A gap year is your time to get outside of the classroom and learn in the real 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 lasting solutions. You’ll live alongside families and study with 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 learning to transform our world for the better.

What You'll Gain with TBB:

- Direction and Purpose
- Ownership of Your Learning
- Community

Founded
2007
Headquarters

PO Box 4432
San Rafael, CA 94913
United States

Reviews

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

My gap experience with Thinking Beyond Borders was the best three months of my life, which is still impacting me years later. The conversations, experiences, and thoughts I was exposed to during my time in Latin America was a catalyst for my personal and professional growth. My experience made me more confident, gave me a second family in another country (who I visited and stayed with again upon returning to Guatemala this past summer), provided me lifelong friends and mentors, and introduced me to people who were also curious about similar issues and wanted to ask difficult questions. All my preconceived notions were challenged and my personal philosophy changed on the trip, which has molded me into the person I am today, a person I am proud to be.

If you want to truly learn about the world and yourself and you are willing to put in hard work (because it is hard work), then go on this gap experience. If you want to sit in a circle talking with inspiring people from all walks of life and have the most impactful conversations of your life applying concepts you learn in the classroom and the field, then go. If you see the value in learning from all types of people and situations, then go. You will not regret it and it will be the best decision you ever make. My gap semester encouraged me to embrace my individuality and accept myself for who I am and what I enjoy.

What was your funniest moment?
Hiking a volcano in Ometepe, Nicaragua and face planting into the mud because I didn't bring proper footwear. Our tour guide laughed at me and proceeded to catch a wild snake 10 minutes later. He then told me he identifies with snakes more than people. 10/10 unreal.
Default avatar
Emma
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thinking Beyond Borders is such a unique program, in that they create an inclusive learning space for all students. I recently took a gap year with TBB and was blown away by their attentiveness to our needs, which made me feel so much more comfortable and trusting. I had so many amazing experiences from being apart of my host sister's quinceanera to exploring a cave in Guatemala to watching the sun set in the Sahara Desert. Looking back, I made so many friends that I feel confident will last for years to come. I was given the opportunity to really push myself out of my comfort zone and for that, I am just to thankful for Thinking Beyond Borders!! If you're considering taking a gap year, look into Thinking Beyond Borders! You won't regret it!

What was your funniest moment?
The funniest moment that comes to mind was on Enrichment week in Guatemala. A few of us were interested in finding a beach and so we all chipped in and paid for a small wooden boat to take us. When we got there we found a high diving board so of course we all wanted to try it! One of the girls in the group had just gotten her eyebrow pierced and decided she wanted to try it out. She climbed up there so bravely but underestimated how high it was and ended up belly flopping into the water, making her eyebrow piercing super red and swollen.
Default avatar
Clare
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The most important part of my TBB experience was a culturally valuable, understanding, immersive experience. I matured beyond my expectations during my time with TBB because the Program Leaders ensured we stayed away from insensitively taking advantage of our homestays and overall experience. I had more fun in those 3 months than I could have imagined while learning and immersing myself via education and work. Everyone starts at different levels of language, cultural understanding, and group dynamics, but everyone rapidly reaches the same competency in these areas. I’m beyond happy I chose TBB in favor of a program that focused more on fun and taking advantage of the beauties and riches host nations have to offer. Gap year students looking to prepare for college, TBB is for you.

What was your funniest moment?
One time we were having a group movie night after evening seminar at the Program Leaders’ homestay when one of the village dogs snuck in and essentially wreaked havoc while we tried to watch the movie. It was hilarious trying to shoo her out of the room.
Default avatar
Molly
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Hi! I was a member of the 2018-19 cohort on the TBB Global Gap Gear Program. It is hard to even start to put into words the overall experience of TBB. If you want to dig deep into the depths of yourself, your identity, and your place in this world, then this might just be the perfect program for you, as it was for me. There is something about traveling constantly, in places where you won't see any other tourists, learn from locals, create incredible family bonds with those who welcome you into their houses/families, and all without technology!! When I decided to go on a gap year, I knew I needed space from my life back home, from our culture and society. I needed space to be able to GROW! and expand. I was yearning for a break from sitting at a desk, and that being the extent of my learning in classes. I wanted to go out, to explore, and to be free/encouraged to do so. Thinking Beyond Borders sets you up for incredible opportunities that you yourself are responsible for making happen. Want to plan a trip to the beach with the whole group? Ok, sure, go find a hostel and let's get it organized. Coming super late to seminar because you started having a conversations about defining poverty with a local policeman and he wanted to get coffee and keep talking? Sure, no problem! Be sure to ask him about what got him there. It's these types of spontaneous moments of learning, growth, expansion, and perspective shifting that fosters such unique experiences. My journey couldn't have been possible without my AMAZING leaders and friends. This trip was exactly what I was looking for:
-traveling in foreign places
-living with local families
-learning their language
-independent/ plenty of alone time
-intellectual stimulation (seminars/language lessons/local speakers all throughout each week)
-so many good books!!!
-plenty of time exploring outdoors, hiking, swimming, etc
-a curriculum specifically made to learn more about yourself
-no phone/personal computers
-supports vegetarians!!

I could talk about this program forever. I had one of the most trans-formative times of my life, and I give most of that credit to TBB, for even getting me there, for stretching me in all different ways, and for being an incredible support system the whole way through.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Sitting on the plane from Morocco to the U.S...."no! noooo! What the HELL am I supposed to do now?? I never want to leave my TBB family!!!"
(it's ok, transitions is going somewhat smoothly, I'll have these friends and mentors for the rest of my life:)
Default avatar
Emma
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I participated in the fall of 2018 Latin America semester and absolutely loved it. No other program compares to TBB. Everything I saw in each country I was in, the connections I made with locals, and what we learned in seminars seriously can't be found in other programs. There were many challenging parts but in those moments I found that's where I grew the most. TBB teaches you to think critically and I am so grateful for the different perspectives I gained through my experience. I've been back from the program for about three months now and everyday I use what I learned from TBB. Additionally, my program leaders and the other students with me were by far one of the best parts of the program. They were, and still are, my second family. To be with a group of people that have the same mindset as you is indescribable, those bonds will last a lifetime. I really would recommend this program to anyone thinking about a gap year!

What was your funniest moment?
One of the funniest moments was around Thanksgiving when we were all craving some banana bread. So, one of the students decided to make it. We had pretty limited resources as the grocery stores are really different then in the states but we managed to get all the ingredients. The student who made it left it in for too long and put in way too much baking soda so it tasted just awful but looked pretty good if you haven't seen banana bread for a while. It kinda looked like chocolate banana bread. Since it looked decent we got everyone to try it, we told everyone it was the best banana bread ever and got them super excited. Seeing their reactions was the funniest thing I've ever seen. Some people tried to be nice and was like ohhh wow this is great! Others just immediately spit it out.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

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.
Elephant ride during Global Gap Year

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.
guy on a mountain

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.

More Interviews

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