Taking a year to get to know myself outside of formal education was/is hard. Proving to myself that I can be independent was a struggle too. By having this year organized in a structured way gave me the chance to jumpstart my self discovery outside of a regular 20 year old person. I mean this wholeheartedly when I say UnCollege is the training wheels to growing up.
I started the Gap Year off by choosing to read the article my Dad gave me that ended up being Dale's program. Eager to have a change from society's norm, and from going back to College undecided, I applied. A few months later, I was in a country I never knew existed before planning. I've met lifelong friends, hung out with elephants for a day, attended and danced my heart out to a local's wedding, ate dog, slept in a cave, taught English to Lao children, climbed one of the many steep karst hills, have a new monk friend and many more beautiful happenings I didn't expect to run into on this "voyage phase" of volunteering. I didn't realize this phase lived up to its title as a true voyage.
The transition from a third world country to one of the most industrialized cities in the US was beyond a culture shock. Spending three months drawing water from a well to having unlimited access any place you walk into has made me appreciate the finer things in life. Another big contrast I noticed is Laos and San Francisco's idea of time management. While San Franciscans have a time-based schedule, Laotians method is to work some, rest some continuously through the day.
Living and learning the different cultures while taking workshops to propel me, and other fellows, towards our interests was an experience of a lifetime. The staff's ways of having 'Friday reviews', coaching and house meetings were executed perfectly to expand our comfort levels of mental and emotional health.
Job shadowing, cold emailing and a few internships later I can say I have not found what I am truly passionate about. What I have found is a better sense of myself and career paths I do not plan on pursuing.
I encourage anyone who is unsure of college, a career path and any questioning on your future to take the next year and discover more of yourself outside of your regular routine. I took the chance to "postpone" a year from college and not only discovered more of who I am, but met amazing, influential people.
What would you improve about this program?
I'd encourage Dale to participate more in any of the social aspects of the program: reviews, workshops, overseas skype calls, etc. I feel the fellows would be happier spending the money that they have on this program because the founder is willing to put in a bit more time from a busy schedule for all the individuals who are giving their whole year in his structured curriculum.
Otherwise, I think you guys should keep up the good work. :)