Global Gap Year Fellows at Carolina

The Campus Y is committed to recognizing and integrating the important work of our Global Gap Year Fellows in the UNC campus community. We strive to enrich their experiences at UNC by encouraging Fellows to collaborate with campus organizations and by fostering opportunities for reflection on and evaluation of their gap year abroad.

When Fellows return to UNC, they continue to develop the interests and skills that they gained abroad in their coursework. In addition, the Campus Y offers unique resources for returning Global Gap Year Fellows. The GGYF Program Coordinator provides mentoring and advising, and connects Fellows with faculty advisors in their field of interest.

During their first semester, Fellows attend a weekend-long retreat. This retreat brings together the gap year cohort with a few senior Fellows to reflect and process, and build a new peer group based on this shared experience. This retreat also explores how returning Fellows can integrate their experiences abroad into their academic and extra-academic plans at UNC. The Campus Y also hosts a “welcome back” dinner during the fall, another example of the re-entry activities that occur during the Fellow’s first semester back on the UNC campus.

Lauren Jurgensen

Lauren Jurgensen of Rocky Point, North Carolina graduated from Heide Trask High School. Lauren has served as the Drum Major of the marching band and as the Vice President of Project Unify Club. She has earned top chairs as a flute player in various county, district, and honors bands and is a member of National Honors Society, Science Olympiad, Student Government Association, and the North Carolina Special Olympics Youth Activation Council. During her gap year, Lauren plans to work with special needs students in Russia and learn about sustainable farming practices in South America.

Thilini Weerakkody

Thilini Weerakkody of Chapel Hill, North Carolina is graduating from Chapel Hill High School and plans to attend the University of North Carolina as a Biology major. In High School, she was the president of Stop Hunger Now, the secretary of Model United Nations, a member of the tennis team, and a violinist. She also regularly volunteered with KIDZU Children’s Museum and Carrboro Elementary Summer School, and also was a peer-tutor. She was the public relations manager of Udeshi Hargett’s Wedding Violinist business and an intern for the Town of Chapel Hill’s Housing department. During her gap year, Thilini plans to volunteer in Morocco, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar.

Sophie Nachman

Sophie Nachman of Chapel Hill, North Carolina graduated from Woods Charter School with a supplemental diploma from the North Carolina School of Science and Math Online Program. At school she was involved in weekly writing workshops and school publications. Outside of school she is a dedicated musician, playing violin for 13 years and participating in the Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra for the last 4 years. Sophie also enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors with her family. She is passionate about language and culture and particularly enjoys learning about her French-Lebanese heritage. She hopes to put her proficiency in French to good use during her Gap Year by spending several months in Morocco. She is particularly excited about the cultural and geographical diversity of the country as well as seeing goats that climb trees (because she thinks that’s super cool). Upon her return to Carolina, Sophie plans to study […]

MaryBeth Thomas

MaryBeth Thomas of Bakersville, North Carolina graduated from Mitchell High School with highest honors. Thomas was active in technical theatre and will be competing at the National ITS Competition in Lincoln, Nebraska. She has also received highest recognition in her high school marching band as the John Philip Sousa recipient. She has served as section leader and Drum Major and will lead her school’s band as they represent North Carolina at the National Independence Day Parade in July. MaryBeth has participated in three varsity sports– volleyball, basketball and softball– and was recently named female scholar athlete of the year by her school. Outside of school she has been active in visual art, attending Governor’s School in art and earning a place in the National Art Honors Society. She has been an active member of student council as her senior class president and has served as a volunTEEN in her […]

Klaus Mayr

Klaus Mayr of Charlotte, North Carolina graduated from Myers Park High School where he was part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program. Mayr was the president of Community Connections and the MUSTANG Project, two clubs that strive to teach and encourage sustainability, education, and nutrition with community gardens in a low-income community and on the school’s campus. He also served as Editor-in-Chief of his school newspaper, worked at The Map Shop, and was the president of his Ultimate Frisbee team. Mayr plans to travel to Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, and South America where he hopes to work with organizations to improve sustainable local governments. He plans to major in Global Studies.

Anna Bennett

Anna Bennett of Garner, North Carolina graduated from Garner Magnet High School where she was involved with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program. She was a performer in all of the shows at Garner as well as a director for the Spring One Act production, and the Choreographer for the past four musicals at Garner. She was given the opportunity to play a lead role her junior and senior year. For at least one year she has been a member of the BETA Club, GMHS Drama Leadership Team, Homecoming Committee, Homecoming Court, YoungLife, and the Cross Country Team. Outside of school, she is a dancer with Feet On Fire, a competitive clogging team. She is passionate about service and she spends Saturday afternoons tutoring refugee children with Net Church Academy. Every year she participates in Appalachian Service Project and Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network. For her gap year, she hopes to […]

Bella Hernandez

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In high school, Bella Hernandez had always been successful. She was the president of several clubs and student groups, taught mini-sessions, and got good grades. When it came to preparing for college, however, something was missing. She didn’t feel ready to make the most out of college and generally did not feel ready to continue her studies. Understanding this about herself, Bella took a gap year through the Global Gap Year Fellowship and travelled to India, Iceland, and Germany, where she taught English and science, worked in a mental hospital, and volunteered at an orphanage.

The gap year gave Bella a global perspective of college education. Her experiences abroad have encouraged her to move away from her initial plan of studying philosophy towards something with more practical applications. While abroad, Bella came to see medical research as the best way to make a truly global impact. She plans to become […]

Kristen Lee

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Kristen Lee spent the entirety of her Global Gap Year in one country: Brazil. Facilitated by the Global Citizen Year program, she spent the majority of her time there living in a city named Curitiba. Kristen’s work assignments were varied, but she focused especially on sustainable development and urban agriculture. She assisted in different projects related to those issues for city hall in Curitiba.

At the start of her sophomore year, Kristen has not yet declared a major. While abroad she enjoyed investigating different opportunities so much that she wanted to continue that mindset at Carolina. Her academic interests are diverse, ranging from urban planning to demography, from agriculture to real estate and design. Kristen believes that without a gap year she would not have allowed herself as much room to grow and would have focused in on one topic even if she didn’t feel ready for it.

Kristen values […]

Brady Gilliam


“In every place, no matter how far from home, I’ve made great friends, all of whom I already miss. I have learned something valuable from each of my students and colleagues, and I’m really, really grateful to have been able to share my journey.”

Brady engaged with social and environmental issues on four different continents during his gap year. He worked in Thailand, Madagascar, Spain, Peru, and Bolivia. Brady assisted doctors in rural clinics and taught English to monks. These opportunities deepened his understanding of the medical and educational fields.

Brady arrived at UNC as a first-year a year older than most of his peers, fresh out of high school. Brady felt different. He’d just been around the world.

He immersed himself in global academic interests with plans to double major in Comparative Literature and Anthropology, with a minor in History. During his first year at Carolina, he became an […]

Kalli Bunch

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Kalli Bunch, Class 2019, Nepal and Sri Lanka
At the end of her senior year in high school, Kalli was unsure about what she wanted to study at Carolina. When she received the Global Gap Year Fellowship she was relieved: this was an opportunity to get to know herself, think about her goals, and serve others. She traveled to Nepal and Sri Lanka, renovating temples and working with children in orphanages.

Kalli left the United States wanting to return and study chemistry. Two years later she finds herself at the beginning of her sophomore year as a Global Studies major. She hasn’t entirely given up on chemistry, but after her gap year she knew she didn’t want to work in labs.

Kalli’s gap year has also played a role in her class selections. She has drawn to classes on the impact of humanitarianism and on human geography. Her experiences questioning the meaning […]

Rebecca Cooper

Rebecca Lynn Cooper of Rocky Point, NC, graduated from Heide Trask High School. Rebecca taught basic reading skills in Lithuania and did research on herbivore land preferences on a game reserve in South Africa. She had never left the country before her gap year, but she had the immense desire to travel and never imagined she would receive an opportunity like the Fellowship.  The chance to build her independence and confidence has been helpful as she starts her time at UNC.

Talpha Everette

Talpha Sebrena Everette of Wilmington, NC, graduated from Isaac Bear Early College. She believes in changing the world through entrepreneurship. She explored sustainability and social enterprise with cocoa farmers in Ecuador, and then volunteered for the social entrepreneurship program of a rehabilitation center in Jamaica. Following this experience, Talpha has started her own business called Nikao Technology where she partners with the local community in Jamaica to help businesses improve technology. Her venture won a UNC Bryan Fellowship, a program of the Carolina Center for Public Service that is designed for aspiring social change-makers, during her first semester at Carolina, where she plans to study Environmental Health Science.

Phun H

Phun H of Greensboro, NC, graduated from Walter Hines Page High School. During her gap year, Phun was able to reconnect with her roots in South East Asia where she travelled to Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. She taught English, learned to speak the local Indonesian dialect, and built close relationships with her students.

Parker Vige

Parker Owen Vige of Gonzales, Louisiana, graduated from East Ascension High School. On his gap year, Parker traveled to 56 different cities in 30 countries. He first taught English and computer literacy and worked as the financial director for the construction of an assembly hall in Uganda. Then he developed a national survey for an NGO in Hungary. Parker now works for a local nonprofit as a Bonner Service Leader, and is also a first year officer of the Campus Y Outreach Team. He plans to spend his next school year studying abroad in Paris.

Logan Pratico

Logan Pratico of Chapel Hill, NC graduated from East Chapel Hill High School. During his gap year he volunteered in Bolivia and Ecuador. In Bolivia Logan coordinated international volunteers, fundraised for an orphanage, and worked with a medicinal plant healer to maintain the city’s botanical gardens. In Ecuador he collected data on sea turtles for the UNC Center for Galapagos Studies. He honed many types of skills and became fluent in Spanish. Now at Carolina he works on building collaboration between Campus Y, UNC’s Center for Social Justice, and other social justice oriented student groups on campus.

Quincy Godwin

Quincy Godwin of Ahoskie, NC graduated from Hertford County High School. During his gap year, Quincy taught music in Tanzania and joined the team of an environmental conservation startup in India. Now he is the first year executive officer of Nourish International, a UNC organization dedicated to eradicating poverty through collaboration with different communities worldwide. Unafraid to venture outside of his comfort zone, Quincy also joined the Carolina cheer team.

Leah Simon

Leah Simon of Chapel Hill graduated from Carrboro High School. Leah’s gap year took her to the Dominican Republic, Thailand, and Myanmar to teach English, to India to work with Tibetan refugees and learn Reiki, and to London and Israel to explore. During her first semester at UNC she has continued to volunteer her teaching skills with Campus Y committees like Enrich and HYPE, which tutor immigrants and children respectively.

Keely Kriho

Keely Kriho of LaGrange Park, IL graduated from Lyons Township High School. Keely knew she wanted to be a doctor before her gap year. Shadowing a doctor in a children’s hospital in Cape Town, Keely conducted research on burn wounds and traveled with a mobile clinic run by South African medical students. She expanded her views on medicine beyond pure science and now studies Public Health at Carolina. She is a volunteer advocate at the Community Empowerment Fund and is also a certified counselor for guiding uninsured people through applying for health insurance coverage.

Gaby Aleman

Gaby Alemán of Charlotte, NC graduated from Providence High School. The focus of her gap year is working with children and she will be traveling to Sri Lanka and Indonesia. In Sri Lanka, Gaby will be working at an orphanage with the Rural Community Development Program. In Indonesia, she will be teaching English with Volunteer Programs Bali to underprivileged children first in an urban area called Ubud and then to a more secluded and rural part called Karangasem. Gaby hopes to learn Indonesian as well as the indigenous language of the Balinese.

Thomas Elliott

Thomas Elliott of Carrboro, NC graduated from Chapel Hill High School. Thomas will be traveling to South Africa where he will be working with the University of Witswatersrand’s SUNRAE (Sustaining Natural Resources in African Ecosystems) in Johannesburg. SUNRAE is a research program that focuses on the interactions between local communities and their environment. He will be working in the field to help conduct research for a professor. Thomas hopes his contact work with the people of the Limpopo region will grow his knowledge and interest in global sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity in the face of advancing globalization.

Emily Gabbard

Emily Gabbard of Highlands, NC graduated from Highlands Senior High School. During her gap year, Emily traveled to Peru, Nepal, and Indonesia. While in Peru, Emily taught English and worked with Horizon Peru, a small NGO that focuses on public education. Emily continued to volunteer in education in Nepal, and in Indonesia she took part in the Turtle Conservation project through International Volunteer HQ. Her experiences challenged her to think differently, to explore, and to acknowledge and accept things with which she had little or no experience. She continues to apply these lessons at to her college career at UNC.

Kaitlin Harlow

Kaitlin Harlow of Clayton, NC graduated from St. Mary’s School. Before her gap year, Kaitlin had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. Then her community development work in South America sparked a deep interest in the ethics of global engagement and in video as a tool for documenting incredible things happening around the globe. Kaitlin currently develops these interests by working for Campus Y global programs, as co-president of Global Circle, and as a photographer and videographer for the Y’s Communications Team.

Lee Mook

Lee Mook of Chapel Hill, NC graduated from Carrboro High School. He spent his gap year in Nicaragua, China, and Costa Rica. In Nicaragua, he worked for Grupo Fenix by building solar ovens, repairing solar water distilleries, and constructing solar panels. In China, Lee will studied Chinese and taught English and Spanish to classmates as well. In Costa Rica, he started an English Education organization called Project CREAR.

Amy Dingler

Amy Dingler is from Fayetteville, GA and traveled to India, France, Italy, Hungary, Madagascar and South Africa for her gap year. Her work ranged from working in a hospice in Kolkata, to teaching English, and science diving to collect data in Madagascar. At Carolina, Amy is a Bonner Leader at the Campus Y where she volunteers with SCALE (Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education). After college, she would like to take a year to volunteer in India, and she hopes to eventually start her own venture to help direct students to non-profits. Her favorite part of her gap year experience was the opportunity to grow personally and emotionally outside of her home environment.
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Anna Brodmerkel

Anna Brodmerkel is from Burgaw, NC. Anna has excavated sea turtle nests in Greece, volunteered with youth with disabilities in Ghana and Nicaragua, and worked on an organic farm in New Zealand. She draws from interests formed on her gap year in her activities at UNC, ranging from interning with Carolina Navigators to teaching elementary school students about other cultures to winning a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship to study marine science at the UNC Coastal Institute.

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Elsa Steiner

During her gap year, Elsa Steiner travelled to Colombia, Switzerland, and Rwanda. In Colombia and Rwanda, she taught English at three different schools. In Switzerland, Elsa volunteered at an organization that worked with refugees and other asylum seekers in order to find them adequate housing and shelter.

After hands-on experience in working with refugees—a desire she’d had since the 8th grade—Elsa learned about prevalent issues surrounding migration in Europe and the United States.

Elsa’s gap year was also valuable in that it also showed her what she didn’t want to pursue when she returned: teaching. Working with students abroad was enjoyable, but she could not see herself pursuing a career in education long-term.

Having a ready community of peer who have had similar experiences and awakenings has helped her optimize both the social and academic aspects of the UNC experience. Since returning to UNC, Elsa has been able to call upon the […]

Virginia Hamilton

Virginia Hamilton is from Atlanta, GA. A Robertson Scholar and volunteer with the committee Hope Garden at Campus Y, UNC’s Center for Social Justice, Virginia used her gap year to explore international development on three different continents. She volunteered in Ecuador, Peru, India, China, Cambodia, and South Africa through the Thinking Beyond Borders programs and now aspires to work for a international nonprofit in the health sector after graduation.

Maggie Armstrong

Maggie Armstrong is from Lenoir, NC. After graduating from the North Carolina School of Science and Math, Maggie spent 9 months teaching English in rural China. She built on her experiences at UNC as a leader of Campus Y committees focused on student global engagement, a winner of an entrepreneurship grant for a new product to make languages more accessible, and a recipient of a Foreign Language and Area Studies award to return to China. Post-graduation she can be found overseas once again, working for the German government.

Lily Clarke

Lily Clarke is from Fairview, NC. Lily taught English and volunteered at a seed bank, a vineyard, and an art gallery on her gap year in Scotland, France, Spain, Myanmar, and Thailand. At UNC she became an NC Fellow, a four-year program designed to motivate undergraduate students to maximize their leadership potential, a trained doula, and a volunteer with Carolina Campus Community Gardens. After graduation she won a scholarship to pursue an MFA in poetry at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

Keegan McBride

Keegan is a Colonel Robinson scholar, Sophomore Chemist Award winner, and the winner of the Ernest L. Mackie award for the Junior most outstanding in character, scholarship, and leadership. From biological research in the Galapagos to walking across Spain, Keegan’s gap year was the unparalleled opportunity to explore that gave him initiative and confidence at UNC, where he has been a Resident Advisor, an Admissions Ambassador (UNC’s official campus tour guide organization), a member of the executive team at Campus Y, UNC’s Center for Social Justice, a student advisor to the Chancellor, and now the CEO of the Meantime Coffee Co, a social enterprise run out of the Campus Y’s social innovation incubator (CUBE).