Meet the Fellows

The inaugural class of Global Gap Year Fellows departed on their gap years in 2011. Since then, eight cohorts have engaged in creative, self-designed years of service abroad and formed a vibrant GGYF family at UNC.

Taylor Molina

Taylor Molina of Edgewater, New Jersey graduated from Leonia High School, where she was president of the National Honors Society, was a Student Representative on the Leonia Board of Education, and was a member of the Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society. Taylor received the Becky Kleinman Award athletic award character. Taylor received the Morehead-Cain Scholarship to attend UNC and has been admitted to UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and will be a participant in Honors Carolina. Taylor plans to volunteer in Ecuador with Global Citizen Year on her gap year. During her gap year, Taylor will volunteer with Global Citizen Year in Ecuador.

Read Taylor’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: The One with the Flight Delay

It’s All About the Cows

As Prepared As Possible

Simone McFarlane

Simone McFarlane of Concord, NC graduated from Concord High School. There, she was active in Spanish National Honor Society, Amnesty International, and Service Club. She plans to major in Global Studies and Public Policy once returning to UNC. During her gap year, Simone plans to pursue women’s empowerment, migrant support, and reproductive health projects in Mexico and Columbia, followed by personal travel in South America. She hopes to improve her Spanish skills while abroad. 

Read Simone’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: Such A Chidi

Sarah Duncan

Sarah Duncan of Raleigh graduated from Smithfield-Selma High School, where she was Vice Chair of the National Honors Society and the Raleigh Youth Council. She served as the Captain of both the JV/Varsity track team and the Varsity cross country team. Sarah plans to study at UNC’s School of Media and Journalism. During her gap year, Sarah wants to raise awareness of North Korean rights, build her language skills, and offer support to women’s empowerment efforts. She plans to volunteer with Justice for North Korea in Seoul, South Korea and Amigos in Uruguay before traveling through Europe with some fellow gappers.

Read Sarah’s blog posts here:

On the Road to Seoul

Sadie Jane Allen

Sadie Jane Allen of Saluda graduated from Polk County High School, where she was a member of the Saluda Teen Advisory Group and Marketing Committee. Sadie received the Margaret L. Forbes Distinguished Scholar Award, the Saluda Women Award, the Aos Club Scholarship and the Newton Academy Forster/Stevens Award. At UNC Sadie will be a Tar Heel Merit Scholar and has been admitted into Honors Carolina. She plans to study Global Studies and Public Relations. During her gap year, Sadie aims to improve her Chinese and is planning on teaching English in China. She is also interested in taking on a digital communications internship in Split, Croatia with International Volunteer HQ after some personal travel throughout Japan, Mongolia, and/or Morocco.

Read Sadie’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: Stink Bug Got Home

Nya Patton

Nya Patton of Durham graduated from City of Medicine Academy, where she was involved in HOSA: Future Health Professionals, Made in Durham and the National Honors Society. Nya has received the Johnston Scholarship to attend UNC and has been accepted into Honors Carolina. She plans to major in Business and Public Policy. During her gap year, Nya will explore her interests in environmental sustainability, policy, and Spanish by serving Central and South America. Nya plans to volunteer with Iracambi, working on reforestation, water sampling, and crop maintenance efforts. She also hopes to take part in marine conservation and farm work through WOOFing in Costa Rica.

Read Nya’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: Leaning into Fear 

Matthew Lu

Matthew Lu of Edmonton, Alberta, graduated from Old Scona Academic High School, where he was captain of his high school’s Reach for the Top (an academic quiz competition) team, and was a member of the badminton and track teams. He received the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award and First Class Honors. At UNC, Matthew will be a Carolina Scholar and plans to study Biology. During his gap year, Matthew hopes to become fluent in Mandarin, reconnect with his culture, and investigate future career paths. He hopes to volunteer in China and Cape Town, South Africa.

Read Matthew’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: Small Steps 

Karen Xu

Karen Xu of Cary just completed her sophomore year at UNC, where she is pursuing a dual degree in Health Policy & Management and Global Studies. Karen is a 2017 graduate of Raleigh Charter School, where she was a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and a member of the Spanish Honor Society. At UNC, Karen is active in the UNC Wordsmiths, UNC Cypher and the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team. During her bridge year, Karen plans to further her interest in health policy by working on the Zero TB Initiative at Socios en Salud in Lima, Peru. She also hopes to assist with environmental education and water research at the Chengdu Urban Rivers Association in Chengdu, China.

Read Karen’s blog posts here:


Jennifer Khang

Jennifer Khang of Charlotte graduated from Providence High School, where she was an active Model United Nations participant, member of Student Government, and library technology tutor and received the Junior Marshall Award. At UNC, Jennifer plans to study Computer Science. During her gap year, Jennifer will volunteer with Global Citizen Year in Ecuador.

Read Jennifer’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: The Beginning 

Jacob Gerardi

Jacob Gerardi of Fayetteville, New York graduated from Fayetteville-Manlius High School, where he was actively involved in Model United Nations, served as the Communications Manager for SciExcite Inc., actively participated in the productions of Phantom of the Opera, Newsies, Cinderella and Titanic and played violin in the orchestra. Jacob was also an Eagle Scout and a valued member of the Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation Club. Jacob plans to major in Global Studies and Political Science and American Indian Studies. He also received guaranteed admission into the EURO-TAM five-year Masters Program at UNC. During his gap year, Jacob plans to volunteer with BarrioHabana in Havana, Cuba before he comes a Student Fellow with the Navajo Water Project in Crownpoint, New Mexico. He will also be explore his roots through visits to Israel and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

Read Jake’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: Reconstruction and Regrowth 

Hey, You Never Know: Dealing […]

Grayson Buchanan

Grayson Buchanan of Wilson graduated from Greenfield School, where he was a member of The National Honor Society, Student Government, the swim team, and cross country team. Grayson received multiple awards for his scholastic and artistic talents, including The Michelangelo Award, The Abstract Painting Award, The Citizenship Award, The Most Valuable Volunteer Award, and The Academic Excellence Award. During his gap year, Grayson plans to receive his TEFL certification and teach in Vietnam with Coins for Change and Morocco with Dar Si Hmad.

Read Grayson’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: JFK Has Uncomfortable Floors 

Francis Gabriel Guillen Diaz

Francis Gabriel Guillen Diaz of West End graduated from North Moore High School, where he participated in the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and was a member of his school’s marching band, cross country, track, and swim teams. Francis has received the James and Ellen Ross Carolina Scholarship at UNC and plans to study Global Studies and Economics. During his gap year, Francis hopes to expand his world view and improve his language skills by volunteering at Project Favela in Brazil and a Czech Republic nonprofit called Prague Thrift Store. Francis also wants to visit Paris, Naples, and Zurich.

Read Francis’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: Hello Stranger 

Farah Heikal

Farah Heikal of Raleigh just completed her sophomore year at UNC where she is pursuing a degree in Peace, War, and Defense and Political Science. In 2017 she graduated from Wakefield High School where she was a Junior Marshal and a member of the National Honor Society. At UNC, Farah is a Carolina Covenant Scholar and active in the Black Student Union and the Muslim Students Association. During her bridge year, Farrah hopes to volunteer with the Lebanese Association for Development and Communication in Beirut, Lebanon; the Petra Mountains Academy in Amman, Jordan; and Seeds of Humanity in Athens, Greece

Read Farah’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: Baggage 

Ella Shapard

Ella Shapard of Chapel Hill graduated from Carrboro High School, where she was a member of the National Honors Society and spent time volunteering with Kidznotes in Durham. At UNC, Ella plans on studying Biology with a minor in Spanish and Marine Biology. During her gap year, Ella hopes to practice her Spanish, form new communities, and have a better understanding of what she wants to study when she returns to UNC. Ella plans to volunteer with BarrioHabana in Havana, Cuba and the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust.

Read Ella’s blog posts here:


David Alejandro Gonzalez

David Alejandro Gonzalez Chavez of Chapel Hill graduated from Carrboro High School, where he was the President of the Math Club and volunteered regularly. David received UNC’s Pogue Scholarship and early admission assurance into Kenan-Flagler Business School and was accepted into Honors Carolina. David plans to major in Business and Anthropology. During his gap year, David plans to explore his academic interests, expand his global perspective, and try new things. He hopes to volunteer with Quaker Service in Northern Ireland, as well as travel personally through the Balkan Peninsula and Europe.

Read David’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: Learning to Listen 

Angela Seo

Angela Seo of Greensboro graduated from Northwest Guilford High School, where she was involved in Key Club and a member of the lacrosse and field hockey teams. She received the Mcknight Scholar Award, Aos Choice Award, and Northwest Field Hockey Most Valuable Player Award. Angela will be a part of the Honors Carolina program at UNC. During her gap year, Angela will volunteer with Global Citizen Year in Ecuador.

Read Angela’s blog posts from abroad:

Pre-Departure: Carolina in My Mind 

Amena Saad

Amena Saad of Durham is pursuing a degree in Journalism and Business Studies. She has served as co-leader of an APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Break to Asheville, which focused on hunger and homelessness. Amena is a member of the Editorial Board for the Daily Tar Heel, Gene Clark Memorial Scholarship winner, Tech Staffer at the Carolina Union, and a UNC Admissions Ambassador. She also serves as an advocate through the Community Empowerment Fund.

During her bridge year, Amena interned with the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, a refugee and migrant organization. She also pursed English Education, Advocacy, and Social Innovation work at the Yusra Community Center in Istanbul, Turkey.

Read Amena’s posts here:

Pre-Departure: Right on Time
The Night Is Young

Fatima Konsouh 

Fatima Konsouh of Charlotte graduated from the North Carolina School for Science and Math. Konsouh served as Muslim Student Association Officer and a Residential Life Assistant. She also participated in Girls for Science and United Muslim Relief. During her gap year she plans to serve in Malaysia and Kenya.

Read Fatima’s blog posts abroad:

Pre-Departure: A Step Back

Ambar Khawaja

Ambar Khawaja of Thomasville graduated from High Point Central High School where she was active in the Beta Club, Human Relations Club, Interact Club and Service Learning Youth Council. She served as the Communications Director for the Youth Action Project of the White Privilege Conference and helped plan the annual conference.

During her gap year, Ambar interned at Dar Si Hmad in Morocco where she led a young women’s English education program. She also taught English with youth at the Ujjwal Tara School in Kathmandu, Nepal. Coins For Change in Hanoi, Vietnam was Ambar’s third service placement where she continued English education and youth engagement. Ambar finished her gap year traveling throughout Europe attending various conferences.

Now back at UNC, Ambar is a Business Major, involved with AISEC, and an intern at Lead for America.

Read Ambar’s posts from abroad here:

Pre-Departure: One Fine Line

Learning Across Continents

Let Me Tell You about the Mountains in […]

Ameena Hester

Ameena Hester of Gastonia graduated from Highland School of Technology where she served as president of Beta Club and won the Hannah Leitner Award and Scholarship for her district. She founded the IMPACT! Muslim Youth Volunteer Group and the Do-It-Herself Female Empowerment Project. She co-founded and served as chairwoman of the Gaston County Teen Democrats. During her gap year, Hester plans to work with accessible health care in Egypt and serve in Ecuador.

Read Ameena’s blog posts from abroad:

Pre-Departure: A World of Octobers

Where We Go from Here

Love, in Blueberries

All Are Embers

Alexis Dumain

Alexis Dumain of Hillsborough graduated from Cedar Ridge High School. Dumain served as President of National Honor Society and Spanish Language and Culture Club. She attended Governor’s School West for choral music and directed her high school’s acapella group. Dumain was a varsity starter on her volleyball team as well as team captain during her junior year. During her gap year, she plans to learn about sustainable agriculture in Peru and Costa Rica and get involved in youth civic engagement in Hungary.

Read Alexis’ blog posts from abroad:

Pre-Departure: A Love Letter to Sheila

Spring Cleaning

My New Lingua Franca

A Confessional

Jonathan Hunter Dail

Jonathan Hunter Dail of Winterville graduated from South Central High School, where he served as Senior Class President. He played on the varsity soccer team all four years and served as team captain for the last three years. Dail has been a member of the Japanese Honors Society and recently participated in the Brody School of Medicine Honors Research Program.

During his gap year, Hunter WWOOFed around Japan, taught English at the Nakajomura Yakuba Kichinoura Nursery School in Japan, and worked with Samos Volunteers in Greece.

Now back at UNC, Hunter is a Global Studies major with a minor in Japanese.

Read Hunter’s blog posts from abroad:

Owen Conley

Owen Conley of Concord just finished his sophomore year at UNC where he is pursuing a degree in Sociology and Geography. He has been very active at the Campus Y, serving as the First-Year Member at Large and the Director of Membership. He has been a research assistant for Gender Equity in the Sociology Department as well as a Youth Board Member for Time Out Youth in Charlotte. During his bridge year Conley plans to serve in Cambodia and New Zealand.

Read Owen’s blog posts from abroad:

Pre-Departure: The Hardest Goodbye

Alyson Cabeza

Alyson Cabeza, of Fuquay-Varina, lived in Hanoi, Vietnam for the entirety of her gap year. In Vietnam, she focused on English education teaching English to children from 5 to 12 years old with Vietnamese Community Volunteering. She traveled all throughout the country as well as visiting Singapore, and Krabi and Bangkok in Thailand.

As a first-year at UNC, she is a Global Office Intern at the Campus Y. She is also an Events team member with Coulture Magazine — a fashion and lifestyle magazine — and a member of the Carolina Film Association. She plans to major in Advertising and Public Relations within the Hussman Journalism School while minoring in Creative Nonfiction Writing.

Read Alyson’s posts from her time abroad:

Pre-Departure: Alexa, Play “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

2 A.M.

No Pictures Included

Caroline Brogden


Caroline Brogden of Apex graduated from Apex Friendship High School, where she served as Editor Emeritus and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Apex Friendship Yearbook Staff. She was inducted into the National Honors Society, National Art Honors Society, Spanish Honors Society and the Quill and Scroll Society. During the summer of 2017 she attended Governor’s School East for English. Brogden also founded the Apex Friendship Feminist Society. During her gap year she will be working with migrant women in Greece and focusing on youth education in Chile.

Read Caroline’s blog posts from abroad:

Pre-Departure: This One’s For the Butterflies
A Meditation on “No” in Samos, Greece
Puck’s Poem

Lauren Jurgensen

Lauren Jurgensen of Rocky Point, North Carolina graduated from Heide Trask High School. During her time abroad, Lauren worked in Puerto Rico and in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. In Puerto Rico, Lauren worked on several farms, and on one of them she learned the full process of making coffee. In Bishkek, Lauren worked for Labrys, and organization devoted to fighting for LGBTIQA rights in Central Asia. While there, she also greatly improved her Russian skills.

At UNC, Lauren studies Russian and Anthropology with a minor in Philosophy. She is a UNC Bonner Leader, a member of Criminal Justice Action and Awareness, and a Committee for Queerer Carolina.

At Heide Trask High School, Lauren was the drum major of the marching band, and Vice President of the Project Unify Club. She earned top chairs as a flute player in various county, district, and honors bands and was a member of National Honors Society, Science […]

Kaitlin Galindo

Kaitlin Galindo, a bridge Fellow of Centreville, Virginia, is an Honors Carolina Student and an active member of the Campus Y. She is a public relations and political science double major. During her Bridge Year, Kaitlin volunteered in Greece and India.

Read Kaitlin’s blogs from abroad here:
Unfinished Work
On Borders

Daniel Almaguer


Daniel Almaguer graduated from Mount Carmel Academy in Houston, Texas, where he participated in student council, Newman Club and the National Honor Society, was captain of the Houston Urban Debate League and was selected as an EMERGE Scholar. During the summer of 2016, Daniel was a Summer Scholar at Washington University in St. Louis. Danny served in Dehradun, India and Rabat, Morocco during his gap year. Daniel’s gap year consisted of English education, skills training, and care giving through Ausskill, UBELONG, and Elite.

While at UNC, Danny is studying anthropology and global studies as well as pursuing an entrepreneurship minor. He is also an active member of MSA and the Hip Hop Council.


Read Daniel’s posts from abroad:
Next Stop: India

Georgia Morgan

Georgia Morgan of Cary, North Carolina spent her gap year in South Africa, Morocco, and Italy. While in South Africa, Georgia volunteered with Scalabrini, a refugee and migrant center, as an “all-rounder” intern teaching in the Engish school, helping develop the UNITE program for South African Youth, facilitating digital literacy courses, and helping clients apply for specific permits. After completing her placement in South Africa, Georgia traveled to Morocco to serve with Dar Si Hmad where she led excursions to visit fog nets, administered and facilitated a new session with RISE, and pursued her own independent project of interviewing/photographing the “behind the scenes heroes” of Dar Si Hmad.

At UNC, Georgia is studying Public Policy and Geography. She is an Advocate for CEF, Global Office Intern, and Buckley Public Service Scholar. She hopes to go abroad again and work in a career related to environmental policy and city planning/ development. […]

Katie Huge

Katie Huge of Carrboro, North Carolina graduated from Chapel Hill High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society and played varsity volleyball, serving as captain for two years. She also taught volleyball to local youth and volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House.

She spent her gap year in Washington, D.C., Morocco, and Japan. Katie served with THRIVE, DC to support reentry for formerly  incarcerated females. She then travelled to Morocco, to develop curriculum with Dar Si Hmad through the RISE program and ended her gap year in Yufain, Japan WWOOFing with a donation cafe. Katie is an environmental science major and math and sustainability double minor. She is active in multiple campus organizations including the Asian American Student Association (ASA)and the club volleyball team. From her gap year, she more about her interests in careers and feels that she can forge her own path. She hopes […]

Jennings Dixon

Jennings Dixon of Apex, North Carolina is a Chinese major  at UNC. During his gap year, Jennings spent a majority of his time in India in Sri Lanka. In India, Jennings taught English at a local international school geared towards students of low socio-economic backgrounds. While in Sri Lanka, Jennings as able to express his passion for music through his service with the Music Project in which he taught music to Sri Lankan youth. Jennings  hopes to take advantage of global opportunities offered at UNC and is leading the Gap Year Student Org to connect with other students who have taken gap years. He is also involved in the marching band and Gaelic sports.


Jennings graduated from Holly Springs High School, where he was a member of the band and earned recognition as most outstanding freshman and sophomore musician and as a finalist for the NC All State Honor Band. […]