by Elsa Steiner

So I am back in Chapel Hill. I have been in and out of town since I got back from my gap year on June 20th, the big music festival my family and I have been organizing for the past six months is this weekend, and in exactly one week I will be moving into the 5th floor of Hinton James at UNC. In many ways driving down the Circumbilar in Bogota, or navigating the crowded streets to get to the hospital in Rwanda seem like far off memory when I am standing in the company store at Tanger outlet picking out twin-XL sheets. However once I throw myself into those memories I cant believe I was really there and really did all of those things, just in the last year.

When I got home everyone was asking “So, how was your year?” and my typical response is just “Oh it was amazing!!” What else am I going to say when the conversation is only going to go on for a minute longer? In reality my gap year was a lot more than just “amazing.” It was something that I can’t possibly explain to them in a short amount of time because it was a combination of so many things.

It was the experience of being around people who had no idea who I was or what I liked, or who my family was, or where I lived. It made me really think about how I wanted to portray myself to the world and what kind of person I wanted to be and be seen as. It made me aware of how much I like to fit in and be in the know and feel like I belong, but at the same time made me a lot more comfortable with being an obvious outsider. It taught me the valuable lesson that you have to pick and choose your battles and your crusades. You cant try to do too much or you wont do anything very well. It taught me what to do with my time when there was no one else’s schedule to take into consideration. Who knew I would choose to pay to do a seven hour hike up a volcano without anyone making me do it with them? It taught me to look out for my self and know what I wanted. I was very conscious of the fact that I was given this huge opportunity and I felt like I couldn’t waste any moment of it.

Another thing I learned is just to say yes. Now, that might not always be the best idea and you have to judge the situation for yourself. However usually, saying yes will not lead you down a creepy alleyway where someone will bloodily murder you. It will lead you to a great market, or in a American bagel restaurant in the middle of Kigali, or to the home of a girl who dated the vice presidents son (true story). You just never know!

As I head to Carolina I am ready to be back at school and shockingly even somewhat excited to feel like a student again, studying for exams and sitting in class. I am excited for the treasure hunt that is finding all the amazing interesting people on campus. Finally, I am excited to reconnect with the other people who were part of the fabulous Global Gap Year Fellowship and compare stories and continue to grow and develop as a person.

Be Loud 14 Festival with Brady, Kristin, Danny, and Thomas!

Be Loud 14 Festival with Brady, Kristin, Danny, and Thomas!