One of my favorite parts of the GGYF Summer Intensive were the planning sessions. Yes, Chapelthrill, an extensive scavenger hunt through Chapel Hill, was exhilarating. Yes, navigating through the IDI, an assessment of one’s intercultural development, was fascinating. For sure, the late night dance parties with my GGYF family were comical, but, in my opinion, the gap year planning sessions held the most genuine moments.

During our planning sessions, we would all scatter around the CUBE, the highest room in the Campus Y Building. Each of us would set up our laptops, prop up our feet, put in our headphones, and diligently begin working on the seemingly impossible task of planning our gap years. The sessions were always void of any noise except the sounds of fingers furiously tapping on keyboards. To me, the silence was a signifier of how hard we were working, how much there was to be done, and how we were all going through the same thing; I found it to be comforting and encouraging.

Prior to the intensive, I struggled to do my research because I was daunted by the magnitude of work that had to be done. Fortunately, upon arriving, I was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone, like myself, was utterly unprepared for the upcoming year. The silence that moved around us during our gap year planning sessions reflected that unity of uncertainty.

Knowing that I was not isolated in my lack of direction allowed me to gain confidence and actually begin planning my gap year.

The beauty of the gap year planning sessions did not revolve solely around shared nervousness, but also support. Our GGYF family is an oddly supportive group of individuals. This was evident during our planning sessions. When someone would break the agreed silence amongst us to share some news of their progress, earbuds would immediately come off, eyes would quickly dart to whomever was speaking, and we’d all listen keenly as he or she explained their development. Afterwards, generally, people would get out of their chairs, jump-around, clap, and sing praises.

I still remember when Sophie got her internship. It was the first time any one of us made any headway on our planning. When she announced that she had solidified a position in Morocco, everyone immediately started cheering–I felt so incredibly proud. It was like she was a newly wedded wife, and I her mother–excited and thrilled; it was a lovely moment.

The GGYF Summer Intensive was rich with so many bizarre, intense, hilarious, and phenomenal experiences, but none of them assured me as much as the planning sessions. The sessions showed that there are six other people who support me and who will simultaneously be researching opportunities, buying plane tickets, packing bags, and traveling the world.

In Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Senegal, or wherever I may end up, I will always keep in mind how comfortable and linked I felt with Anna, Lauren, Klaus, Sophie and MaryBeth sprawled out in the CUBE of the Campus Y in complete silence.