The following blog post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow, John Swinea.

Throughout high school, I always felt like I was doing everything for anyone but myself. Striving to get good grades, trying to stay involved with my extracurriculars and friends, while worrying about things out of my control. When I was completing my college applications, the thought of a gap year had not crossed my mind a single time. Finding the Global Gap Year Fellowship Application within the UNC-Chapel Hill application felt like a breath of fresh air. The opportunities I was able to apply for gave me hope for the possibility of travel and new experiences. When I received my acceptance to the University, as well as being a finalist for the Global Gap Year Fellowship, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do. I have enjoyed every step of the GGYF process, and my excitement has only grown as I have been welcomed into the Campus Y community.

   Throughout my gap year, I am making sure to involve my passions, as well as ensure time for myself, allotting time to think, reflect, and grow after the most hectic years of my life. During the beginning of my gap year, I will be located in Charleston, South Carolina, doing a remote HR internship with the Borgen Project, working to raise awareness and address global poverty directly with the United States government. I will also be volunteering in person at the Charleston Animal Society, working during adoption events, school classes, and aiding in the daily care of the rescued animals. Both of these organizations represent causes that are important to me, and that was crucial when deciding what I wanted to accomplish during the first part of my gap year. Following my stay in Charleston, I am planning to WWOOF on the island of Oahu, expanding my knowledge of organic farming and aquaponic practices, as well as the culture of Hawaii. I am excited to use my time in Hawaii to do a lot of thinking and spending a lot of time on my own. I am so excited for the opportunity to grow as an individual in a completely unfamiliar space where there are no limits to what I can do.

Sitting in my sister’s Charleston apartment where I will be residing for the next 3 months, I feel frightened. With the start of my internship looming in just under 2 weeks, with few friends in the area, I have placed myself into a situation out of my comfort zone, that is pushing me to rethink the way I have lived before. However, this time I have been able to do it on my own terms. This move has given me a newfound strength and energy to work on the person I have hoped to become for so long. Having been here for just over a week, I have forced myself to be bored. I have been able to give myself time to think about what I want the next 3 months of my life in Charleston to mean, and who I hope to be at the end of this gap year journey. This time to think has given me the chance to reflect on the things I will miss from home this year, but also how a new environment can be freeing, motivating, and inspiring. I am so excited to use my gap year to put time and energy into my personality and strengthen who I am, and I am eagerly awaiting what is to come.