The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Amber Grant.

After a little over a month, I can easily say that my experience has not at all aligned with my expectations. The accommodations were much nicer than I anticipated; I have essentially my own apartment and plenty of fresh produce and food. My role in the volunteer organization is a little more intense and varied than I expected, but I enjoy helping however I can. I have done a lot of unexpected traveling that makes up for the time I spend inside on the reservation.

I have a routine of preparing dinner and writing in a journal in the evenings, which is something I have never really done before. I used to wake up late and get ready every day, but I hardly do that anymore. My new routine is much more productive and satisfying; I have developed cooking skills and spend much less time on my phone and appearance.

I have built a lot of exciting new relationships. There is a dog that I regularly feed and have given a name. He means a lot to me, even though he doesn’t belong to me (or anybody). I have also befriended a cat that started hanging around our building. I named it Mignon and built it a home.

There are workers at my placement that I have been out with several times. Hanging out with them provided me with a real experience of what it’s like here and what people do for fun. We get along well and I know I always have an invite out on Friday nights.

There is an art park here with murals that I derive a lot of peace from. I even contributed to the park once, spray painting a sun. Art is my favorite form of self-expression, so this park is especially meaningful to me.

Almost instantly, I bonded with the only other volunteer at the organization. Everyone else here are full-time employees who live off-site. We got along instantly, and I’m so excited to have met someone like them. It has brought me comfort these past two months knowing I have them to confide in. The spontaneity and unpredictability of this gap year is definitely intensified by connecting with someone I just met from a totally different state and background. Just this weekend, we drove together to Denver and Boulder, Colorado; I’ve always wanted to visit these places. We are planning another trip together in a couple weeks, and I might even stay with them for some time (which is something I never would have guessed would ever happen).

Being an extreme type-A personality, I am having to learn how to relax and move with passion. I can feel myself growing, but it’s hard sometimes to try and go with the flow. I get anxious often but I think that I am managing it well. I am surprised at my adaptability, however. I take good care of where I stay, cook, go to the gym, and have healthy routines. I also became friends with the people here quickly, which was exciting to see since I used to be a bit of a standoffish, kind of shy person.

The accommodations at this placement will definitely be hard to beat. I would like my next placement to be less isolated and in a warmer place, however. I realized how important privacy is to me, so I would like to maintain that in the accommodations of my next placement. I value my own space and independence.