Meet the Fellows

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

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. He has a passion for the arts, and loves playing the violin, participating in musical theater, and creating traditional beadwork pieces. Jacob plans to double major in Indigenous Studies and either Political Science or Global Studies along with a Spanish minor at UNC. He is passionate about activism, indigenous peoples’ rights, music, and art plans to continue at UNC.

During his gap year, spent the majority of his time between his two volunteer placements in La Habana (Havana, Cuba and in Navajo Nation […]

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 

Blog No. 2

Taiwan’s floors are not that bad, or a least they have a couch

A Final Reflection

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 

Tabajaras Newbie

Farah Heikal

Farah Heikal of Raleigh just completed her sophomore year at UNC where she is pursuing a dual degree in Peace, War, and Defense and Political Science with a concentration in Arabic. Farah is a 2017 graduate of 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 an active member of Campus Y committees such as LINC (Linking Immigrants to New Communities) and HYPE (Helping Youth By Providing Enrichment).

During her Bridge Year, Farah furthered her interest in supporting refugee and asylum seekers by teaching English and directing creative projects. She volunteered with Lebanese Association for Development and Communications in Beqaa Valley, Lebanon.

Read Farah’s blog posts here:

Pre-Departure: Baggage 

The Paris of the Middle East

Who do I think I am?

It’s not the end-It’s only the beginning

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 travelled to Havana, Cuba and Bali, Indonesia. In Havana, Ella worked with Barrio Habana, a non-profit that crates extracurricular workshops for elementary school children to encourage creative thinking and problem solving skills. In Bali, Ella volunteered for the North Bali Reef Conservation where she built and implemented artificial reef structures to jumpstart coral reef growth in the area. While in Bali, Ella also received her PADI Open Water Diving Certification and spent time exploring various dive sites throughout the island.

Read Ella’s blog posts here:

The Science of Lines

5 Common Misconceptions about Cuba

Reflections on Tianyar, Bali

David Alejandro Gonzalez Chavez

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.

During his gap year, David served for 9 months as a childcare worker at Quaker Cottage, a family support center based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. There, his work involved working with babies and children up to the age of 12. He played with and care for the babies in the mornings while their mothers received counseling and support services from the organization. In the afternoons, he crated activities and played with the children in an after school group. On the weekends, David volunteered at a worker-owned cooperative called Loveworks, which ran both a bakery and repair shop. He worked front-of-house for the bakery, and also learned […]

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 volunteered with Global Citizen Year in Ecuador. Her apprenticeship brought her to Fabrica Imbabura, a museum and cultural center based in Andrade Marin, Ecuador. Angela gave bilingual tours to visitors, crated audio guides, translated promotional materials and tour guides for future volunteers, and helped out in the theater department of the museum.

Read Angela’s blog posts from abroad:

Pre-Departure: Carolina in My Mind 

Bad Luck

En la Fábrica

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, graduated from Harnett Central High School. She participated in the Student Government Association, Interact Club and Foreign Language League. She served as President of her Key Club and received the Outstanding Officer Award as a junior. She attended Governor’s School East in Natural Science and served as a Junior Marshall for the 2017 commencement exercises.

During her gap year, she 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. […]

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 Sustainable Planning/Development. She is an Advocate for CEF and Global Programs Assistant for Campus Y’s Global Office. She hopes to go abroad again and work in a career related to environmental justice and city […]

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. […]

Natalie Barth

Natalie Barth of Wake Forest, North Carolina spent her gap year in Hucas, Costa Rica and Cape Town, South Africa. While in Costa Rica, Natalie worked at a day care teaching children. She then travelled to South Africa and interned at Green Pop- a social enterprise with a mission to (re)connect people with the planet- as a marketing and social media intern. Her gap year has influenced her interest in working abroad in a non-traditional career. While at UNC, she has dedicated her time to the premier, all-female a capalla group, the Loreleis, and is also a Buckley Public Service Scholar.

Natalie graduated from Franklin Academy High School, where she sang in the chorus and played varsity soccer. In addition to being a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, National History Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society, Natalie also served as the vice president of […]

Araseli Valverde

Araseli Valverde, a Bridge Year Fellow from Pinnacle, NC,  is an active member of the Campus Y’s Bonner Leadership Program and is also involved with the Carolina Union Activities Board (CUAB). She is majoring in Global Studies with minors in Public Policy and Italian. Araseli spent most of her bridge year in Italy teaching English to migrant boys through the Intercultural Study Center, but was also able to go to Jordan, Tunisia, and London. Araseli also traveled through Mexico on behalf of the Gerald Unks Scholarship. Arasili credits her gap year to gaining confidence in her ability to travel and follow her passions. She hopes to continue traveling and explore more global opportunities through the Peace Corp and the Fullbright Scholarship!

Araseli plans to pursue a PhD through with McNair Scholars Program. She spent a summer presenting her research project, Post-Colonial Italy in Igiaba Scego’s Work, with the help of […]

Janis Arrojado

Janis Arrojado of Concord graduated from North Carolina School of Science and Math, where she was involved in numerous sustainability initiatives and ecology research and also danced Tinikling, a form of Filipino dance. She was the treasurer of her Interact Club and a finalist for MIT Inspire. During her gap year, Janis traveled to Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador and Hanoi Vietnam. In Ecuador, Janis worked on a farm that specialized in revegetation. In Vietnam, Janis taught English through the Vietnamese Community Volunteering.

While at UNC, Janis is studying Geography and Public Policy. She is an active member on campus through her involvement with the Community Empowerment Fund, Project Literacy, and Kasam. Janis is also an Orientation Leader, Intern with the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, and a Residential Computing Consultant.

Janis is passionate about the future and trying her best to conserve throughout the world. She loves personality tests, coffee, […]

Viktoria Alston

Viktoria Alston of Havelock, North Carolina, spent her gap year in Peru, Ecuador, Belize, Mexico, Japan, and Malaysia. During her gap year, Viktoria taught Spanish, English, and math through Hija Rojo and Collegio Escriba, She is currently a global studies major with a Spanish minor and is involved with ENRICH ELL, a campus organization focused on promoting opportunities through English literacy. Viktoria hopes to have more global experiences and to be able to continue teaching English to language learners. Her gap year has also influenced her decision to find a career in which she is able to work with people and help improve their lives.

Viktoria graduated from Havelock High School, where she was involved with JROTC and band and participated in the Spanish Club, Interact Club and National Honor Society. Viktoria was also vice-chair and co-chair of the Havelock Youth Advisory Committee.

You can read Viktoria’s blogs from abroad here:
Born […]

Shelby Watson

Shelby Watson of Collettsville graduated from West Caldwell High School, where she was co-president of Beta Club, a student council representative and played right field on the softball team. She has a passion for the outdoors and enjoys serving others, including a semester long internship at Tuttle Educational State Forest.

During her gap year, Shelby volunteered in Cape Town, South Africa and Mukono, Uganda. In South Africa, Shelby worked with Extreme Response International where she helped students with homework and other after-school care services. In Uganda, she worked with PUR International to create gardens and produce for the local school. Shelby is currently studying anthropology and has hopes of becoming a doula.

You can read her blogs from abroad here:
Why Do What Is Expected?
A Warm Welcome
Kindergarten Kindness
Let There Be Light

Thilini Weerakkody


Thilini Weerakkody of Chapel Hill, North Carolina graduated from Chapel Hill High School. During her Gap Year, she traveled to Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Greece. In Sri Lanka, she worked with a regional epidemiologist working on Dengue Fever and in a home for the disabled. In Madagascar, Thilini worked as a public relations intern for Conservation Fusion, organizing a program on the vital relationships between human beings and plant life. In Greece, she worked on a permaculture farm.

Now back at Carolina, Thilini is studying Studying Public Health and Global Studies. She is continuing her work with KIDZU Children’s Museum, and is a Bonner Leader through the UNC Campus Y.

Sophie Nachman

Sophie Nachman of Chapel Hill, North Carolina spent her entire Gap Year in Morocco, with additional travel throughout Western Europe. While in Morocco, she lived in Rabat and Dar si Hmad. In Rabat Sophie taught as an English language Teaching Assistant at AMIDEAST, a non-profit organization that works to foster stronger relationships between the Middle East and the United States. In Dar Si Hmad, Sophie worked with the RISE Student Program, leading English conversation workshops and helping to facilitate a local journalism club.

At UNC, Sophie is a violinist with the UNC symphony orchestra, and is pursuing majors in Biostatistics and Computer Science with a Minor in Women’s Studies.

At Woods Charter School Sophie was involved in weekly writing workshops and school publications. Outside of school she was a dedicated musician, playing violin for 13 years and participating in the Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra for the last 4 years of High […]

MaryBeth Thomas

MaryBeth Thomas of Bakersville, North Carolina graduated from Mitchell High School with highest honors. During her year abroad, MaryBeth worked in Arusha, Tanzania; Acornhoek, South Africa; and traveled in Egypt and Madagascar. While in Tanzania, MaryBeth worked at the Good Hope Orphanage teaching music to local children. In South Africa she interned with the Agincourt Public Health center, working on community engagement and public health research.

Back at Carolina, MaryBeth is pursuing majors in Biostatistics in the Gillings School of Public Health, and Fine Art. She is a Carolina Research Scholar, and has been awarded the Clyde and Mildred Wright Endowment Scholarship. MaryBeth is a member of the varsity fencing team at Carolina, and is active with UNC Global Music Outreach.

At Mitchell High School, MaryBeth graduated with highest honors. She was active in technical theatre, and was drum major in the marching band. She attended Governor’s School for art, was […]