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.

Emily Gabbard

Emily Gabbard of Highlands, NC graduated from Highlands Senior High School. During her gap year, Emily traveled to Peru, Nepal, and Indonesia. While in Peru, Emily taught English and worked with Horizon Peru, a small NGO that focuses on public education. Emily continued to volunteer in education in Nepal, and in Indonesia, she took part in the Turtle Conservation project through International Volunteer HQ. Her experiences challenged her to think differently, to explore, and to acknowledge and accept things with which she had little or no experience. 

Emily continued to apply these experiences during her time at UNC. She participated in a study abroad program at the University of Copenhagen during her undergraduate career. Emily graduated from UNC with a major in Information Science and currently works as a Technology Consultant at Ernst & Young.


Kaitlin Harlow

Kaitlin Harlow of Clayton, NC graduated from St. Mary’s School. Before her gap year, Kaitlin had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. Then her community development work in South America sparked a deep interest in the ethics of global engagement and in video as a tool for documenting incredible things happening around the globe. Kaitlin currently develops these interests by working for Campus Y global programs, as co-president of Global Circle, and as a photographer and videographer for the Y’s Communications Team.

Lee Mook

Lee Mook of Chapel Hill, NC graduated from Carrboro High School. He spent his gap year in Nicaragua, China, and Costa Rica. In Nicaragua, he worked for Grupo Fenix by building solar ovens, repairing solar water distilleries, and constructing solar panels. In China, Lee will studied Chinese and taught English and Spanish to classmates as well. In Costa Rica, he started an English Education organization called Project CREAR.

Amy Dingler

Amy Dingler is from Fayetteville, GA and traveled to India, France, Italy, Hungary, Madagascar and South Africa for her gap year. Her work ranged from working in a hospice in Kolkata, to teaching English, and science diving to collect data in Madagascar. At Carolina, Amy is a Bonner Leader at the Campus Y where she volunteers with SCALE (Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education). After college, she would like to take a year to volunteer in India, and she hopes to eventually start her own venture to help direct students to non-profits. Her favorite part of her gap year experience was the opportunity to grow personally and emotionally outside of her home environment.
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Anna Brodmerkel

Anna Brodmerkel is from Burgaw, NC. Anna has excavated sea turtle nests in Greece, volunteered with youth with disabilities in Ghana and Nicaragua, and worked on an organic farm in New Zealand. She draws from interests formed on her gap year in her activities at UNC, ranging from interning with Carolina Navigators to teaching elementary school students about other cultures to winning a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship to study marine science at the UNC Coastal Institute.

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Elsa Steiner

During her gap year, Elsa Steiner travelled to Colombia, Switzerland, and Rwanda. In Colombia and Rwanda, she taught English at three different schools. In Switzerland, Elsa volunteered at an organization that worked with refugees and other asylum seekers in order to find them adequate housing and shelter.

After hands-on experience in working with refugees—a desire she’d had since the 8th grade—Elsa learned about prevalent issues surrounding migration in Europe and the United States.

Elsa’s gap year was also valuable in that it also showed her what she didn’t want to pursue when she returned: teaching. Working with students abroad was enjoyable, but she could not see herself pursuing a career in education long-term.

Having a ready community of peer who have had similar experiences and awakenings has helped her optimize both the social and academic aspects of the UNC experience. Since returning to UNC, Elsa has been able to call upon the […]

Virginia Hamilton

Virginia Hamilton is from Atlanta, GA. A Robertson Scholar and volunteer with the committee Hope Garden at Campus Y, UNC’s Center for Social Justice, Virginia used her gap year to explore international development on three different continents. She volunteered in Ecuador, Peru, India, China, Cambodia, and South Africa through the Thinking Beyond Borders programs and now aspires to work for a international nonprofit in the health sector after graduation.

Maggie Armstrong

Maggie Armstrong is from Lenoir, NC. After graduating from the North Carolina School of Science and Math, Maggie spent 9 months teaching English in rural China. She built on her experiences at UNC as a leader of Campus Y committees focused on student global engagement, a winner of an entrepreneurship grant for a new product to make languages more accessible, and a recipient of a Foreign Language and Area Studies award to return to China. Post-graduation she can be found overseas once again, working for the German government.

Lily Clarke

Lily Clarke is from Fairview, NC. Lily taught English and volunteered at a seed bank, vineyard, and an art gallery on her gap year in Scotland, France, Spain, Myanmar, and Thailand. At UNC, she became an NC Fellow, a four-year program designed to motivate undergraduate students to maximize their leadership potential. She also became a trained doula and a volunteer with Carolina Campus Community Gardens. After graduation she won a scholarship to pursue an MFA in poetry at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

Lily graduated with a degree in Religious Studies and is currently the senior fog-catcher at the WNC fresh-water pond, observing crickets, glimmering leaves, and the stories in the peoples’ eyes.

Keegan McBride

Keegan is a Colonel Robinson scholar, Sophomore Chemist Award winner, Frank Porter Graham Award winner, and the winner of the Ernest L. Mackie award for the Junior most outstanding in character, scholarship, and leadership. From biological research in the Galapagos to walking across Spain, Keegan’s gap year was the unparalleled opportunity to explore that gave him initiative and confidence at UNC. During his time at UNC, Keegan was a Resident Advisor, an Admissions Ambassador (UNC’s official campus tour guide organization), a member of the executive team at Campus Y, UNC’s Center for Social Justice, a student advisor to the Chancellor, and the CEO of the Meantime Coffee Co, a social enterprise run out of the Campus Y’s social innovation incubator (CUBE).

Keegan graduated from UNC with a B.S. in Chemistry and is now a Consultant at Boston Consulting Group.


Graham Collins

Graham Collins is from Charlotte, NC. Graham is a researcher at UNC’s Ainslie lab, a winner of the Honors Carolina Taylor Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and a member of the Biomedical Engineering Club. Before diving into his passion for biomedical engineering at UNC, he used his gap year to volunteer in Ecuador, Belgium, and Rwanda through the Global Citizen Year program. It was the Fellowship year that made him decide that biomedical engineering was the most efficient and tangible way to make a difference in the world.

Chryste Ferrera

Chryste Ferrera is from Greensboro, NC and spent her gap year in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Malaysia. Her favorite part of her gap year was the opportunity to volunteer in beautiful and diverse countries, and she cannot wait to return to Asia.

Cecilia Polanco

Cecilia Polanco is from Durham, NC. At Carolina, she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar, an inducted member of the Order of the Golden Fleece (UNC’s oldest and highest honorary society) and a member of the Campus Y Social Innovation Incubator (CUBE), where she is continuing to grow her social enterprise: a food truck whose profits create scholarships for undocumented students. She credits her gap year volunteering in Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Australia with teaching her that nothing is impossible.

Carrie Hamilton

“My gap year forced me to take a step back and understand how the world as a whole is impacted by the collection of communities that inhabit it. These bigger issues facing our world–the degradation of marine habitats, for example–are daunting and it is hard to realize that our smaller every day actions feed into these issues.”

While on her Global Gap Year Fellowship, Carrie Hamilton worked as an environmental intern for an organization called Fundación Runa, in the Ecuadorian rainforest. She taught environmental lessons in the local community and did agricultural work on a jungle farm. This experience showed her that conducting research could be physically demanding, and it was deeply inspiring and increased her interest in environmental justice and sustainability.

The villagers’ lives and well being depend directly on the quality of their land. Carrying the memory of this close connection between people and nature to UNC, Carrie declared […]

Brad Stackhouse

Brad Stackhouse is from Morrisville, NC. Brad’s gap year took him to the UNC Center for Galapagos Studies to perform science dives and conduct research on sharks; to Peru to volunteer as a camp counselor; and to New Zealand to work on a sheep farm. Back at UNC he continued developing his leadership and service skills as a NC Fellow, a 4-year program designed to motivate undergraduate students to maximize their leadership potential, and now he can be found running a youth camp in Istanbul.

Michael Howell

Michael Howell is from Granite Falls, NC.  Michael taught English and worked on an organic farm during his gap year in Brazil, Argentina, and Costa Rica. He discovered a passion for language that he further explored with a Foreign Language and Area Studies award to study Mandarin in China and through his involvement in LingoKids: Carolina Language Outreach, a student-led volunteer initiative to teach children a second language. In the future, he hopes to work as a translator and open an institute for language learning.
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Leah Berolzheimer

Leah Berolzheimer is from Chapel Hill, NC and traveled to Africa (Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana and Kara, Togo) and Europe (Budapest and other parts of Hungary) during her gap year. She helped teach team building skills to youth groups, performed internal evaluations, researched user fees in an HIV clinic and created presentations for local high schools about youth service and the benefits of taking a gap year. Leah is now working as an intern for Carolina for Kibera, the organization she worked with abroad. She is also pursuing her passion for cultures and service work by taking courses on international development and starting pre-nursing courses.

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Danny Hage

Danny Hage is from Colfax, NC and graduated from UNC with a degree in Environmental Science. During his gap year, Danny traveled to Ecuador and Thailand. In Ecuador, he worked in a greenhouse to restore a local environment that had been destroyed over the past decade. In Thailand, he tutored stateless Shan Burmese refugees in English and started an outreach program to US-based universities that will advocate and fundraise on behalf of the refugees.

“I’d like to attribute where I am today to the GGYF and my gap year! From my work at the greenhouse in Ecuador, I developed a better understanding of the earth’s regenerative cycles in the context of how food waste is used to generate plant life. Now, I work in an industry that informs decision-making in the hopes of achieving a more circular economy, where waste is no longer waste, but rather can be used to create […]