Snapshots of Global Gap Year Fellows

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

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. Jennings is an Eagle Scout and a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, National Science Honor Society, National Junior Classical League and Tri-M Music Honor Society.

Find Jennings’s blogs from abroad here:
Unexpected Happenings
A Pit Stop
My New Neighbors Have Tails
Staying and Playing in Sri Lanka
Sunrise at Sri […]

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.

Bella Hernandez

, ,

In high school, Bella Hernandez had always been successful. She was the president of several clubs and student groups, taught mini-sessions, and got good grades. When it came to preparing for college, however, something was missing. She didn’t feel ready to make the most out of college and generally did not feel ready to continue her studies. Understanding this about herself, Bella took a gap year through the Global Gap Year Fellowship and travelled to India, Iceland, and Germany, where she taught English and science, worked in a mental hospital, and volunteered at an orphanage.

The gap year gave Bella a global perspective of college education. Her experiences abroad have encouraged her to move away from her initial plan of studying philosophy towards something with more practical applications. While abroad, Bella came to see medical research as the best way to make a truly global impact. She plans to become a medical researcher, using a Chemistry degree to get her into the labs full-time.

In the countries she visited during her gap year, Bella analyzed different organizations, determining which were and were not achieving their community goals. These observations led Bella to believe in the value of a long-term, focused commitment.

Back […]

Lee Mook


Lee Mook used the Global Gap Year Fellowship to explore his interests in several fields. In Nicaragua, he built and repaired solar ovens. In Costa Rica, he started a community-based English language program, and in China he attended a Chinese university and taught students English and Spanish.

While abroad, Lee used what little free time he had to read as much as he could. Over time, he became convinced of the value of business as a driver of global change and as a result he hopes to graduate from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business.

More than anything, however, what Lee takes away from his fellowship year is a deeper understanding of the value of language and the impact it can have both on individuals and communities. Having seen first-hand the value of his Spanish and Chinese language skills, Lee has decided to try and make language more accessible back in his native Chapel Hill community. His first project is the Carolina Language Initiative (CLI), a program he founded to make language more accessible locally. The aim of CLI is to bring students, faculty, staff and community members together on a weekly basis for conversation and fun activities in the target language. […]

Kristen Lee

, ,

Kristen Lee spent the entirety of her Global Gap Year in one country: Brazil. Facilitated by the Global Citizen Year program, she spent the majority of her time there living in a city named Curitiba. Kristen’s work assignments were varied, but she focused especially on sustainable development and urban agriculture. She assisted in different projects related to those issues for city hall in Curitiba.

While abroad she enjoyed investigating different opportunities so much that she wanted to continue that mindset at Carolina. Her academic interests are diverse, ranging from urban planning to demography, from agriculture to real estate and design. Kristen believes that without a gap year she would not have allowed herself as much room to grow and would have focused in on one topic even if she didn’t feel ready for it.

Kristen values experiential learning. During her first year at UNC, Kristen took courses that led her out of the traditional classroom setting and away from lectures. Her Geology class travelled to California. In her music seminar, class often met backstage at the Carolina Performing Arts center.

Kristen’s curiosity and desire to learn pervades all aspects of her life, and following her gap year she feels better equipped to […]

Gaby Alemán

Gaby Alemán, Class of 2019, Sri Lanka and Bali, Indonesia
Gaby applied for the Global Gap Year Fellowship in part because as a high school senior she did not yet know how to make the most of her time at UNC. On her gap year, she traveled first to Sri Lanka, where she worked in an orphanage, and then to Bali, where she worked at a school teaching English and working with the community.

For Gaby, one of the important factors connecting the two countries in which she stayed was tourism. Both of these island nations profit from and have to deal with the many issues surrounding tourism. Because she stayed in each place for an extended amount of time, Gaby could see closely the impacts that tourism has had on these communities. Gaby’s experiences abroad have led her to pursue UNC’s Management and Society major.

Her second field of study is Latin American studies. As a first-generation American of Latino origin, Gaby is studying the culture of her heritage because she feels that this is where she can have the biggest impact. During her gap year, Gaby saw that, generally, the most effective NGOs were founded by locals with deep understanding […]

Thomas Elliott

Thomas Elliott, Class 2019, South Africa
Besides a short trip to the Netherlands to renew his visa, Thomas spent the entirety of his gap year in rural South Africa. While he was there, he worked with a professor of socio-ecology, studying the ways humans interact and impact the environment around them.

Before he left for his fellowship year, Thomas had little idea of what academia meant or why he was planning to go to UNC in the first place. During his gap year, however, he was able to witness and participate in academic research, occasionally leading a team in the field. Not only that, the positive impact academia could have on the lives of community members was very much present in the area he worked in, and he grew to appreciate what it means both to serve and to conduct research in a responsible manner.

Thomas credits his gap year for encouraging him to pursue a field that truly interests him, and for that reason he hopes to study the ongoing migration of people from the Middle East into Western Europe and its effects on the political atmosphere in those countries.

Combining those academic inclinations with the very strong foundation in data software […]

Kalli Bunch

, ,

Kalli Bunch, Class 2019, Nepal and Sri Lanka
At the end of her senior year in high school, Kalli was unsure about what she wanted to study at Carolina. When she received the Global Gap Year Fellowship she was relieved: this was an opportunity to get to know herself, think about her goals, and serve others. She traveled to Nepal and Sri Lanka, renovating temples and working with children in orphanages.

Kalli left the United States wanting to return and study chemistry. Two years later she finds herself at the beginning of her sophomore year as a Global Studies major. She hasn’t entirely given up on chemistry, but after her gap year she knew she didn’t want to work in labs.

Kalli’s gap year has also played a role in her class selections. She has drawn to classes on the impact of humanitarianism and on human geography. Her experiences questioning the meaning of an American identity abroad has also piqued her interest in a class on globalization and identity this fall.

The experiences of her gap year continually provide context and stronger understanding of course material. Kalli is very close with the other fellows from her cohort and she often finds herself using […]

Danny Hage


Danny Hage is from Colfax, NC. On his gap year, Danny worked at a greenhouse in Ecuador and taught English at a refugee camp in Thailand. He believes that living alone abroad taught him the skills he needed to get involved on campus right away– Danny has been president of Global Circle at the Campus Y and won a Foreign Language and Area Studies award to study Arabic in Jordan. He is currently spending his year studying abroad in France and Thailand.

Leah Berolzheimer


Leah Berolzheimer is from Chapel Hill, NC. Leah’s gap year gave her the chance to shadow a HIV clinic in Togo, teach English in Kenya, and teach students about civic engagement in Hungary. Her experiences learning about public health on her gap year inspired her to pursue a degree in nursing at UNC. Now she is president of a committee focused on international development at Campus Y, UNC’s Center for Social Justice; works with UNC hospitals and Carolina for Kibera, an NGO housed at UNC; and recently won a Global Health Award for a nursing internship in Thailand.

Amy Dingler


Amy Dingler from Fayetteville, GA worked in a hospice, taught English, and collected data on science dives during her gap year in India, France, Italy, Hungary, Madagascar, and South Africa. During her time at UNC, she remained engaged in community service and also won a Foreign Language and Area Studies award to return to India. She now works for Mckinsey Consulting, and continues to consider how she can leverage different opportunities to pursue a professional career with a focus on social impact.

Anna Brodmerkel


Anna Brodmerkel, Class of 2018, Greece

I have seen the miracle of life, the cruelness of death, and the struggles the Loggerhead faces. During my time in Kefalonia, I saved a turtle flipped over on its carapace (shell), another we thought to be dead actually stuck halfway in the nest, and a third crawling in the prickly shrubbery of the dunes. I have also discovered a hatchling burned by the sun next to its nest, unable to make its way to the sea. Through various excavations (performed 7-10 days after no activity) we, the volunteers, have dug up nests with 27 dead hatchlings centimeters away from the surface. On the other hand, I have seen much more successful nests with only a few hatchlings who were unable to dig their way out. Each nest we excavate differs, but one thing is certain: there will be life, and there will be death; not everyone can survive. The point I’m trying make is that if you are a lucky survivor, you must cherish that light, that life, that opportunity that others cannot obtain because of circumstance and situation. It’s time to stop asking yourself what you will do, and start asking what […]