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 both find and follow up on her interests. In the summer following her gap year, she worked for Critter.co, an online resource for resilience building and promoting emotional wellbeing.
Although she had never formally coded before she felt confident enough to reach out and make a connection where one hadn’t previously existed. The same summer, her experience in and desire to learn more about urban ecology and conservation led to an internship at Rethink H2O, researching agricultural practices in cities. During her freshman year Kristen worked and volunteered with several organizations, including the Pep lab, Net Impact, the Institute for the Environment, and Nourish UNC, where she was able to directly impact the discussion at hand with her knowledge of how certain NGOs work on the ground. Her long-term stay in Brazil enabled a deep understanding of what it means to serve successfully.
Kristen hit the road again for another long-term international experience after her sophomore year at UNC. Her first stop was in Zambia, where she worked with the UNC Gillings School of Public Health’s water institute evaluating access in rural communities. After her stay in Zambia, she travelled to Cape Town, South Africa with UNC’s honors college for a semester of study and internships in an entirely new environment.
Despite her many accomplishments back at UNC, the essence of Kristen’s gap year is often present in her everyday relationships with friends and peers. Over the course of her year she found herself becoming more open-minded and receptive towards the perspectives and experiences of others and she has brought that back into the Carolina community with great success.