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 he built during his gap year, Thomas spends his time outside of class working with the Campus Y to work on global issues and helping at a business-to-business relations firm in Carrboro.