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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 their experiences—conveyed through formal and nonformal discussion—to enhance her understanding of issues in countries and regions she has never visited herself.

When first year orientation came around, Kalli could barely recognize herself. The girl she had previously thought of as shy had been transformed. She was comfortable and confident in her interactions with others. She was surrounded by her fellowship cohort who helped make UNC seem more familiar. When classes began a few months later she was ready to interact with peers and professors like she had never done before. Kalli thinks these changes happened naturally because she went. Unfamiliar situations forced her out of her shell, making it easier for her to talk to others at Carolina.

Kalli also learned how to prioritize. In high school she participated in every single extra-curricular her school had to offer. She wasn’t going to make that mistake again at UNC, and focused in on working primarily with the Bonner Leaders Program.

Bonner leaders take their work-study awards and turn them into 4-year service commitments with organizations in the Chapel Hill – Carrboro community. They work with their organizations for eight to ten hours per week. Kalli works with the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program, using the teaching skills she acquired in a Sri Lankan orphanage to increase her impact at home.

She is currently working with two high school seniors to help them look into gap year programs.