It was the second semester of my senior year of college and I was still figuring out what was next; I knew I wasn’t ready for a full-time job or graduate school, and I knew I needed another experience before I entered the real world.
Then I had the idea to travel. I found EF Gap Year online and immediately wanted to learn more about their programs. Once I found out I had the chance to learn a language, volunteer on service projects, and get an internship abroad all in the span of six months, there was no way I was going to turn this down.
I signed up two weeks later and never looked back.
The journey began back in September when we visited London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Barcelona during European Immersion. The group arrived in London just days after Queen Elizabeth II passed away; the whole city was in mourning and thousands of people were in the streets paying their respects to The Queen.
The third day in London was a free day. I started off trying to visit Buckingham Palace, despite all the crowds and security. It was such a hassle trying to get around so instead of devoting my time to getting back to my hostel, I seized the moment and stayed to see the guards carrying her coffin to Westminster Abbey. It was surreal being part of history and a worldwide phenomenon.
I stayed in Barcelona, where I learned Spanish for six weeks at EF's International Language Campus while living in a vibrant and unique city—but the best part of the module was traveling around Europe on the weekends, especially since everywhere is such a short flight away. Two of the three weekends I traveled were solo, and being able to pull that off was one of the biggest confidence boosters of the whole trip.
Thailand was the most culturally different and unique place I visited during my gap year; the most meaningful part of the module was volunteering at the elephant sanctuary. The group and I fed them, cleared their habitat, and were amazed by the beauty of the animals. Each day was a new opportunity to learn something about Thai culture and immerse myself in a new environment.
The second half of the gap year started with a two-week tour of Australia and New Zealand, and that had to be the most exhilarating period: from snorkeling in The Great Barrier Reef, to the ferry ride in Milford Sound and seeing a show at the Sydney Opera House—what a time that was!
Sydney is most amazing city I’ve ever visited: it has the beach town vibe of Los Angeles combined with the diverse and vibrant aspects of London and New York. I was lucky to have such a cool internship with a local radio station and got to write articles and concert reviews, while also learning how to use a radio panel. The coastal walks, ferry rides, days at the beach, memorable nights with the group, and so much more made my time in this beautiful city unforgettable.
The program wrapped up at Ashridge House the last week of March and it was such a bittersweet ending. It was amazing to reconnect with the entire cohort and spend quality time with all the people that made this journey so special. All the activities where the group got to tell one another how meaningful they were was remarkable and touching. The biggest lesson from that week was the significance of telling others how much they mean to you.
My journey didn’t end there: I spent three more weeks traveling around Europe staying in hostels and exploring new cities. I continued to meet so many travelers from all over the world and spend some quality time alone before returning to the States.
Flash forward to May, exactly a month since I returned home from my seven-month voyage, and I have zero regrets about participating in this program. I’m still on such a high from getting to travel, form friendships with so many amazing people, and learn more about myself and the world around me.
This experience took me out of my comfort zone and my passion for travel grew substantially. I became a more open-minded individual and appreciative of cultural differences. I’m proud of myself for taking advantage of everything that was offered throughout the whole year and fulfilling each day I was abroad; there were no wasted days on this expedition.
No matter where I go next, the memories and experiences I had with EF Gap Year will always stick with me forever.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that in some places in Italy, the bus will not stop at your bus stop unless you tell the driver…