At 18, I graduated high school and knew I didn't want to jump straight into college; instead, I decided to take a gap year and travel the world. It was a decision that would forever change my life.
My first semester of travel took me to some of Europe's most beautiful and vibrant cities: I visited iconic landmarks such as Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace in London. In Amsterdam, I took a scenic river cruise down the canals and even beat a few locals in a game of pool. In Barcelona, I was in awe of the breathtaking Sagrada Familia—but living in Paris and learning French fluently left me with a sense of accomplishment and confidence.
One of the most fulfilling experiences during my gap year was the service work I did in the Dominican Republic; I spent six weeks on the island, completing community service helping projects. I worked with children in a local school and assisted with coral reef restorations. I also had the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the island, from ziplining through the jungle to snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters. The experience taught me the importance of giving back to others and the joy that comes with making a difference in someone else’s life.
In Australia, I attempted to learn how to surf—but let's just say that I was more successful at getting knocked down by the waves than standing on my board. Next, New Zealand gave me the ultimate adrenaline rush. My gap year later led me to Tokyo, where I landed my dream internship—and eventually, my dream job. As a Black nineteen-year-old woman, it was empowering to see that my hard work and talent were recognized and valued in a foreign country. The experience not only gave me the opportunity to live in Japan and learn about its culture, but also allowed me to gain valuable skills and connections that have since propelled my career.
Throughout my travels, I faced moments of homesickness and doubt: missing my family, friends, and the comforts of home was a struggle at times—but it was also an opportunity for growth and self-discovery taught me to appreciate the unfamiliar and embrace new adventures.
As a Black woman traveling the world, I couldn't help but notice the lack of diversity among other travelers, but I also found joy in creating a community with other Black travelers. We bonded over shared experiences and even took a legendary photo in Paris, a reminder that representation matters and that we can make our own spaces in the world.
I took solo trips to Luxembourg, where I marveled at the beautiful architecture and the stunning views of the city from the top of the Casemates du Bock, then I headed to Switzerland, where I was blown away by the breathtaking landscapes of the Swiss Alps. In Belgium, I indulged in some of the world's finest chocolate and waffles while admiring Brugges, then explored Japan's Kyoto and Osaka with the rich history and impeccable shrines. I learned to love being by myself with my own company.
Looking back on my gap year, I can confidently say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made: it wasn't always easy, but the personal growth and memories I gained are priceless. So, if you're considering taking a gap year, my advice is to take the jump, take the risk, and see the world! It's an experience that you'll never forget.
“Because, at the end of the day, I don't want to be someone who never got to see the world and who the world never got a chance to see.”