How did you choose a Gap Year with AMIGOS?
Tufts University has a partnership with AMIGOS, and they encouraged me to look into the gap year program. I was impressed with the program structure, which allows an independent lifestyle with added guidance to supplement learning about yourself, service abroad, and Nicaragua.
I wanted to learn Spanish in a cross-cultural context. However, the AMIGOS program takes this life skill to a new level by engaging you in the workplace with a project called the “Community Based Initiative Process.” This task inspired me to dig deeper into my community–seeking and solidifying relationships–in order to better the environment around us.
What’s has living with a host family taught you?
Living with a host family during this gap year has taught me many lessons in regards to the way to really care for someone and love them. I find it amazing how they took me in for a 9-month commitment without knowing anything about me. We live every day together, share the same joys and the same pains. What does that look like? Well, it can be anything from waking up together and working out, watching basketball and classic movies, and of course, complaining about the heat.
How has AMIGOS influenced your college and career path?
Living in Nicaragua made me realize just how large the world really is and, if I am going to find my place in it, the best thing I can do is take time: time to explore other cultures, whether through adjusting to norms, learning the language, or participating in practices. From this, I can open other parts of my mind that I didn’t know existed. Before I engaged myself in the AMIGOS gap year experience I was singularly focused on the STEM field. This is where my heart and passion lied, so much so that anything contrary was seen as a diversion.
What kind of leadership experiences have you gained?
Each and every day, I walk into multiple classrooms greeted by the smiles of students while they say, “Good morning, teacher!” I get to support them with their classwork as a teacher’s aide, answering questions and sometimes even guiding the lesson. Sometimes students don’t understand the content or are preoccupied with problems they have at home. Since I am closer in age, I act as a role model, yet also someone they can confide in and talk through their problems with. One of the most important skills I forget is that I am doing all of this in Spanish. As a result, I feel as though I continuously act as a leader, in and out of the classroom.
What kind of new skills have you gained?
As part of the Community Based Initiative Process, I was able to apply for more funds by writing a grant. This was by far one of the most fundamental experiences I have gained through a gap year with AMIGOS. Knowing how to write a grant request was one of the most foreign concepts to me, yet I know that it will be valuable further in life when requesting money for any type of project.
How are you putting this skills into practice?
I constantly use newfound leaderships skills that I have acquired during my gap year with AMIGOS. For instance, when I’m running meetings at work, I start by presenting the objective of the meeting. This helps us use our time efficiently and effectively. These skills even branch out from my work life. I know have more confidence making friends in a language that I just recently learned.
Do you take time to reflect on your experiences?
With AMIGOS, we have bi-weekly check-ins with our supervisor in order to reflect on our experience abroad. We express any struggles that we may be having in any aspect of our lives–physically, mentally, and emotionally. This helps me make the most of my experience, and I talk about things that are on my mind that I normally wouldn’t have talked about. Through this outlet, I constantly reflect on the parts of my life that I can make better, but more importantly the amazing things I have done and how I can keep doing them.
What’s it like adjusting to a new culture?
Adjusting to a culture that is much slower-paced than in the U.S. was difficult at first. I felt that I was constantly waiting on other people, and I was afraid I was wasting time. Through my community project, I learned that I need to show resiliency by being an advocate of what I need from others. I need to look at myself and think about what more I can do, and show others that I am willing to do so.
How has AMIGOS changed you?
I have become much more reflective on my day-to-day actions. I am always looking for a way to better myself, not just personally, but also for the environment around me. I want to surround myself with other people that share similar values; people who keep their mind open to other cultures, walks of life, and are ready to ask questions before making any blind assumptions. I feel a sense of direction in my life. Reality is mine to shape.
What advice do you have or people interested in AMIGOS?
I would recommend the AMIGOS Gap Year program to any student out there. I would never have guessed that taking time off of conventional schooling would give me such deep insight into how I want to approach learning for the rest of my life. If one is considering AMIGOS, I would first tell them to look at the program structure. It keeps your mind moving while at the same time allows you much independence in your newfound life abroad.
There’s still time to apply for 2018 Gap Year and Semester Programs!