What Is A Gap Year?

On our third podcast episode, Andy Braner talks about the reason for a Gap Year, and what makes the KIVU Gap Year stand out.

Today’s Students are struggling with vision, skill set, and comprehensive view of how to get their hands and feet dirty in almost every industry.  The Gap Year concept gives students the opportunity to choose internships on a variety of levels to develop an depth of experience.

Talk to any employer about hiring recent college graduates, and you’ll hear how difficult it is to teach and train academics with diplomas to migrate into the job market.  The Gap Year gives students a way to experience their vocational dreams, attend a higher institution of learning, and then focus on what it means to be a part of the industry of choice.

Take a few minutes and listen to Andy’s explanation of how The KIVU Gap Year is addressing the problems we’re seeing in student growth, both internally and in the job market.

The KIVU Gap Year Faith DNA

The KIVU Gap Year is one of the only international faith Gap Years acredited by the American Gap Association.  (AGA)  We often get questions about the faith DNA we help our students to think about, and we feel it’s important to distinguish between a “Christian” Gap Year, and a Gap Year that helps students understand how to own their own faith.

Our statement of faith is simple – It’s all about Jesus.

We invite students with all sorts of faith backgrounds to explore what it means to understand the principles and teachings of Jesus.  We don’t focus on any specific theology or doctrine.  We’re not a specific denominational Gap Year.  We’ve had atheists, agnostics, protestants, catholics, and all those in between join us on the journey around the world.

Our main focus is found in the gospel of Matthew, when Jesus was asked, ‘Jesus what is the greatest commandment?’ and he answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (22:37-40)

Our main goal is to help students that are interested in faith, to see the main commandment of Loving God and Loving Others.  Jesus says, “All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In our second Podcast Episode, you’ll hear Andy Braner and Luke Parrott talk about what it means to execute an organization that relies on Loving God and Loving Others.  Mainly, we want students to find Freedom in Faith.

You can listen to the discussion here, or you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes under The KIVU Gap Year.

History Of KIVU Gap Year (Podcast Included)

We’ve decided to enter the world of Podcasting here at The KIVU Gap Year.  As Podcasts have taken off in the last year or so, we are hearing from people around the country how important it would be to have a short 20-30 minute Podcast with interviews from our staff, our students, and various global leaders who interact with The KIVU Gap Year.

So … here it is.

Our first touch into the podcast world is a conversation with Luke Parrott and Andy Braner.  We tried to explain where KIVU started, what questions we’re trying to answer, and how important the Gap Year concept is to students today.

We hope this will be a place where you can find your questions answered, and if you don’t see the questions you have; feel free to contact us here, on our Facebook page, or in the comments on our Podcast on iTunes.

Thanks again for all your support.  We are excited to usher in a new way of thinking about education and global travel.

AnnaBeth’s Class of 2017 Continuation Ceremony Speech


AnnaBeth Lane delivered this speech on Saturday, May 6th at the KIVU Gap Year Continuation Ceremony on behalf of the Class of 2017.

Last year around this time, I was standing in a collegiate basketball arena about to give my high school graduation speech. In the speech I remember concluding with an excerpt of an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote saying “I hope you do things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of and if you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again”.

Afterwards, I was praised for saying these words that weren’t even my words and many of my classmates said they teared up. I realize now that those words were a very nice sentiment, a nice thing to say and that people like to hear things that are nice. I realize that we can celebrate neat, nice quotations much easier than we can live them out and I realize the great rarity it is to actually do those things, to intentionally do something that scares us, to allow ourselves to feel the highest of highs and lowest of lows, and to truly embrace those who think differently. But today I realize though not many take on such an endeavor, we have.

Our gap year was rich. Many times we found ourselves in situations we never would have had we been in college or doing something else this year. Some of these situations gave us a sense of fullness and beauty and feeling more alive than we ever have. Some of them made us feel like it was all coming together. Some of these situations, in the moment, seemed undesirable, terrible even. Some of them made us want to go home. Some of these situations were just incredibly strange and hilarious. Some of them may not even seem believable.

So yes this year was rich. It was hard, and terrifying, and amazing, and strange, and everything all at once. It was discovering new foreign cities and finding our places in them. It was riding buses in Denver and feeling fully human. It was when your Indonesian host parents drove an hour outside of the city to take you to Texas Roadhouse for dinner. It was reading a book to the little girl named Tinka and it igniting a whole new world in you. It was finding community in homeless people and seeing Jesus in them. It was making and sharing meals together, even when those meals turned out to be overly salted burgers. It was when your favorite kindergarten student at your school hugs you and shares her life with you. It was being invited into the homes of different people of different ethnicity and religion and being accepted and embraced regardless. It was hiking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and feeling compelled by the story of a good Samaritan a broken land. It was meeting strangers that soon became dear friends. It was being overfed and paraded around by extravagant Jordanians. It was riding a moto through hills of Rwanda in just the right light listening to Heroes by David Bowie. It was walking into the sunset of Santiago then seeing the city light up. It was experiencing love from people who spoke a different language. It was realizing that all humans are humans, all worthy and important. It was summiting a mountain or finishing a trek through the Patagonia. It was being hit with the sudden, sweet realization that you can do hard things and that they are worth doing.

Then there were the other moments- the moments when wet stained streets didn’t treat us well. It was taking the wrong bus and ending up an hour away from where you’re supposed to be. It was almost crying at a social service office because you have no idea how to get a refugee a social security card. It was when you had a long commute and just didn’t feel like getting up. It was when you were just tired of your restroom being a hole in the ground with lizards running about it. It was when you felt lonely and maybe unwanted. It was realizing that you don’t know who you are at all. It was when your well meaning host family compliments you for being “somehow fatter” and you just want to go to your room and never eat their carb generous meals again. It was when you felt like everything you’ve known may not be true. It was when the world felt heavy and you did not know how to make it less. It was when you try to explain in Spanish that you were waiting at the bus stop and it translates as “I am a bus stop”. It was when you did not feel competent or worthwhile in your work. It was experiencing heart-breaking realities of humans different than you. It was thinking about things that people don’t want to think about. It was feeling helpless. It was feeling lost. It was feeling like you could not do it.

But gap year was all these moments, and you can’t have the former ones without those latter and not all adventures are pony rides in May sunshine. But though these moments, all the moments, we began the hard work of living a life we are proud of. We have taken ourselves up and out of comfortable places, displaced ourselves to experience a world more alive, more rich. And I am sure this experience will not be left in these moments, and that it will come back throughout our lives. I’m sure that because of it we will live fuller lives, fighting the good fight in this world whether that be through art or business or law or writing or social work or being an international pilot or a computer engineer.

I am so proud to be a part of such a beautiful cohort of people that may very way be the only people I can ever fully relate to on this experience. I am proud that we have taken ourselves out of the ordinary and proper places and trust that this will carry us all to lead rich, compassionate lives. So thank you Kivu Gap year allowing us to have these moments. Thank you to all the staff for supporting us and challenging us. Thank you to all our parents who let their child leave home to do something incredibly uncertain and unconventional. Thank you Kivu Gap year for helping us live lives we are proud of, and for giving us the strength to start them all over again.

Great Gap Year Myth #10: “You Can’t Succeed in College if You Take an Academic Break.”

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Meet Ashleigh Gerlach, inaugural Class of 2011, as she shares her perspective on Myth #10: “You Can’t Succeed in College if You Take an Academic Break.”

I was not traditionally successful in high school. Instead, I structured my time in a way that made sense to me. I took extra art classes, spent five days a week in a dance studio, and felt the effects of the travel bug earlier than most. From my vantage point (the average unmotivated student’s perspective), I did not see the value in high school academics, so I didn’t invest my time there. To be honest, I didn’t really have to work for a B average and that seemed good enough for me. As my friends started dreaming of colleges and careers, I couldn’t visualize mine. I was not a bad student by any stretch, yet still felt like one.

I didn’t receive a clear career revelation on gap year like I had hoped, so I started community college.  It didn’t occur to me at the time that my personal growth and developing worldview would enhance my ability to succeed in my undergraduate degree. The skills I learned on gap year turned into healthy habits so quickly that I had no idea I was using them every day. I was paying attention to what made me uncomfortable and leaning into those areas to grow. I listened to the people around me to better understand their lives. I found that I wasn’t afraid of what I didn’t know, which ended up making it very easy to choose a major that I had no prior interest in choosing.

I thought nursing might play to my strengths well while also addressing areas where I knew I was weak, areas I had identified on gap year and continued to pay attention to in my early college days. I picked a four-year nursing program with local and global community involvement and questioned what my nursing career would look like in both contexts. I found that I was better able to excel in nursing classes largely due to the self-awareness and self-management skills I learned on my gap year. I sought out the bigger picture in classes and concepts and took initiative to make my clinical experiences more fruitful.

Although I did encounter traditional academic success in both two-year and four-year institutions, my personal definition of success was shaped by gap year. Though I took pride in my improved GPA, I never felt motivated by it. I spent extra time with my professors to learn their stories and listen to their insights. My view of higher education shifted from a destination to an experience – an experience that was almost entirely up to me to shape. I found more personal reasons to excel in the university setting, which to me is more success than I could have asked for as an unenthusiastic eighteen-year-old.

Facebook: Ashleigh Gerlach

Email: agerlach@northpark.edu


Great Gap Year Myth #9: “It Won’t Benefit Me after College.”

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Meet Britley Potter, Class of 2014, as she shares her perspective on Myth #9: It Won’t Benefit me after college.”

When I was first accepted into KIVU Gap Year and began telling my teachers and peers about it, the same question was being asked over and over again: Well, how will this benefit you in the long run? Honestly, I couldn’t give them an answer. Having graduated from the program in 2014, and graduating this year from college, I can now say that the lessons I learned on gap year are lessons that I never learned in the traditional classroom setting and have better prepared me for the real world after graduation.

We live in a society today that highly values cultural competency. You are thrown into very diverse settings while on KIVU Gap Year and it is impossible to graduate from the program without being more aware of events happening in our world, how to work effectively with people from different backgrounds, and to have a better appreciation for diversity. Once again, this is a lesson that can not be learned through a textbook and I am thankful KIVU Gap Year provided opportunities for me to become more culturally competent, a skill all employers value.

During my time in Denver, I had many classes that focused on finding my strengths and weaknesses which helped me identify my passions and goals. Our teachers used tools such as the Myers Briggs Test, the Enneagram 9 types test, and the 5 love languages test helping us understand ourselves and one another better. With this knowledge I was able to pinpoint the calling Jesus has for my life—something that hugely benefits me in the real world post grad. While in Jordan I completed a month long relational training course at Ithra’a which helped me grow into a more emotionally intelligent person. The great thing about KIVU Gap Year is that they are big picture focused.  They want to see you succeed after you graduate from college and equip you with the tools to do so.

So if you’re sitting here thinking, “Well, how will this program benefit me in the long run?” I hope I was able to share some insight into all the life-long lessons this gap year has taught me. These are skills that will not only benefit you while in college, but in all aspects of your life including your vocation, your relationships, and your faith. I am forever grateful for the lessons learned and opportunities I had while on the KIVU Gap Year. I can not wait to see what the future holds for me…and for you as you consider embarking on this incredible journey! Best wishes.

-Britley Potter, Class of 2014

Instagram: brit.potter

Facebook: Britley Potter

Personal Blog/Website: britpotter.com


Great Gap Year Myth #8: “It Won’t Benefit Me in College.”


This myth is brought to you by Hannah Giffen, Class of 2016.  

This myth is a fun one. I chose this myth because so many people have asked me something like this, “Well, how did what you experienced in Africa, help you in Norman, Oklahoma?” Every time I get a question like that, I look at the person and say, “Everything I experienced everywhere is helping me with everything in Norman, Oklahoma.” Funny, right?

I did an entire year of college before I took my gap year, and man was I doing it wrong. Not only was I confused about my major and what I wanted to do after college.  I had no idea how to live or what living even meant. I did not understand true friendships and I definitely did not understand the value of everything I have. Not the money value, the true value.

During my time in Washington D.C., I learned to love everyone for who they are. I took that to every other destination and challenged myself to love everyone in every place. In Africa, I learned the value of life, unity, and family. On Kilimanjaro, I learned I am capable of anything because God is sitting right on my shoulder even if I cannot hear Him. In the Middle East, I learned that even in the most holy of holy places, you can still feel so alone spiritually, but that does not mean God is not listening. In Guatemala, I learned the value of doing anything for your family, because they are family. In Zanzibar and different times throughout my journey, I learned about friendships and God. I learned that we all deserve friends that will truly be there for you, and care for you. I learned that God does his own thing, in his own time, regardless of my need.

Obviously, I learned a lot more, but those things are what help me in college. I am actually living and loving here in Norman, Oklahoma. I have true friends and I am so proud of who they are. I have talks with God that are not hostile, but beautiful. I have knowledge from my travels that help me in classes, and help me have something to share with a perfect stranger. I have everything I did not have my freshman year and I am so much happier in college with what I have now. Not what I have physically, but what I have in my heart.

So, if you are reading this, and you have been told it will not benefit you in college, think again. Everything I experienced during my gap year set me up so beautifully for college and the rest of my life. I am still learning things I did not realize during my gap year and I am still unraveling things of which I was unaware. It is a scary thing to commit to a gap year, but life is scary. So, might as well have an incredible story to share with the rest of the world, right?

Contact Information:
instagram: han.k.giffen
Facebook: Hannah Giffen
This is also the link to my other blog I keep active: https://aspirewords.wordpress.com

DID YOU KNOW?  A gap year improves academic performance and motivation in college.