Every year it is the same story.
Students arrive to Orientation Week filled with this odd mixture of great excitement and strong anxiousness. There is an excitement to travel and see the world. There is an energy behind leaving the fold and venturing into the unknown. But there is also this nagging feeling that this is the biggest mistake ever made. Doubt is lingering as students wonder whether the friends they travel with and the people and places they go to around the world is really the best thing for them.
But the last 80 students that have come through the program have taught me what the story of the next 8 months will be like for almost every student:
- They quickly find commonality and camaraderie amongst one another.
- They arrive to the first destination with those same mixed emotions.
- They fall in love with their first destination.
- They hit walls. They struggle. They have to do some hard inner work.
- They begin to blossom.
- They begin to mature.
- They begin to grow.
Our students wrestle through peaks and valleys all year as they live in home stays, work at internship sites, go on adventures, and have mountain top experiences. Their social media sites have a hard time capturing the ups and downs that cause the growth and maturity throughout their gap year. (You don’t pull out a camera or write a blog post when you are having a hard day or find yourself shedding a lot of tears.)
At the end of the year, many students will say, a gap year with Kivu doesn’t make you feel changed upon its completion in so much as it allows you to step more freely into your true self. The students were given the freedom to go and discover who they are, what they believe, where they belong, and how they fit in to this global village in which we find ourselves.
That discovery is what the gap year journey is all about. Indeed, it is a journey. A slow process of transformation that is always mixed with emotions that capture the thrill and anxiety of every moment.