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



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:


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:

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


Great Gap Year Myth #7: “It’s Just a Glorified Vacation.”


Meet Devon Hardington, Class of 2016, as she shares her thoughts on Myth #6: “It’s Just a Glorified Vacation.”

At the beginnings of gap year, I romanticized ideas in my head of the months awaiting me, dreaming of glamorous travel and fun adventures all the time, forgetting that life is still life in every place you go.  But, in the middle of our spring semester, I had a few days of rest in between our immersion experiences.  During that time,  I quickly realized this year would not be an easy one.  It was during this time that I realized travel isn’t about five star resorts or fun foods or short mission trips or weekend adventures but that full cultural immersion provides rich, authentic, rare, and challenging experiences that leave a permanent stain on your memory. I was again reminded that the vast majority of this year was not a vacation but that I didn’t want it to be one because vacation would never provide me with the challenges and genuine learning experiences I was after.

As gap years are becoming increasingly more popular it’s pretty easy to scroll through a few Instagram photos and think you know what a gap year is all about. And it looks pretty great – beautiful landscapes of exotic locations complete with mountaintop scenes and blissful faces. However, all that these photos are showing nothing but these mountaintop experiences. Hardly ever will you see or understand the journey that this person is actually going on and what daily life actually looks like without physically being there or experiencing it. Because of this, gap years more often than not look like nothing more than an extended mission trip or a glorified excuse to take a year off from school.

I cannot speak for all gap years here but for KIVU this is just so far from the truth. Of course, spending a year living in a number of new and exciting places comes with numerous mountaintop experiences, but the journey up to these moments is what the majority of the year is like. Everyday brings a new day of struggles with language barriers, cultural barriers, living situations, and internship frustrations. Through each day of these struggles however, you are diving deeper into the root of these struggles and are constantly pushed towards little victories that gradually turn into your yearlong journey of perseverance and growth. Everyone will experience this a little differently, but you will have people with you to inspire and encourage you along the way to keep growing into your own journey.

Of course, gap year will probably be one of the most impactful, exhilarating and adventurous years of your life.  But, day in and day out, you are learning, working and growing. It’s hard and it’s frustrating and it is not a vacation, but you are continually challenged in the most rewarding ways that lead to some of the highest highs as well as some of the lowest lows.

Devon Hardington, Class of 2016

Facebook: Devon Hardington

Instagram: devhardyy


Great Gap Year Myth #6: “It is Not Safe.”


Great Gap Year Myths.008.jpegMeet Zac Musgrove, Class of 2015, as he tackles the Great Gap Year Myth #6: “It is Not Safe.”

The idea of a gap year inherently brings about the idea of, or perhaps the lack of, safety. Especially with a program like this one. Traveling literally all around the world, catching connecting flights, riding on the back of motorcycles, riding in the back of “buses”, or maybe more like vans, with boxes of supplies. Safety is something we as Americans really care about, whether it be national, local, or personal safety.  It’s right at the top of the list of needs for most people and that’s just fine; safety is nice, safety is comfortable.

There was never a time during my year where I ever feared for my safety or anyone else’s for that matter. That is not to say I was comfortable, I was certainly not comfortable, but that’s where God works best, in my opinion. I think a lot of people associate safety with normalcy and think that when their “normal” changes, they are unsafe. Gap year isn’t about being unsafe though, it’s about being uncomfortable and growing in that space, whether it be riding public transportation in a new city, or staying with a family you just met all on your own, or eating strange food you never imagined eating; everything is designed to reorient what normal is and how to operate in it.

There is one moment that stands out above all others when it comes to safety while on gap year.  We had just finished our time in Rwanda and were gearing up to head to Israel (which 9 months earlier was hurling bombs at the Gaza Strip and all of that fun stuff). We left Kigali with no trouble, landed in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, where we had a layover and waited to board our next flight to Tel Aviv. Around this time, Saudi Arabia and Yemen decided it would be a great time to come to a disagreement and lob some missiles at each other. We were never in any danger but the Red Sea was no longer passable thanks to Yemen and Saudi Arabia. So, we sat in the Addis Ababa airport for another 5 hours waiting to get permission to fly over Sudan. I want to reiterate that we were never in danger or anything but it was almost humorous because we had no WIFI, no way to tell our parents or leadership back at KIVU what was going on. We finally got in the air and landed in Cairo to refuel and finally many hours after we were supposed to get there, we landed in Tel Aviv. The funny thing was our group was more annoyed than anything because the Ethiopian airport staff wouldn’t or couldn’t tell us anything so we just knew we were tired and ready to move on to Tel Aviv!

I think what it boils down to is that safety is a relative concept.  Each person has to choose what is safe for them. For me, anything and everything on Gap Year was safe, or safe enough to try anyway.  I know some of you reading this may say, “Well, yeah, for you as the participant that’s easy to determine but what about the parents?” Well, I can’t speak for my parents so I won’t; however, they are sending my younger brother to the program next year, so take that as you will. Gap year is a decision that should not be taken lightly. It will rock your world!  It will make you take a double take on almost everything you thought you knew about yourself, how you work with people, how you love people.  And that is if nothing else uncomfortable, but when you’re making that decision don’t let the myth of “It’s not safe” stand in your way.

Contact me:

Email –

Facebook – Zac Musgrove

Great Gap Year Myth #5: “My High School Does Not Support it.”


Meet Madison Burke, Class of 2014, as she shares her perspective on Great Gap Year Myth #5:  “My High School Does Not Support it.”

Maybe you’re reading thinking “I shouldn’t take a gap year because my high school told me not to.” Well then! It’s myth busting time again which means we should probably start with some hard truth.

My high school DIDN’T support my choice to take a gap year.

Not only did they verbally tell me they thought I was making a mistake, on senior night for my slideshow page they put pictures of the school from which I deferred. Funny thing is, during gap year I changed my mind and went to a completely different school than the one they broadcasted for everyone to see my “accomplishments.”

Did I have days when I second guessed my choice to take a gap year?  Absolutely! But I kept coming back to fact that the Lord so clearly laid this path out for me.

The good news that still rings true is that God calls us to have gospel center courage to “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:9).  So I stood strong in my decision even though I did not understand why the counselor told certain kids it was OK to not go to college, but told me I was making a mistake. I didn’t understand why the english teacher walked away when I asked her to display the KIVU GAP YEAR logo instead of UT Arlington under my name.

Blair has already busted the myth that was my high school’s main argument, “You won’t return to college.”

At this point you’re probably wondering if any good came out of this. Of course!

Many students who rolled their eyes at my decision were the ones who commented on pictures, responded to blog posts, and messaged me during gap year (still even now) asking how I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I constantly hear “I wish I would have done that” truthfully explaining they only went straight into college because it was the norm, or because of the pressure from society – not because they were prepared.

After the first semester of gap year, I returned home for Christmas to find many of my classmates moving home, transferring schools, and taking a semester off because they were burnt out or didn’t really have a direction they wanted to pursue anymore. I remember thinking, “Where would I be if I bought into this lie that I couldn’t take a gap year because my high school told me not too.  Would I be moving home? Would I transfer schools? Would I have friends?”

The first message I received during my gap year was from my counselor. It was an apology.  The second was from the english teacher I previously mentioned. Both of them were encouraging me.  Both were saying they were proud of me for sticking to my decision.

See the thing is, I wanted to be mad at my high school for putting my decision down and making me wonder if I should try the college thing out first even though I didn’t feel ready.

Instead, their messages made me realize that they just didn’t understand what I was choosing to do at the time. Their entire career is to build up and educate the next generation and to see them become successful. Educators spend far more hours shaping our lives than we will ever know, and they take their students success or failure personally. They were blinded to the success that taking a gap year can bring.

Choosing to take a gap year does not make you a failure. Choosing to take a gap year will not ruin your high school’s reputation. Choosing to take a gap year will prepare you for college far better than any classroom will.

Choosing to take a gap year– against what my high school said–was and still is the greatest decision I ever made.

Contact Information:

Facebook: Madison Abby Burke

Instagram: Madiburke


Great Gap Year Myth #4: “I Can’t Afford it.”


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Meet Natalie Rohne, class of 2015, with her perspective on Myth #4: “I Can’t Afford it.”

I’ll never forget the moment I looked down at the pamphlet in my hands that read the five-digit figure amount I would have to raise in order to embark on this endeavor. There may or may not have been some trembling… Feelings of disbelief and even despair welled up inside me as I attempted to grasp the weight of this situation. I did not have the money. I could not get the money in time. I thought for sure I would have to leave the idea of this trip behind simply because I could not afford it.

To those of you who feel the same and are discouraged by that five-digit figure, let me assure you one very crucial thing I learned about gap year and that is the essence of God’s Provision. I firmly believe if you are meant to be on that trip, you will be on that trip. God will provide the money in the most bizarre, unconventional of ways. I look back on my nine-month fundraising campaign and remember the times a random person walked up to me with a check, set it in my hands, and walked away. I remember the people I was very slightly acquainted with but never really knew, and still they opted to offer money for my trip. These were investments, which created wonderful friends and a beautiful support system. The point is- God makes it happen.

However, that is not to say it comes without work. I had to work a lot to make this dream come true. This manifested in my working throughout high school and stacking up hours during the summers, and of course, a lot of saving. My fundraising campaign included the designing and selling of t-shirts and matching water bottles, which was hugely successful and even gained more attention for KIVU as people were wearing them around. My mother and I planned an event night hosted at our church and served a dinner along with a silent auction. However, we planned the event on the night of a major UA basketball game and it was not as successful as we had hoped… The key to fundraising is to talk, with anyone and everyone, about what you are doing. Tell people. Share your story. People are intrigued by this and if you are open and willing to invite others to be apart of the journey, money and new friends will pour in from places you never anticipated. I started with less than $100 to begin my campaign and walked away a year and two days later with the trip fully funded. God provides, so let Him.  


DID YOU KNOW?  Over 50% of our students raise funds in order to participate.  

Great Gap Year Myth #3: “It’s For the Unmotivated and Unsure.”

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Meet guest blogger, Catherine Haseman, class of 2016, with her perspective on Myth #3: “It’s For the Unmotivated and Unsure.”

I chose to write about this “Gap Year Myth” because it is not as cut and dry as some of the others. For most of the other myths in this blog series, I could argue that they are entirely false. I could tell one simple story and prove that gap years are not ____(insert myth here)___. 

But this “myth” is a little more complicated. 

I cannot truthfully start this blog post out by saying, “In fact, gap years are for the absolutely certain and the highly motivated!” 

So, instead, I will start with this: gap years are for students seeking certainty and motivation. 

When I made the decision to take a year away from the classroom, I had just finished my freshman year of college. I completed my first year of undergraduate studies as a computer science major in the school of engineering at my university. Overall, I had a good freshman year—I had made good friends, fun memories, and great grades. Despite all of that, when I stopped to think deeply about my college experience, I realized several things:

I was unsure about my major.

I was unsure about what career path I hoped to take in the future. 

I was unmotivated to continue on through college without a better sense of direction.

Ultimately, my uncertainty about my academic and career paths is what led me to feel so certain that the Kivu Gap Year was the right choice for me at the time. 

The gap year took me to Colorado, Washington DC, the Bahamas, Peru, Rwanda, and Palestine. In each place I was challenged—through conversation, friendship, prayer—to consider how my past has shaped me and what I am meant to do with my unique gifts and quirks. More often than not, my experiences throughout the year caused me to feel more confused than certain at first. 

My internships caused me to question what future career I am best suited for. My homestay experiences made me question how families are meant to function. Conversations with diverse friends challenged my worldview. Weekend trips made me wonder about the value of a home. Seemingly everything I did throughout my gap year raised more and more questions.

It wasn’t until I arrived in Palestine—my final gap year destination—that I found the certainty and motivation I had been searching for all year long.

I lived with a rambunctious, deeply caring Palestinian family on the outskirts of Bethlehem. From their living room window I could see a refugee camp to my right and the Church of the Nativity to my left. Quite the juxtaposition! In no time, life in the West Bank transformed my geopolitical perspectives, emboldened and developed my personal politics, and softened my heart to marginalized groups. I began taking Arabic courses and reading as much as I could about the Middle East. I was fascinated! I had found a cause and a people that motivate me to work hard and live fully. 

When I returned to my university this fall, I changed my major to Arabic and Middle East studies. After an entire year of seeking certainty and motivation, I found it.

Nowadays, when I sit down to study for Arabic quizzes or political science exams, I am reminded of why I chose my major. I think back to my friends and family on the other side of the planet, and I am inspired to work hard and live with purpose. So, no. Gap years are not for the “unsure” and the “unmotivated”.

But they are absolutely for those seeking certainty and motivation in all facets of life. 

Facebook:  Catherine Haseman


Great Gap Year Myth #2: “I’ll Fall Behind My Peers.”

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Welcome to our blog series titled “Great Gap Year Myths”.  Our alumni are taking over as guest bloggers on this site to share with you their favorite myths about doing a gap year.  Here is Meghan Beans, from the inaugural class of 2011, with her perspective on Myth #2:  “I’ll Fall Behind My Peers”.

I am going to start this blog post with some honesty like Blair did in the last blog post.

Making the choice to take a gap year was one of the most terrifying and risky decision I’ve ever made. When I signed up for KIVU Gap Year I was going to be part of the first graduating class. At the time, gap years were just beginning to gain momentum in the US.  There was some research done on them, but not nearly to the extent that has been done on them now. Basically I was going into uncharted territory. I had to trust KIVU, myself, and most importantly, God.

Obviously doing something new like this came with a lot of fears and concerns, and like any teenager, I was SO concerned with what everyone else in my class was going to do in the next chapter of their lives. All my friends were going to college. They were finding out what dorms they were going to live in.  They were meeting their future roommates and slowly moving out and I started to feel left behind.  The concerns and fears began to pile up… what was going to happen when I came back from gap year? What would happen when I went back to school? Would colleges or employers be concerned that I was a year behind my peers? Would my peers think less of me because I was choosing a different journey?

The answers to all the questions were answered within the first few weeks of starting gap year and became more apparent as time went on.

I started listening to God and let Him lead me on his plan. My fears of falling behind began to disappear. I was meeting people from all walks of life all over the world and learning their stories. Each person I met had a story where I was able to learn that everyone has their own unique timeline. I was starting to realize that most people, especially your peers, are going to be supportive and they don’t care if you are behind or ahead or even at the same pace as them.

When I got home from gap year, went back to school and started working everything I learned while I was on gap year was justified. My “peers” in my classes were, again, from all walks of life. They weren’t ahead or behind, they were doing things at their own pace, and no one made any fuss about it.

One of the biggest things I learned and what is so cool about gap years, college, and life in general is we are all trying to accomplish the same thing. We are all trying to achieve our goals and dreams and live out God’s plan.

So I guess to sum up a lot of chatter to “bust” this myth, you don’t fall behind your peers. Everyone has their own path and each person will take life at their own speed. 

Contact Info:

Facebook: Meghan Mackenzie Beans

Instagram: meghanmbeans



Students are taking up to 6 years to complete their undergraduate degree*

Gap Year graduates have a median time to graduation of 3.75 years**

**American Gap Association, National Alumni Survey, 2015