College or Gap Year? 3 Words of Advice

gap-year-toonThe acceptance letters are starting to roll in.  May 1st decision day is looming!  You have horrible senioritis.  The pressure is mounting for you to make final decisions before commencement.

For a number of reasons, you just aren’t feeling it when it comes to heading to college.  You have your own perspective on that, and, of course, you have learned that everyone has an opinion to offer you.

What to do?

Here are 3 words of advice from someone who sees students in this predicament every April.

  1.  Don’t ignore that ‘gut’ feeling.  
    • If you’re feeling it now, it will definitely revisit you when you are sitting in the lecture hall on a Monday morning on your college campus.  The social life of a high school senior, summer plans, and the first few months of the college social world can numb that feeling for a bit.  But expect that ‘gut’ feeling to return.  You know–the one telling you ‘college will always be there, but now is my time to explore’.  That ‘gut’ feeling only grows with time.
  2. Keep your options open. 
    • Call the colleges you’ve been accepted to and ask them if they would welcome a deferral for a year to travel on a purposeful, well-planned gap year.  Assure them you will not take college credit elsewhere while on your gap year.  Ask them if it would jeopardize any scholarship opportunities.  It never hurts to ask!  And you’ll be surprised how many schools are now open to this deferral process.
  3. It’s not too late to apply for a gap year.
    • Believe it or not, you are actually in the middle-of-the-pack with those who will apply for a gap year program to attend next fall.  Gap Year programs see their largest enrollment take place in the late winter, spring, and early summer.  So the chances are very good there is a spot open for you on your favorite gap program!

I know this is a stressful time for you.  You don’t want to make the wrong decision right out of the gates!  But if you stop for a minute, pull away from the pressure, and consider your options, you will realize you are in a great position.  There is opportunity in front of you and that is something to be excited about.  The question is, “What decision will you make?”  And that is challenging for sure.

But if FOMO is a factor in it all, just remember this:  the average student is taking 5-6 years to complete their undergraduate degree.  Gap Year students are averaging less than 4 years to graduate.  If you choose a gap year, the only difference for you and your friends might be who took the most adventurous route for their first year after high school.  And that is likely to be something you are proud of down the road.



What is a Spiritual Autobiography Retreat?

Every Fall, students in our Global Gap Year go on a weekend retreat away from the city.  It is a weekend full of storytelling.  We walk through a booklet developed by Dave Meserve titled, ‘7 Stories’.  This retreat tends to be a highlight for each of our students as they learn more about themselves and their fellow gap students.  In this podcast, Dave talks with Luke about how he developed this impactful spiritual autobiography, what it consists of, and how it impacts those who go through it.

If you’d like more information about Dave and his non-profit, Urban Skye, you can check out his website,

You can also contact him via email,

Spend a Semester in Santiago, Chile!


This episode is a fun introduction to life in Latin America with Director Josh Benjamin.  He shares with us about learning the language, food, and culture as a student in Santiago, Chile.  You can live in Latin America with our Global and Gap Semester programs in the Fall or Spring Semester!

For more information, check us out at the KIVU Gap Semester or KIVU Global Gap Year.

You can contact Josh Benjamin at if you’d like to ask him more questions about life in Latin America in the KIVU Gap Year!

Special music by Chichí Peralta Título, “Me Enamoré” and Grupo La Noche, “Mal Amor”.


(Mis)understanding the Enneagram


The Enneagram is one of several tools we use in the KIVU Gap Year to help students increase in faith ownership and emotional intelligence.  However, in the past few years it has become very popularized in the United States.  With that popularity, there are many misunderstandings that come with interacting with this transformational tool.

Meet Millie Cline, a class instructor and spiritual director,  who carefully walks students through this tool from a spiritual lens.  She is a favorite amongst our students each year in the way she guides each individual towards a better understanding of themselves and God.  Tune in as she explains the Enneagram and dispels some of the myths and misunderstandings surrounding its usefulness in our daily lives.

If you’d like to reach out to Millie to learn more about Spiritual Direction, you can contact her at

6 Stepping Stones into Young Adulthood


How do young people intentionally transition from adolescence to young adulthood?  It wasn’t too long ago that this transition happened rather rapidly.  In a matter of only a few years, a child could assume adulthood.  Yet, today experts say it can take 10-15 years to make the transition.  Numerous factors contribute to this prolonging of arrival to adulthood.  Yet, it is as though the passage has moved from crossing a small creek bed to navigating a wide, rushing river.  At this point in time, it seems like our culture does not offer much guidance into how we grow and mature into healthy adults.  How do we cross this river now?  We graduate from high school and somehow hope to stumble into adult life by (A) completing college, (B) getting a full time job, (C) getting married, (D) having kids.  It’s as though we stand at the crossing of a raging river and are left to our own devices as to how we navigate to the other side.

This podcast takes you into ‘6 Stepping Stones’ of growth towards young adulthood.  Luke Parrott gives an overview of these critical areas of development that KIVU spends time developing over the course of the program.  Those 6 areas are:

  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • Cultural Competence (CQ)
  • Faith Ownership & Integration
  • Family & Belonging
  • Passion & Calling
  • Justice & Compassion

We believe these stepping stones give students a route across the ever widening river of transition to young adulthood.  By focusing on these 6 areas, our students can make their first decision after high school their best decision.  It also provides a great launching pad for students to enter college and life beyond in a more comprehensive and holistic way.  A gap year is about putting the right stepping stones in place to navigate across the waters of growing into adulthood.  We hope you enjoy this podcast!

Finding Your Passion and Calling


Vocare is a word we use at KIVU to describe where purpose and passion converge in our lives.  In this interview, Luke Parrott talks with Greg Fuchs about how the Denver program intentionally develops young adults in their passion and calling.

Learn how our program helps students identify their passions, avoid burnout, and open up space and time to be reflective leaders.

Learning the Power of Story


This week’s podcast features Josh Benjamin, our South America Director at KIVU Gap Year!  He walks us through the power of story in students lives and ways that we help them grow into a more healthy version of themselves.

Josh gives us a practical example of how we walks alongside students in his curriculum in South America.  Everyone has a story of value and worth.  So does yours!  Tune in today!

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



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

Great Gap Year Myth #1: I Won’t Return to College

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Welcome to our first installment in a new 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 Blair Boring, Class of 2014, with her perspective on Myth #1:  I Won’t Return to College.

Before I bust this myth, can I be honest for a second?

When I decided to join the KIVU Gap Year I honestly hoped I wouldn’t return home and go to college. Yep. I said it.

Have you ever met someone who said they weren’t a “school” person? Someone who enjoys school for the social bits but is completely unmotivated academically? Someone who passes all of their classes only because their teachers like them enough to give them a C?

For some of you reading, you know that person. For some of you reading, you are that person. For the latter group of you, I can relate.

That was me too.

Thankfully for me, in order to be accepted by The KIVU Gap Year you have to apply to a college of your choice and have an academic future & goal in mind. So, I applied to a few schools and got accepted (barely…) and a couple of months later I began the gap year where my thoughts on school and higher education were drastically changed.

My mind change was not because of one miraculous life changing experience, but rather the very gradual tug on my heart by God asking me “Why have you taken for granted the opportunities I have given you?”

We met some really, really incredible people all over the world. Some who never went to school, never graduated from high school, never dreamed of attending college, but who had amazing, fulfilling, beautiful, life-giving lives. People who dedicated their days to the benefit, the education, the lives of others.

At first, this notion got me fired up about the idea of dropping everything and moving to Rwanda to teach english or The Philippines to serve the least of these; but over time, God helped me see the opportunity we are given to attend school this way…

Jesus doesn’t ever tell us that college is mandatory, it isn’t. But don’t see this as your way out of a college education. Rather, see the idea of a college education, not being designed or created by God, as a very unique opportunity given to you by God to give you worldly “qualification” in a world that doesn’t know or love God.

Say that ten times fast…

Because we are sinners, the world is broken. The only way to help mend the broken parts of the world is to use the salt and light God gives us and Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Matt 28:19

Some “nations” are more difficult to get to than others.

You can’t make an impact on a multi million dollar company’s CEO without being “qualified” enough to sit in his or her office.  You can’t throw ideas around with a producer about the next big movie without knowing how to write a script.  You most certainly cannot lead the United States of America without being “qualified” in the eyes of the American people.

College is not meant to be another annoying “step” in life, it is an incredible privilege and God uses this worldly “qualification” to put Jesus followers in the midst of the world’s most influential workplaces.

As crazy as it sounds, by graduating from college, you’re giving God the ability to use you to reach a different kind of unreached people.

And if this didn’t sway you, Dining hall food is pretty good too.

Contact Info:

Facebook: Blair Boring

Instagram: Blizzairrrr




Welcome to Our New Blog Series, ‘Great Gap Year Myths’

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After eight years of educating hundreds of students and their parents on the concept of a gap year, we continue to bump into the same misconceptions about such a non-traditional post-high school trek.

This series is designed to offer more education towards the most common “Great Gap Year Myths” out there.  I bet you’ve heard them yourself.  Maybe you’ve used one of these myths to defend your position.  Maybe you’ve been stopped in your tracks from pursuing a gap year with some of these curveballs thrown your way.

Follow us in this new blog series as we bring better understanding to the honest questions and concerns about this growing trend in American education.

Campus Visits & Interviews for 2017-2018 are Underway!


Last week, we had our first campus/college visit here in Denver!  It is a great time for students to come and look at the program in person, meet students, and sit in on ‘class’ and internship experiences!

Schedule a weekend this Fall to come and visit us!  You can even include college visits to the surrounding universities in the area such as University of Colorado, Colorado State University, University of Denver, & Colorado Christian University!  Contact Emily, to book your trip!

We have also started interviewing prospective students for the class of 2017-2018!  Get started on your application process today!  Here is a bit of what the process looks like:


Request your application TODAY at!


Mixed Emotions Begin Every Gap Year

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.

GUEST BLOG: Cat Haseman, Class of 2016 shares about justice, violence, and a summer internship.


“Violence in the developing world is like grief in the developed world—it’s everywhere, but we just don’t see it.” –Gary Haugen The Locust Effect

 This past spring Gap Year took me to Huánuco, Peru to live with a local family and volunteer at a shelter for young sexual abuse victims called Paz y Esperanza.

As odd as this sounds, the initial days at Paz felt a lot like scrolling through Netflix choices. For the record, I’m a Netflix documentary fiend. I love any social justice exposé—anything that teaches me about a little known topic and begs an untried passion. I could watch a new documentary every day of the week. The only downside to that is the miniature existential crisis I typically fall into after each film. “I’ve been living in a world of lies!” or “I am personally responsible for ending (insert social justice issue here)!” are some of the overly dramatic thoughts that run through my mind as the credits roll. In the past, I’ve been convinced to stop buying from H&M and to never again eat Tyson’s chicken. I’ve decided before that I want to be a slam poet, to build my own tiny home, and to boycott wearing bras. To whatever degree, a well-made social justice documentary almost always moves me to action.

Some nights, though, I don’t feel like getting off my comfortable mental couch. Some nights I’d prefer to just not care about anything other than my own life. Those are the nights that my cursor hovers over the “Play Now” button contemplating whether or not I should commit to two hours of perspective-shifting interviews and undercover footage. In my mind, to click play means to be told I’m wrong about something I’ve always thought. To click play means to rethink how I’m living. To click play means to ask questions that I might not like the answers to.

When I got to Paz, I knew immediately that I was about to be exposed to a kind of pain and injustice that I’d never experienced before. There were around 40 girls who had been attacked, abused, and taken advantage of by the people who were supposed to be looking out for them—by their neighbors, cousins, friends, and fathers. For my first few days at Paz, my cursor was over the “Play Now” button, scared to get started and have my world rocked. I saw the hard work that the full-time volunteers at the shelter were doing. I saw the gentle way they took care of the girls, and I heard how they fiercely told the stories of each girl’s abuse. They were full of love for these girls, full of frustration for a culture of exploitation, and full of ambition to restore lives and stop the cycle of abuse. I had seen the trailer for the film, and I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to press play. I couldn’t bring myself to engage and to feel.

As the days passed and as my really broken Spanish became slightly less broken, I was able to build relationships with the girls. It started with painting nails and playing volleyball and eventually turned into honest conversations about past pains and future aspirations. Before I knew it, I turned back to my laptop screen and the film was rolling. The girls had pressed play for me, and I was all in.

I think many volunteers all over the world have experienced this same phenomenon: they arrive in a new place with no prior knowledge of the culture or the social justice issues. They have nothing but a heart to serve and see. As time passes, the volunteers form friendships with the people they are serving, with the victims of some injustice. These friendships invoke compassion, which in turn, incites passion for the cause that affects their new friend. Pure, sustainable “passion” for a cause, I believe, comes only from compassion founded in relationships. The girls at Paz were able to give that kind of passion to me.

As my time at Paz came to an end, the credits rolled, and you guessed it. I was moved to action. I wondered how I could continue to be a part of the work of justice and combatting sexual violence in Peru while stateside. That’s when I applied and was selected for an internship in Washington, D.C. to work with a large NGO called International Justice Mission, which has a casework alliance with Paz y Esperanza.

IJM is an international human rights organization mobilized by the terrible truth that daily acts of violence against the poor and marginalized are perpetuating poverty worldwide. An endless cycle of abuse and impunity is keeping the poor in poverty and perpetrators on the streets. IJM is called to action by the somber facts that 1 in 5 women in the world will be victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime and that 4 billion people on the planet live in a state of “lawlessness”. Laws are not enforced, so perpetrators continue to abuse and exploit. In Bolivia, for example, it is more likely for a rapist to slip and fall and die in the bathtub than it is for him to ever be convicted of his crimes.

IJM has 17 field offices around the world largely run by local nationals that execute a 4-fold plan to combat this violent reality. 1. We work with local law enforcement to rescue victims of violence, like rape, forced labor, and sex trafficking. 2. We train local police, judges, and prosecutors to convict the perpetrators of violence. 3. We partner with local aftercare facilities to restore the victims and meet their needs. 4. We strengthen local justice systems to end impunity. Paz y Esperanza is one of those field offices, and when I was in Huánuco this spring, I was helping to “restore the victims”. At the headquarters in DC this summer, I am able to see the full, 4-fold mission. I’m able to see one way that people in the United States—people with freedom and protection under the law—are fighting to see justice for those you don’t yet have it.

When I first recognized my compassion for the girls at Paz, I knew that the things I learned on my gap year weren’t supposed to just stay there locked in time. I wasn’t meant to have my eyes ripped wide open to systematic injustice and societal poverty just to return to the same life trajectory and career path that one-year-ago me wanted. Those 9 months were a time of immersion, engagement, and growth. I engaged in the cultures and systems at play, taking in all that could and processing it in light of what I believe love and equality should look like. I watched the best film I’ve ever seen play on a giant screen all around me. And now, I’m figuring out how to log out of Netflix, get up off the couch, and do something about it.


3 Ingredients to a Great Gap Year!


I was in Boston at the annual American Gap Association conference, where the question was posed to us, “What do you think are the necessary ingredients for a high quality gap year experience?”

After spending time with over 40 gap year providers, working on our accreditation process with AGA, and spending 1,000’s of hours with our students and their parents, I think I can boil it down to 3 critical ingredients for a flavorful gap year.

#1 Safety

Any experiential learning based program has to account for the inherent risk involved in such an experience.  After 15 years of outdoor adventure camping, 10 years of international travel programming, and 6 years of gap year planning, we have developed a highly sophisticated model of risk assessment and crisis response.

Safety can never be a promise from any program provider.  But a culture of responsibility, foresight, monitoring, and evaluation can be the best preventative to account for a student’s care while on a gap year.  I believe Kivu Gap Year has a thorough plan for welcoming students into environments that push them outside their comfort zone, but not into dangerous or irresponsible situations.  From registering with the US Embassy, to having international insurance coverage, to having effective orientations, to maintaining thoughtful relationships in these local communities, we are confident that a student can experience the stress and challenge of life in an unfamiliar place with responsible assessment of risk.

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#2 Structure

When the gap year concept caught wind here in the United States, there was a particular need amongst both parents and students to ensure it did not become a year of partying around the world.  Both parents and students wanted a purposeful experience.  With that purpose comes structure.

Kivu Gap Year structures the learning experience around home stays, internships, cultural events, teaching in the field, mentorship, and cohort support.  We believe these 6 areas provide a meaningful program for students to gain purpose and discover their passions while traveling.   Our students log up to 900 internship hours working with multiple organizational cultures.  They have to learn to navigate duties and responsibilities alongside cultural nuances and language barriers.  They have to accept where their limitations are and have to learn to contribute where they are able inside an organization.  The uncomfortableness of these environments pushes them towards growth outcomes we have come to recognize as patterns in our alumni.


#3 Outcomes

After several years of gap year programming, people often asked our Kivu staff and students, “what did you get out of that experience?”  Our alumni quickly found how difficult it is to wrap your words around such powerful experiences and stories captured on a gap year.  So we launched an internal Impact Assessment in May of 2015 in order to find out from our alumni, “What did you learn from participating in the Kivu Gap Year?” 

Through personal interviews and general surveys, we found 6 Core Competencies our students were developing.   What our students talked about more than anything else was the developing of their Emotional Intelligence or EQ.  (See article The Most Significant Growth Component).  Students also vocalized growth in Cultural Intelligence (CQ) as well as Faith Ownership.  Since the uniqueness of our program is to provide faith-based students with a space to process their spiritual development, we saw this feedback as a critical component of our program values in helping emerging young adults own what it is they believe.

These 3 areas of Safety, Structure, and Outcome are my ingredients to a great gap year!  If you can find a provider that is able to effectively articulate this recipe to their programs, you should be confident that your investment into a gap year is more than worth the while.  If you are designing your own independent gap year, these 3 components will suit you well.  Know that the year won’t be easy.  It will certainly be full of peaks and valleys.  But the growth that comes from living in this ‘stretch zone‘ is what makes a gap year what it is!


New Study reveals Gap Year Students Graduate College in Less than 4 Years


A new study has been released this week indicating students who take a gap year have a median time to graduation of 3.75 years (for a 4 year degree).  This research is encouraging towards those who desire to see a gap year investment pay off on the back end of higher education.

When you compare this statistic to the latest indication that 40% of college students never complete their degree and the other 60% take 5-6 years to graduate, there is encouraging news towards progress in higher learning completion.  Gap years are doing the job of sharpening students to be resilient and focused when they reach their undergraduate studies.

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More and more students and their parents are willing to take a risk and make bolder investments on the front end of their traditional education path in order to see greater rewards after college.

The study also reveals:
•       Gap Year graduates are almost twice as likely to vote in national elections.
•       89% reported participating in community service in the last month.
•       83% of respondents indicated a GPA of 3.0 or higher. 42% reported a GPA of 3.7 (or higher).
•       86% indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs.

The gap year investment is one which continues to give back as a student progresses through the education system and looks for job placement and satisfaction thereafter.

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Are You the Right Fit for Kivu Gap Year?


Sometimes people ask us, “What kind of student are you looking for?”

Take this inventory and see if you are asking some of the same questions as our students.

(1) Are you tired of sitting in the classroom and a bit burned out on academics?

(2) Are you uncertain about what to focus your studies in college?

(3) Do you have an itch to see the world for yourself?

(4) Do you want to strengthen your faith or wrestle with what it is you really believe?

(5) Are you adventurous?

(6) Do you want to learn more about yourself, who you are, and what your passions are?

(7) Do you want to immerse yourself in other cultures, live in home stays, and learn what it is really like to live abroad?

(8) Are you looking for a strong community of like-minded peers?

(9) Do you want to focus on internship experiences during your gap year?

(10) Are you ready to take a leap of faith and get out of your comfort zone?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, you are probably looking in the right direction at Kivu.  These 10 questions reflect some of the most common reasons our students tend to choose a gap year with Kivu.  If you are considering a gap year, we highly encourage you to take active steps towards making it happen.  Request an application from us today.  Just email TODAY!




6 Common Results of a Kivu Gap Year Graduate


When we launched the Kivu Gap Year in 2009, the most often asked question was “what is a gap year?” Today, when we travel and meet prospective students and parents, the most common question is “What are the results of the gap year for your graduating students?”

When I would ask our alumni this question, it was always overwhelming to them.  The question was simply too big to tackle.  Where do you start and how do you give language to an 8 month global journey around the world?  So when I launched an Impact Assessment on our past alumni last spring of 2015, the goal was to see if (1) students had any correlations with what they learned in our program and (2) to see if I could help them provide unified language to articulate the experience.

Through interviews and questionnaires, I came to discover 6 areas of general interest:

  • Socio-Emotional Competence-How we relate to and manage ourselves and our relationship to others. 
  • Cultural Competence–How we adapt (or fail to adapt) to culturally diverse environments.
  • Faith Ownership & Integration–How we make our faith our own (rather than that of our parents) and include this value in every aspect of our lives (rather than compartmentalizing it).
  • Family & Belonging–How we value our nuclear family and our connectedness to global humanity.
  • Justice & Compassion–Developing the eyes to see and the ears to hear voices on the margins, to enter their pain, and stand in solidarity with them.
  • Passion & Calling–Giving space to hear our vocation and to embrace the beauty of being made in God’s image.

What is even more surprising is how interdependent these 6 areas of growth were with one another.  Students would freely flow in and out of conversation with how one aspect informed the other.  I came to understand this to mean all 6 of these ‘Core Competencies’ were building off one another.  In a program filled with internships, home stays, weekly cultural events, instructional ‘class’ time, on-going mentorship, and the influence of fellow gap students, it is a perfect recipe to see God work in amazing and surprising ways in each heart and life.

Traditional higher education is giving students the information they need to succeed in the real world.  But a non-traditional education, like a gap year, can effectively supplement higher learning with the ‘intangibles’ necessary to grow into young adulthood.  At Kivu Gap Year, our students are able to work on the development of the whole person.  We are able to equip students with the soft skills and the real world experience (900 hours of internship work) to empower them to lead in their careers, in their future families, and in their faith communities.

We are developing young leaders who have confidence in their own voice.  With this confidence, students can enter (or re-enter) university life with a sharp focus, a wealth of experience, and a humility and passion to further their learning.




The Most Significant Growth Component


Last year, I spent time with our last 5 years of alumni conducting interviews and questionnaires to investigate the question, “what do students learn from participating in our gap year program?”  While I found several consistent correlations in student growth, the one thing almost everyone wanted to talk about was how much they learned about growing in self-awareness.

Academics refer to it as socio-emotional competence.  Or perhaps you’ve heard of the importance of developing your EQ (emotional intelligence).  EQ is about learning more of who we are, how we are wired, and how we relate to others in the process.  Socrates called on his students to ‘know thyself’.  For followers of Jesus, we know that each human being is made in the image of God and fashioned in his likeness.  So it is critical that we know the uniqueness of our created design.

When I asked one student about the most significant change experienced in the program, she said, “Right away I would say personal growth and just understanding who I am. Learning the ways I’ve been uniquely wired and gifted…I think I left gap year with more of a sense of confidence in myself, my gifts, and my passions. And confidence in Jesus. Definitely, that would be a huge one.” Another student shared, “They did a very good job of teaching me more about who I was. What makes me tick. What encourages me and discourages me. What I am passionate about. Through learning more about my personality I feel like I can better handle challenges. I know that this is going to be a hard time. I know how to take care of myself.”  Students also captured this aspect of growth with words and phrases like “confidence”, “sure of self”, “knowing who God created me to be”, “more mature”, “taking care of myself”, “equipping yourself”, “understanding yourself”, “understanding who I am”, “reformed my identity”.

Emerging adulthood is a critical time period for students (ages 18-25) to work on the establishment of their personal identity.  They are asking at a very deep level, “Who am I?”.  The exploration of this question helps students gain direction for their future.  We use the word ‘vocation’ a lot in our program.  From its latin root, it actually translates to ‘voice’ or ‘calling’.  We are dedicated to helping students find their voice during their year with us because this is a critical stage for such growth to take place.

Our program facilitates numerous ways of allowing students to explore who they are.  We provide formal training with devices like Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, Relational Needs Training, and further exercises in self-reflection, journaling, and blogging.  But we also encourage students to go out and do stuff, to intern in multiple new environments, to live in local home stays, to experience the world, and see what passions come to life.  Our students spend nearly 900 hours in internship experiences.  Through the relationships they build in these experiences, they come to realizations of their unique design and giftedness.  Experiential learning is one of the best ways to discover one’s own voice.

If you want to know the #1 benefit of taking a gap year with Kivu, our alumni will tell you it is that critical component of honing in on personal identity or self-awareness.  It is about taking time to stare in the face the daunting question, “Who am I?”.  From a deeper understanding of who we are, we can be free to explore the hard questions of what we should do, what degree we should have, what we believe about our faith, and what career to pursue in the future.

But without direction, college students today are left wandering through degrees that carry no meaning.  The result has been wasted tuition dollars on 5 to 6 year undergraduate studies with a mere 60% undergraduate completion rate!

How can one pursue a degree without the backbone of direction before completing college?