The Gap Experience is a semester long experiential based service learning program. First year students will be able to gain real world experience by learning about important social justice issues, while gaining skills such as time management, assertive communication tools, and self-advocacy. The individual will be able to fully embody communio with the people they encounter and work with.
Coming into this semester, I did not know what to expect. I had some ideas of what I thought Gap would be like. I applied to this program as an alternative to taking a gap year and potentially not even going to college. Although this was my view at the beginning of the school year, my view of this Gap experience has changed dramatically since then. I did not expect to change as a person, let alone have my entire outlook on the world alter. Walking into our first ever meeting as a big group, I knew what I wanted out of this semester. I wanted to gain more self-knowledge (especially of my strengths and weaknesses) and fulfill my full potential. I view my fall semester in many ways. The first way I view it as the semester that changed me. For the first time, I learned how to be vulnerable and let others see my in a different light. Whether it was with my VOBS group, or in my host family, I learned what it was like to be a normal human being with emotions. After spending many hours in the classroom, it made me excited for school and what was to come in the future. If you had asked me if I was ever excited about school, I would have never thought that I would be excited about school. With the experiences that I had on Gap, I have never been more excited for my future. This is the semester that made me realize my potential. I was reminded of my strengths and weaknesses almost every day. Being reminded of my strengths and weaknesses, I was able to work on my weaknesses and start to see my weaknesses turn into some of my strengths.
Every new place we visited, helped shape me in different ways. In the boundary waters my mentality and self-awareness changed. In the beginning, I was pretty confident that I was going to be able to accomplish this. I did not know how to be a team member, so I kept to myself. As time progressed, I realized that I needed others to be there for me when I could not keep on going. On trail, this is where Annie Mentality began to exist. In the beginning I did not want to follow the expedition mentality (meaning being safe for the better of the group), however throughout the expedition Annie Mentality became something my group began to rely on. It started to become something more, as if it was a mentality to help everyone step out of their comfort zone. It became a mentality that everyone could rely on. The tagline is “don’t let the fear stop you, let it drive you.” I learned to appreciate the simplicity of beauty in the world around me and how to overcome life’s challenges while testing my strengths. Throughout my time off the grid I learned that my body can do anything as long as my mind allows it I realized that I get too much into my head and this was detrimental to my body. In Chicago and continuing to New Mexico and El Paso, I started to really open up and be vulnerable. These were the places that changed me emotionally and spiritually. I began to really lean into the experience and opened up to being vulnerable. After these experiences, I knew that I wanted to end up serving people in some way, shape, or form in the future. In Guatemala, I became to realize everything I have is a gift, and I began to live life with gratitude and a sense of awareness that I did not have before.
Now with the knowledge I gained, I feel as if I have gained everything I need to reach my full potential. Along with this, I feel as if I have become the best version of myself. I have always been told that I work harder not smarter and that I am very ambitious. Knowing these things, I want to use my privilege to help others less fortunate than me. With the knowledge of my strengths, I can now use my strengths to help others. I believe that helping others is how I can reach my full potential. Before this semester, I always pictured myself very high up in the business world maybe, a CEO of some huge multimillion dollar company. After this semester, I see myself helping those who are less fortunate and economically disadvantaged. Because of every place I visited and learned about, I feel as if I am better prepared to help contribute to the betterment of the DePere community. In order to start to serve others, you must first serve those in your community first. With this new version of myself, I want to learn even more about myself and my strengths and weaknesses. I feel the more I know about myself, the more I can use my strengths to help others. I want to work towards the common good. This semester has been so influential, that I added a sociology minor so that I can obtain a better understanding of the world we live in. I plan on reaching out and finding a weekly service site where I can contribute and help change the community.