Meet our 2019 Grant Recipients

After a great deal of deliberation, in person interviews, and more, we are pleased to announce this year’s recipients of the Travel Access Project Grants for Gap Year Travel.

Each year in selecting our recipients we look for deserving and motivated applicants who are seeking to use their gap year to advance their lives, educations, and careers through travel.

This year’s group come from four countries on three continents and represent a wide range of life experiences, dreams, and goals. Here’s what they have to say about why they are taking a gap year.

Eaint Kabyar (Joy) – Myanmar

“‘Make better choice, take action and create new habits’. In believe that taking gap year is alternative way of education and I also want to be part of it; want to be part of emerging new paradigm of education. I really admire the idea of unschooling, homeschooling, world schooling, and self-directed learning, which is leading to education revolution. In Vietnam, there is alternative learning group name ‘The Soil Project’ that is leading by local youths for local youths. I got to know with them when I was in Awaken Leadership Program at Thailand. Friends from Thailand and India who are willing to have different kind of education are also building ‘The Soil Project Thailand’ and ‘The Soil Project India’. They are trying to build a community around the Asia in order to widespread the idea of alternative education and to have stronger connection. Me, myself is also very interesting to do ‘ The Soil Project Myanmar’ with youths in Myanmar to create a safe learning environment. I really want to learn sustainable education including art by travelling with safe learning community and I also want to create that kind of space. Since I still do not have experience in community organizing and starting a program, I want to take gap year in Thailand and Vietnam by staying and learning with ‘The Soil Project’ organizers and participants. (This is my priority purpose for my gap year)

Another purpose is traveling. I love traveling and traveling itself is like my mentors, whom I can get a lot of lessons, experiences and meet interesting people, who can be widen my worldview. I discover myself that I have different energy when I am traveling and I really feel like it is ‘me’ especially when I am traveling alone to unknown places.

The last purpose is that I want to find a mentor who I can learn from Extensive Art. I am very interesting in how art can heal a personal well being and I enjoy movement the most. If I travel and meet with different people, I could extend my network and as law of attraction, if I have that kind of energy, I believe that I could meet a person who I can learn from and work together.

Isaiah Barber – USA

“I want to take a gap year to invest myself somewhere else rather than my academics. I want to get out in the world and break/ twists the views of my traditional lifestyle. Doing this Gap Year in Shanghai, China would not only allow me to experience a whole new world but it would make me more of a candidate to work in my dream career as an intelligence officer.”
Isaiah sent this video as an introduction:

Keana Utsey – USA

“I truly believe the path my parents had in mind for my six siblings and I came to fruition well before we were born.

Both my mother and my father grew up in low income households. They were loved, but they were no strangers to struggle. They came across hardships that at this point in my life I’ve never known. When they graduated high school, a higher education wasn’t an option for them financially, and they both opted to join the Air Force in hopes that their children might have opportunities they didn’t.

It’s not uncommon for parents to want better  for their children. Which is why, in my house, like many other American households, you go to school and get your education. An opportunity that not everyone has. Graduating high school is the goal, and right after that you go on to get your college degree. Because of this, I worked hard in high school. I took took all the hard classes, and participated in so many extracurricular activities. However, these things didn’t come without a price.

By my senior year something inside me was desperate for something new. I wanted so badly to follow the path that was set for me long before I knew, but I was not quite ready for college. It was a hard thing to admit when it is the only thing that is expected of you after high school, but it was a necessary thing to admit.

I want to take a Gap Year, because I want to learn differently, before heading to college. I love to learn, but I spent thirteen years in a classroom being told what to learn and how to learn, always working towards a test. It truly burns you out when you can’t learn freely. Being out of school for a year I have learned that, while there are so many valuable things you learn in in a classroom, there is part we miss out on. We miss out on the world around us, and there is so much to learn from just existing in a environment you are not used to. I want to take my learning to the next level. I want to see another part of the world, and be apart of the change not just where I am, but all around the globe.”

Oyewumi Ojedele – Nigeria

“Nigeria is a country with over two hundred million inhabitants and is generally considered the largest economy in Africa. However, Nigeria is overly dependent on other countries like China, Italy, and USA among others for the importation of various products like leather shoes and bags and other common commodities for people across all levels. Although there are local shoe making industries in Nigeria but due to lack of exposure to quality designs and machines, many of these industries fails to meet the international standard thus many people prefer to purchase foreign made shoes and bags than the locally made ones due to their poor quality.

A gap year is a golden opportunity for me to experience the world outside classroom and become a better person with an improved skill in the art and design of quality fashion bags through an internship in Shoe and bags manufacturing industry in China. During my gap year, I want to learn the advance methods of making fashion bags and know more about the sophisticated machines used in the various design of bags. Taking a gap year will therefore, improve my skill and bring more diversity and creativity to my work and upgrade my design to meet the international standard. This will help me to become a professional in the field and contribute to our local economy in Nigeria by training others in the field to also meet up to standard.”

Oluwafemi Michael Odunsi – Nigeria

“Lack or inadequacy of spatial planning data still persists on urban planning issues in Nigeria due to failure in knowledge, adoption and adaptation of new technologies.

Up ’til now in the country, Remote Sensing (RS) and Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies have been poorly embraced in both theory and practice. Despite the inclusion of the geospatial technologies in urban planning curriculum in the country, few tertiary institutions have the capacity to teach them because of lack or inadequacy of experts in that field as well as finance, facilities, and political will. More so, it is scarce to see government agencies and private firms charged with urban planning functions that are requisite in these fields of study for training and internships. Those available are ill-equipped to transfer the requisite knowledge in RS/GIS.

Having received theoretical knowledge here in Nigeria with little practical knowledge and experience in the field, I desire to take up an internship in RS/GIS in urban planning and environmental studies. Leveraging on the opportunity the Travel Access Project will afford me outside the Nigerian domain, I desire to seek for more inclusive environment to learn and develop in RS/GIS. I have surfed online and got to know that is a RS/GIS Internship available in Greece tentatively. This will help improve my RS/GIS skills, and expose me to real-time experience.”

Angel Bryant – USA

“Burnout has become a necessary evil of my and the former generation (Gen Z and Millennials). The glass ceiling gets an inch higher whenever one of us successfully climbs on the younger generation’s backs to reach it, ever so outside our fingertips. Whether it be the income gap, student loans, inflation, or credential-ism pushing the ceiling forward, the younger generations will never see the ceiling break before burnout topples the human ladder from under them. 

Now that it’s my turn to climb the human ladder and put my boot in the face of Gen Alpha, the prospects of my future look bleak. I have no idea what I want to do in life, yet the choice I make in this age of my life will affect the future of not only me but of my descendants. College tuition inflates by 8% each year, and the lowest out-of-pocket cost I could muster from my acceptances is around 2000 dollars (with 5,500 in federal loans), which I don’t have. My passion of writing, English and teaching will leave me in debt and dumpster diving at 25. I have no assets, no wealth to inherit, only debt and a bad credit score.

We are conditioned at a young age in the United States to put work above all else. If you work the hardest, you will reap the highest yield. If you work the hardest, you can be whatever you want to be, as long as you: go the grade school, make straight As, get into the Ivy League, become a doctor or lawyer or businessman, become a millionaire, buy a house in the Hills, and die. Any deviation is ostracized. You’re just lazy; all you have to do is work. Depression doesn’t exist, illness doesn’t exist, only our deity of productivity and means. Take that student loan; it’ll pay out in a few years when you are rich. Gap years are stupid; rich kids who have already made it only take them. Do you want to lose a year in the race and fall behind your competition?

I’m done competing. I’m done slaving to our productivity god. I’m done slashing the throats of my peers and younger generations to make a quick buck. I’m done following the American life cycle. I’m done scrambling to make the biggest choice of my life without experience or having paid serious bills. I can’t balance a checkbook and I don’t have a bank account, yet I’m expected to take out 5,500 in loans and start paying them six months after graduation.

A gap year is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me to experience a fresh perspective, learn new languages and cultures, and pursue my passion of writing and teaching and make a global impact before taking a dive into a truer unknown than another country: college.”

Aiden Avery – USA

 “I’m 26 years old and I have spent the last five months working as an English Language Assistant in France. Now, I am applying to spend the 2019-2020 year working again as a Language Assistant, this time on the French island located in the Indian Ocean, La Réunion. The three main reasons I want to take a gap year are (1) to improve my French-language proficiency, (2) to gain further cultural experience abroad, and (3) to spend a year that will help me determine what I wish to study and pursue as a career, prior to applying for graduate school.

An immersive gap year is an important step for my second language proficiency. I started learning French three years ago, during my undergraduate studies in Philosophy. Now, I am an intermediate French speaker. A gap year in a French-speaking home will help me reach an advanced level as a second language speaker. This will mean overcoming social and linguistic barriers, building stronger relationships with francophones, and a wider array of graduate school and future job opportunities.

A gap year on La Réunion will provide the experiential education  inherent in time spent abroad. Each time I’ve traveled abroad — be it filming in Ghana, my semester in South Africa, or a cohort trip to Cuba — I’ve encountered a different culture with distinct values, practices, and its own language(s). Facing these unfamiliarities is hands-on learning in the most real sense. It causes me to reflect upon my own culture and what it means to be American in the modern world. For example, in France, I have seen a country that engages primarily in honest, public political dialogue. Here, I am struck by the drastic difference with my own culture, in which political dialogue often means divisive and vitriolic language. Cultural differences like this one give me hope for positive chance, since they show me that not all aspects of my own culture are as inherent or permanent as they feel. La Réunion is a tropical, diverse, and politically unique setting. (The Communist Party of Réunion has had a strong influence on the island historically). In these ways, La Réunion could hardly be more different from where I grew up in Montana — a homogeneously white, conservative, and far-from-tropical state. A gap year on La Réunion means once again placing myself in a new environment and breaking down my preconceptions.

My gap year will also inform important life decisions by giving me further experience as a language teacher. Over the past five months, I’ve begun to consider teaching as a viable career option. At 26, graduate school and career decisions are in my near future. During my gap year on La Réunion, I will teach English in a new, culturally unfamiliar environment. By the end of the year, I aim to have learned about myself as an anglophone and an educator, and to know if language education is the path for me.

Aiden submitted this video about La Réunion and his work there:

Tayson Amos – USA

“All throughout my life I’ve had trouble answering questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “What do you plan to do in college?”

Even to myself, I have found it difficult to define exactly what I see myself doing in the future, or even what I want to do. It is for this reason that a gap year abroad interests me.

From the start of my senior year of high school I have felt pressure in nearly every aspect of my life to determine a plan for the years to come, yet the options have perpetually seemed so limited. I have always planned on attending college and achieving a higher education but without knowing exactly what I wanted to do the idea of immediately attending college seems reckless.

Thus, when I stumbled upon EF gap through an email, I was curious. I spent days reading about the experience and researching the program. From that point on, as I continued to go over college applications, the idea of participating in a gap year abroad stuck in my head.

For the first time in a long time I am excited about possibilities in my future. This is why a gap year abroad interests me most, because as I read more about the program and opportunities, the more enthusiastic I am about attending.

Ultimately, I want to take a gap year because of the opportunities I will obtain through the experience. For one, as a language study is a defined part of the Education First Gap year program, I will be able to continue my studies in Spanish in what is arguably the best way possible, by completely immersing myself within the culture. In addition to this, I will be able to put the Spanish skills that I do learn to use in a service project in Costa Rica and an internship in Madrid, through which I will again be able to explore different cultures from across the world, whilst helping others and improving my own work.

Most of all I hope that within my gap year abroad I can become a more confident, experienced, and passionate person. It is for these reasons that I want to take a gap year, to become one step closer to the person I want to be.”

Jade Leung – UK

“I really have no idea, I am hoping that this gap year will give me some inspiration or point me to the right direction!

Maybe become an English teacher at my favourite city, or go work in the science/conservation field to make use of the knowledge I gained from my degree and from my gap year to help the environment. The bottom line is, I really don’t know yet, but I am open to all the options available and by taking a Gap Year I hope I will realise where I belong.”


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