Expectations vs Reality

 Amidst the rush to obtain our visas, packing, and say our goodbyes to family and friends, there is a mix of mystery and anticipation in the air. Our cohort group chat is bustling with questions, advice, speculations, and the occasional funny video from Trevor. With only a few weeks until departure, this is a time of reflection. Many of us have different goals for our gap year, and we are all full of expectations for ourselves, and the for the experiences to come. It’s hard going into something so big and exciting with no expectations, and though we may try, we’ll always have a few.

In order to shed some light on the expectations vs the reality of taking a gap year, I have asked a few of my fellow fellows the following questions:


1) What do you think you’ll miss most about home:


2) What are you most excited for/what do you think you’ll love most about Brazil:


Our cohort is very diverse, and we all come from varying states, countries, socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities etc., so it was interesting to see the responses from these fellows. I look forward to asking these fellows these same questions again at the end of our time abroad. This will enable self reflection and give a small look into what things/experiences are most important to us. So without further ado,


Leo Ruiz: 

1) I think the thing I’ll miss most about home is my moms cooking.

2) The thing I’m most excited for is the new culture I’ll be able to experience. The people, their traditions and of course the food. It’s all so exciting!


Elise Steenburgh:

1) I’ll probably miss my little clone (sister) the most. I feel like every time she has a big milestone, I somehow miss it. This year she’s going to start high school, and I’m sad that I wont be around to help see her through it. I know she’s smarter and tougher than me though, so I’m looking forward to coming back and seeing how much she’s grown.

2) I’m most excited about being immersed in a new culture. Even though i haven’t met the other fellows in person yet, it feels like everyone else has either grown up in another country, done an exchange program, or has lived abroad before. I’ve been living in the same town for the past 14 years– all I know is the suburbs outside of DC. I’ve never really identified myself as an American or felt apart of a culture here, maybe because I’m of mixed race or maybe because American culture shifts with every trend. I’m really excited and hopeful to discover myself and my identity in Brazil, where everyone shares a culture and history.


Leo Salvatore: 

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1) I’ll definitely miss my cats and my little brother, I’ve already had a very similar experience with coming to the US, but it’s always hard to be away from your mom or siblings.

2) I’m really excited about learning Portuguese because it’s not a very common language (Although a lot of people speak it) and it’s always good to communicate with people from different backgrounds. I’m also excited about learning about the music scene in Southern Brazil and Brazilian cuisine.


Zoe Ward:

1) My climbing gym- it’s basically my second home and it’s only a mile away from my actual home.

2) It’s hard for me to choose there’s so much I’m looking forward to, but I’d say the new environment and culture. I can’t wait to be immersed into the Brazilian culture and have so many new experiences while facing different challenges.


Mathias Walder:

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1) I will miss the Austrian party and drinking culture, as most of us start drinking at 15 years old over here. I will miss my liberal surroundings that were essential in shaping who I am today.

2) I’m looking forward for the opportunity to experience a less privileged place. I want to study International Development and International Political Economy, in order to make a sustainable and environmental sound development possible. But who am I to study this without experiencing what it means to live in a “developing country?” I realized particularly how privileged I have always been, after traveling to the Caribbean and Central America, and seeing absolute poverty for the very first time, and I think many people in the Western World are not even aware of it.


Trevor Hall:

1) I think I will miss my friends the most. And I will really miss soaking in the reak of coffee at my local Starbucks!

2) I’m excited fort the opportunity to surround myself with thoughtful and kind fellows. I am also stoked for the coffee, the language, the animals, the beach, and the overall cultural experience!