Why this gap year and what to expect

Gijs Smid - Ecuador


August 24, 2017

It was a long back-and-forth process before I finally made the decision to go on this gap year. I can still picture all the pros and cons lists and all the people I’ve asked for advice (thank you if you were one of them! 🙂 ). So here I’ll share a bit of what made me decide to take this gap year and what I’m expecting.
First of all, I think it is safe to say that I would not even have considered going to Ecuador had I not spent the last two years in Canada at a United World College (Pearson UWC). Similar to my situation now, I had a general idea what I could expect from Pearson but there were still a lot of unknowns. When that leap of faith turned out to be a success, programs such as Global Citizen Year started to be a serious consideration. In addition to giving me the confidence, Pearson also showed me how much there was to discover about myself and the world around me. Which led me to broaden my interests. Unfortunately, broad interests did not make it easy for me to apply for university programs and hence, I took another step closer to a gap year.
So, being fairly sure a gap year would benefit me, it was now time to decide whether to organize something by myself or through Global Citizen Year. Even though both appealed to me in some way, organizing a gap year on my own had two decisive downsides for me. Firstly, I feared of sitting at home because of bad luck with internships, volunteer opportunities or jobs. Secondly, Fearing a monotone gap year due to being too kind towards myself and not getting out of my comfort zone. So, Global Citizen Year, whose program mitigated these two fears, was the winner.
After a summer of bike rides to the Ecuadorian Embassy and a hunt for an insect-repellent gel with the highest concentration of DEET, I’m about to step into the plane to San Francisco for my week long pre-departure training. After that I’ll be heading to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and will be staying here for a month to get language training, to get familiar with the culture and to receive my host family and apprenticeship placement. Next up will be my ‘homestay’ which is the main part of the program. During this period I’ll be learning and contributing to my local community through my apprenticeship and host family.
These are all general guide lines and it will, therefore, be up to me to fill in the details. And while I expect to improve my Spanish, face challenging times and make new relationships I’m reluctant to expect anything specific as there are still so many ‘unknowns’ that will ultimately shape my experience.

Gijs Smid