Oliver Crane, a Rower on his Gap Year, Becomes Youngest Man to Row the Atlantic

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Oliver Crane

You might remember that in October, we highlighted Oliver Crane, who was then training to row across the Atlantic Ocean on his Gap Year.

Well, HE DID IT!!

Coming ashore on the island of Antigua, 44 days after he left the Canary Islands, he not only set a record, he raised $60,000 for charity.

As for adventures along the way, he battled serious seasickness, deep loneliness, storms, his boat capsizing (more than once!) and a miracle boat full of passengers singing him carols on Christmas day.

He plans to enter Princeton in the fall and hopes to make their rowing team.

Read the full story here, and be sure to watch the NBC interview, it’s great!

Gap Years on Instagram!

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The second semester for Gap Year programs and the spring circuit of Gap Year Fairs is well underway! Check out some of the spectacular stuff going on in the field:

Follow The Leap on Instagram

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Follow Irish Gap Year on Instagram

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Follow Ridge Mountain Academy on Instagram

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Follow USA Gap Year Fairs on Instagram

Check out Haby Sondo, Travel Access Grant recipient, along with Julia Rogers, of En Route Consulting, collaborating at USA Gap Year Fairs!

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Follow Dance Gap Year on Instagram

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Gap Years in the News

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As the year draws to a close some students are finishing up the first semester of their Gap Year. Others, are deep in planning mode for the coming academic year. This week we’re featuring four student voices, reflecting on the value of taking a Gap Year.

Be sure to click through and read each of the full articles!

Paralympic Hero Ellie Simmonds Shares Tale of Eye-Opening Gap Year

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“The 22-year-old five-time Paralympic swimming champion from Aldridge, Walsall, has travelled to America, China, Mexico, South Africa, Vietnam, Thailand and Australia over the last 12 months, leaving behind her daily training routine to explore new horizons.

Documenting her journey, Ellie has spoken of how visiting countries in her own time, rather than as a Team GB ambassador, gave her ‘huge confidence’ and how the experience has led her to consider taking up teaching when she retires.”

“”I wanted to get away, to be a normal 21-year-old and wake up and think: “What shall I do today?”

“I’m so often visiting places as an ambassador for Paralympics GB, and I’m really proud of that.

“But I didn’t feel like I was representing anyone when I was away; I was just Ellie, not Ellie the swimmer, and, to my surprise, that gave me huge confidence.”

Ellie’s travel activities included people watching in San Francisco, snorkeling in Shanghai, taking yoga lessons in Mexico and playing football for Britain at the World Dwarf Games in Australia.

The former Aldridge School pupil also spoke of how people from different countries approached her differently due to her achondroplasia.”

Read more…

Dear Stanford, Mind the Gap

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Eddie Mattout writes:

“Attending a private, college-preparatory high school, the thought of taking a gap year never crossed my mind. I was consumed by my goal to attend the most prestigious university I could, as soon as possible. When I was accepted to Stanford, I watched every YouTube video that had some, if even tangential, relation to the Stanford experience and anxiously awaited Approaching Stanford’s weekly emails.

My life took a different direction, however. During the summer of 2015, I found myself volunteering in a children’s home in Israel. With a cohort of twenty Americans, I helped run a summer camp for children from at-risk backgrounds. Our philosophy was that “it is much easier to believe in yourself when others believe in you.” Every day, we ran different activities for the children, including a World Cup soccer tournament, color war, and swimming in the pool. Quickly, I became enamored with the project and the children we worked with, and decided to take two years off to help develop the non-profit and empower the children to establish successful lives and happy families. During that time, I also drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, which gave me deeper insights into the culture and daily realities of Israeli citizens.”

Read more…

QIAN: The Gift of Gap

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Lisa Qian writes:

“Not only is a gap year a chance to address the issues we experience during our time at Yale, but it is also a chance to look and learn beyond Yale. Most of us are quick to recognize the Yale bubble, and gap years are an opportunity to push yourself outside of it.

Since arriving in Indonesia in September, I have been pushed to think in ways that Yale had never asked me to. I’ve been an agro-tourism developer, freelance graphic designer for Southeast Asian nongovernmental organizations and translator and storyteller for an archaeology museum. But more importantly, by living in a society so foreign to what I grew up with, I have had innumerable realizations of my own ignorance. Speaking with everyone from village bureaucrats to veterinarians has forced me to examine my perceptions of achievement culture, oppression, colonialism and my own liberalism in ways that interactions with people at Yale, no matter how diverse our campus is, do not ask of me. In Bali, I’m learning about a fundamentally different understanding of how the world works. This requires me to unlearn so much that I took to be universal, which is a difficult and humbling task.”

Read more…

College Can Wait: Lessons Learned During My Gap Year

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“Arriving at the decision to take a gap year took a long time, but once it was made, everything became easier. This decision put things back into perspective for me, and helped me prioritize my time and invest in what I truly cared about, such as the relationships with like-minded people I came to cherish at TGS, the plethora of cultural, social and sensory experiences I came across during travels and, yes, even the enervating amount of essay writing once I actually applied it in real life practice while writing up case study reports for my internship.”

“Initially, I was afraid that I wouldn’t find enough meaningful projects to fill a whole year with. Now halfway through my gap year, I still feel like I have so much left that I want to do. I feel inspired by new opportunities weekly. The hard decision is not how to find opportunities, but instead where to best invest my time as opportunities worth pursuing are everywhere.

The most critical lesson I’ve learnt, undoubtedly, is to find comfort within the feeling of uncertainty. While insecurities still linger from time to time based on the judgement faced from having chosen a gap year, I know I would be experiencing the same kind of internal insecurity had I chosen to jump straight into university. So far, choosing a gap year was my personal best bet. It gave me a sense of clarity of what I want to do next, while providing the motivation and hands-on experience needed to understand why pursuing an alternative business degree in global change and project management is right for my future.”

Read more…

Welcome ARCC: Newly Accredited Members of AGA

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Newly Accredited: Adventures Cross Country (ARCC)

We are very excited to announce the accreditation of another fabulous Gap Year program provider: Adventures Cross Country (ARCC).

ARCC Gap semester programs that focus on living locally, working, learning and exploring in some of the greatest classrooms on earth. Designed with an academic fabric that complements each and every location, ARCC Gap programs highlight regional issues that are directly linked to global challenges

For over 30 years ARCC Programs has offered extraordinary service and adventure programs for teenagers in some of the world’s most spectacular locations. With 22 programs on 6 continents, ARCC is proud of the lasting impact that generations of ARCC students have had on the people and the communities they visit and volunteer in throughout the world.

We’re honored to add this time-tested company to our community of Accredited Members and are excited about the possibilities their membership affords students seeking an educational and service oriented Gap Year.

The ARCC Gap Year

ARCC Gap Year programs offer an educational semester in a global classroom and cultural bridge between high school and college. They are an opportunity to live, work, learn and explore in some of the greatest classrooms on earth. Designed with a rich academic fabric complementing each and every location, they highlight regional issues that are directly linked to global challenges.

Here’s what ARCC has to say about the programs they provide:

Unique and Unforgettable Experiences

ARCC is committed to providing unique and life-changing experiences that resonate deep within our students. On our programs, our students venture far off the beaten path, go to places and do things that most people can only dream about. We’ve spent over thirty years building close relationships with organizations and communities around the world to ensure our students engage in truly intimate, authentic encounters with the people, the cultures and the lands they visit.

Rich Educational Programming

Education is an essential part of the ARCC experience. Lessons throughout the program may be academic, in the form of the trip curriculum, or may be experiential, delivered through immersion in new ideas and situations.

Community-Driven Projects

ARCC Summer and Gap programs focus on community-driven and community-led sustainable projects that run on the ground year round. We invest in local communities by working with in-country partners and individuals who know the needs of the community and help provide quality projects that directly benefit the places we visit. We prioritize grassroots organizations that allow students to have hands-on experiences, while building meaningful relationships with community members.

Learn More About ARCC

National College Planning Summit Interview With Ethan Knight

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High school seniors are in the throes of college admissions paperwork and planning. The National College Planning Summit is a free online resource to help parents and students navigate the, sometimes rough, waters of the transition from high school to college.

The Summit is now available on YouTube and the Summary Notes of each interview are available for free download

Check out Ethan’s interview about Gap Years and college planning:

Click here for the summary notes of Ethan’s interview.

Advice for Parents from Gap Year Parents

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As a Gap Year counselor, I work closely with students to design meaningful plans for their time out. More often than not, a student’s parents are also by their side to encourage and inspire the planning process. Parents of gappers see the value in travel and experiential learning but also want to make sure their child will be safe on their Gap Year. If you are currently helping your child through the planning process, consider these tips from seasoned Gap Year parents who have been there!

1. Start Thinking About a Gap Year Early

In my experience, the sooner a student starts brainstorming their Gap Year plans, the more deliberate the ultimate itinerary turns out to be. Gap Year parent Jane suggests, ”Try to get started on the exploration of opportunities early in the process and be open-minded. A variety of experiences is valuable…these kids are still young – why not take advantage of a few opportunities?”

An excellent entry point to Gap Year research is visiting a Gap Year fair or starting to look at AGA accredited opportunities online.

2. Good Communication is Essential

Start planning by getting everyone on the same page. Gap Year parent Debra offers this advice: “Take both your child’s and your wants and desires into consideration. As parents, we were not comfortable with some programs, but our advisor was able to find programs that made everyone happy. There are so many programs out there, you can find something that works for every member of the family.”

“It’s all about balance,” explains Diann, whose son planned a Spanish-immersion gap year that took him to Spain and South America. She encourages families to set expectations together regarding accountability and decision-making. It helps for parents to set parameters at the outset of planning and then allow their child the freedom to tackle the decision-making within a framework that’s comfortable for everyone.

3. Research is Key

Planning a gap year is a research undertaking for the student and their family. After her daughter’s Gap Year, Jessica offers, “I think you have to figure out what your goals are and then hang in there until you find the right programs. There are so many choices. It can be overwhelming, but with help you can narrow in on the right ones. I also think it was extremely helpful to speak with the program directors. In one case we decided not to pursue a program that had looked like a good fit from their materials.”

4. Ensure Your Child Has Skin in the Game

“Travel AND work,” says Hilary, who watched her son save money to travel to Asia and Belize. “Make sure the student earns something to help pay for at least some of the experience.” Students can save for their gap time in a variety of ways, including crowd-funding, working or leveraging a special skill. Wendy’s daughter knitted scarves for three months to fund a trip to Thailand. She believes the experience was fantastic for her daughter, including the fact that she earned the experience. “The three months in Thailand was a life changer for my daughter,” Wendy says. “It showed her that she was strong and resilient, that the world is full of kind people… She met lots of people from many different countries and made some lasting friendships.”

5. Help Your Child Mentally and Physically Prepare for Their Travels

Preparing for a Gap Year is a delicate balance of preparation and learning to roll with the inevitable bumps in the road. Perrin’s son spent much of his Gap Year traveling independently in Argentina. She thinks it’s important for fellow parents to realize, “Nothing is ever going to be exactly what you anticipate – but it will all be a great experience.”
Other parents urge successors to, “Apply for a South African visa asap,” or “Don’t forget the vaccinations!” In other words, create a check-list of the things that need to happen in the months leading up to departure. The physical tasks of preparing for a trip have the added benefit of mentally preparing a student for leaving.

6. Step Back and Let the Magic Happen

It’s hard to watch your child struggle on their Gap Year, but allowing your child to problem solve is all part of the experience. Gap Year parent Betsy explains, “Let your child get into and out of her/his own trouble. [Gaining] confidence that they can survive travel misfortunes is part of the beauty of a gap year.”

Genevieve feels the same way: “Parents need to let their kids go…I didn’t hear from my son during the time he was living in his Fijian village, but I thought it was important to let him have the space and make his own way.”

7. Witness the Evolution

We love hearing from parents about the changes they witness in their own children over the course of a Gap Year. Here are some highlights from recent parents of Gap Year students:

“She is more responsible at taking care of her affairs…managing travel, money and logistics. She is more empathetic, and sincerely appreciates the opportunities she’s had in her life.”

“[My daughter] has a deeper sense of calm and maturity after this past year. She developed an even better sense of herself and it appears to have given the time to reflect and further define her own personal value system. She also has a ‘lightness of being’ that I would ascertain comes with the observations she made on her own humanity relative to our earth and how other people live. She has developed a serious desire to have impact which I am sure will redirect her life path from here forward.”

“He knows now that the world is big and diverse. It’s not so abstract anymore. He jumped out of his comfort zone and came to know himself better–and to experience a confidence in his ability to navigate life.”

“This experience was life changing for [my daughter]. She left as a recent high school graduate who waited to be told what to do and returned as a young woman who is confident in her abilities like never before. It helped her find her passion for teaching, for travel and for meeting people of all walks of life.”

8. Parting Words

Perhaps Gap Year parent Ann says it best: “You will never regret giving your child this opportunity.”

Julia Rogers is the Founder of EnRoute Consulting, a firm dedicated to providing mentorship and logistical support for young people who take gap years before or during college. Over the past ten years, Julia has become an expert in her field by advising hundreds of students, as well as personally visiting gap year programs in over twenty countries. She works with high schools, colleges, service-learning organizations, non-profits, government entities and families to further experiential education and ethical travel.

New Videos to Build Financial Literacy for Gap Year Students

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Gap Years are all about skill building. During an educational “year on” students have the opportunity to put boots to the book knowledge they’ve been accruing over 12 years of formal schooling. One of the big points of skill building and real world learning that surface during the planning and execution of a Gap Year is financial literacy and skill building. All of a sudden, students who have been under the umbrella of parents find themselves responsible for saving a large amount of money and figuring out how to spend that wisely.

If you are a student working to get your head around the financial aspects of your Gap Year and adulthood, or an adult who works with young people in the transition of emerging adulthood, this is for you!

As a new tool in the toolkit for bridging the gap between financial dependence and independence, the team at Steve Buhaly’s Money Tips has put together a YouTube channel as part of an educational, not-for-profit endeavor to raise awareness on financial literacy and empowerment for young adults, primarily college students or recent grads.

The videos cover topics like savings, debt, and investing basics (and they’re currently working on a few others that include job hunting, interviewing, negotiating, and more in-depth coverage on investing). The next topic, on investing basics, should be released very soon.

These videos are free for public use, and have no advertisements. Below, is the first release topic on savings.

If you know of any young people or organizations that would benefit from using these videos, please feel free to share them. The primary purpose in circulating this content is to help educate young adults on how they can secure a healthy financial future in an entertaining and engaging way.

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19 Year Old Oliver Crane Rowing the Atlantic on His Gap Year

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Nineteen-year-old Oliver Crane is preparing to row 3,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic – which will make him the youngest person ever to row solo across any ocean.

Ollie is taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, billed as the world’s toughest row, not only to push himself while on his gap year but to raise funds for marine conservation.

The challenge, which starts in the Canary Islands and finishes in Antigua, will begin on December 12 and is expected to take around three months – meaning Ollie will be on his own for Christmas and New Year. He admits he will miss his family and friends, particularly at these times.

“I have enjoyed scuba diving since I was 10 and have seen first-hand the devastation that climate change, over-fishing and garbage pollution have already wreaked on the ocean. It was a dream come true to go to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia but the part I saw was a let-down. There was horrific damage. It ignited my passion for ocean conservation.

“I thought this challenge was a good way to combine the two, so I’m raising money for Oceana, the largest charity in the world focused solely on ocean conservation. It works with governments to pass laws that protect ocean environments and sustainable fisheries.”
Oliver Crane

Ollie found out about the annual Atlantic event after looking online for difficult challenges. “It’s a tradition in my family to take on a project before university,” said Ollie, who will be going to Princeton University to study politics. He has four siblings – three older and one younger – and their achievements include climbing Mount Everest, cycling across Africa and hiking from Mexico to Canada.

The two-year-old boat that Ollie has bought, the SS4, was custom-built for ocean rowing. It has a solar-powered water-maker and is designed to right itself if it capsizes. It doesn’t have a toilet; Ollie will have to use a bucket. The boat completed the Atlantic crossing last year with a pair of rowers from Devon.

Ollie said: “After the race I will take it to schools and yacht clubs in the US and talk about the challenge and ocean conservation. Then I’ll sell it on.

You can find out more about Oliver’s quest and make donations through his website.

This article excerpted from Devon Live where it was originally published October 6, 2017.

Announcing Dianna Hahn as the Associate Director of AGA

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There’s big news at AGA this month as we announce a new executive level team member. We couldn’t be more excited to have Dianna Hahn’s expertise and enthusiasm for Gap Year expansion on board. Not only did Dianna benefit from her own Gap Year, it changed the course of her career, and we’re so glad it did!

Dianna Hahn, AGA’s Associate Director

Dianna’s journey with Gap Years began during her own Gap Year when she deferred a semester at college to live in Paris as an au pair. This sparked her interest in travel and experiential education. She went on to study abroad, and pursue a masters in International Education as a result of a last minute decision to do something different before heading to college!

Now as an international educator with more than 15 years of experience working with youth, volunteers, artists, and educators in both experiential and international setting, she is a strong advocate for Gap Year programming. As the director of Global Routes and previously its partner organization, Windsor Mountain International Travel, Dianna has worked with hundreds of families to support students in meaningful educational programs. She also was the director of Clowns Without Borders, an organization bringing artists into areas of crisis to provide performances and workshops for children.

In recent years she has been consulting for various international education organizations with a focus on staffing, strategic planning, and crisis management. Her main focus has always been to build community across cultures and encourage long lasting friendships across the world.

Dianna has organized educational programs for youth and adults throughout the US and in more than 20 countries. She has traveled to Samoa to research the culture of tattooing, facilitated leadership and service learning programs in the Grenadines, paraded in the streets of Port Au Prince, Haiti with a band of clowns and musicians and collaborated with performing artists in Northern India to perform for migrant worker children. She loves spending time with her family outdoors and dabbling in the garden when she gets a chance!

Dianna holds an MA, International Education, School for International Training. BA, Anthropology, Connecticut College.