Done well, a gap year can help you broaden your perspective and better understand the world by experiencing new cultures and exploring your interests. Charlie Richards’ UnCollege gap year did just that, taking him from Bali to San Francisco. But travelling overseas didn’t just show Charlie another way of living – it also helped him broaden his perspective on his own life and the people he grew up with.
Charlie was adopted by an American family when he was 10. “I came from an orphanage where I had nothing,” he explains. “Then I came to America, where I had everything.” While Charlie was grateful for his new family and life, he was shocked by his experience of American culture. Other American kids his age seemed entitled and lazy. He remembered them “acting badly about what they don’t have and always asking their parents for more, new iPhones, new Xbox – it was a never-ending cycle of wanting more.” After growing up in an impoverished orphanage, Charlie was outraged that American children could be so entitled, saying that “it hurt me so much, and I had the negative assumption that every kid in the USA was like that.”
That’s what Charlie believed when he joined UnCollege. His gap year journey began in Bali, where he volunteered as an English and computer skills teacher for young children on the island. Charlie related more with the Balinese kids he worked with than his American peers. “Their environment wasn’t so privileged,” he remembered. “They had no hot water, no AC and it was so hot and humid there. They had no wifi, their only source of entertainment was dancing and volleyball.” Spending time with these children made Charlie’s belief that American kids are overprivileged and lazy even stronger.
After Bali, Charlie moved on to the next phase of the UnCollege experience when the cohort unites in San Francisco to learn life skills, explore their interests, and work on real-world projects. While living with the other fellows, “everything became clear” for Charlie, and he realized that his previous disdain for Americans his age was misguided. “The kids at UnCollege were working so hard every day,” he said. “They sometimes even forgot to take care of themselves, some of them got extremely sick, and some of them worked so hard they forgot about going to bed.” As Charlie watched his peers work hard and learn to take better care of themselves, he saw that the world was so much bigger, and the people in it were so much more diverse than he had known.
Ultimately, reflecting on how he sees other students and the world during his gap year helped Charlie move on from the rage he had felt at the unfairness of his childhood and and gain a passion for developing his interests and seeing the world with new eyes. As he enters the next stage of his life, Charlie will remember that “there will be things you’re just not going to like. That’s how the world is, it’s unfair. But in those things that you don’t like you’ve got to find something meaningful and make it who you are.”
Want to expand your own perspective before beginning the next phase of your life? Learn more about how a gap year can help you explore new cultures, challenge your beliefs, and help you better understand yourself.