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Gap Year Abroad

5 posts categorized "Travel"



“Much progress, and much to be done.” the one and only- Lisa Margo Levine 

It is a wild to think that after only a 6 hour bus ride, I found myself in a new continent, new country, and completely new colorful, captivating, culture.


We were only in Morocco for the weekend, so it was a very short amount of time to truly understand the culture, but here are a few of my initial thoughts. The first thing I noticed was the extremely high ratio of men to women. It was something like 75: 25 for the people I came into contact with. It could have been more or less but it was enough for me to notice something was very different. The whole weekend seemed to be run by men, hotel workers and shopkeepers, tour guides, servers at the restaurant, people helping us onto the camels, showing us silk blankets and explaining natural medicines…all men. Occasionally you see a woman in the street selling her fruit and vegetables but that is about it. 





Another difference was the few women who were out in the streets were covered up completely, usually in a traditional piece of clothing called a djellaba, a long dress with sleeves and a hood. A few men in the streets were wearing djellabas but there were also a lot of men in shorts and t-shirts as it was a beautiful day at least in the 70’s. It seemed so out of the norm for women not to be completely covered that I even got a few stares by having just my ankles showing.

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Before going to Morocco I knew that praying was a big part of the Arab culture and as the guide explained people are summoned, by bells, to the mosques 5 times a day and if you are working, like our guide for example, you can go at a different time or pray on your own time. But he also explained how although men and women can pray in the same mosque they are not allowed to pray next to each other.


As we were walking around to different shops and seeing how every single vendor was a man, I began to wonder where the women were and what they were doing. In one shop I asked the vendor if he was the one who made the scarves. He laughed and responded, “No, women in factories do that”. That was really hard for me to hear because yes, as a global society I think a lot of progress has been made over this issue of gender inequality but as I could see this weekend, there is still work to be done. 


Growing up in the States I have always experienced and understood that men and women are equal. We have equal opportunities for jobs, to vote, to get an education, and how to dress; the list goes on and on but in Morocco I felt a different vibe.

Experiencing a culture that is completely different from my own is not only important because it helps me create an understanding for people of all backgrounds but it also is helpful in creating an appreciation for my own culture.

There are positives and negatives in every culture, but I think it's important to create an accepting society that is as well-rounded as the sphere of the planet on which we live. 


Ciao for now! 


La Despedida

After 8 months, 7 countries, and laughter and tears to last a lifetime, my gap year has ended. I couldn't have asked for a more friendly, amazing, nurturing group of people to experience it with, and I'm in debt to everyone who helped me chart my course throughout it all. I wouldn't have changed a thing about it, because throughout those months, I grew and matured and simply experienced more than I would've ever thought possible. The places we saw, the people we met, the situations we were in- all contributed a part to the inexplicable but amazing transformation that a gap year creates. To be honest, the person I was 9 months ago, I don't recognize. I am incredibly lucky and blessed to have lived and experienced what I did, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

You’ve felt it, haven’t you? Those feelings that seem to get so big in your chest, like something is so beautiful it aches?

Heather Anastasiu


My last sunset in Sevilla- quite a beauty, ain't she?



The entrance to Feria- shining as bright and true as ever. 


The family that I laughed, cried, gossiped, danced, sang, traveled, and lived with. Thank you for everything. 


All the good times, all the bad times, and everytime between have led me to this point. 
I'm home.



Me gustas tu - music

Hello, everyone. Although I haven't made an official blog post in quite awhile, I figured I'd take the time to talk about an important subject for us- school.

Ain't nobody fresher than my Clic.. (sorry I had to)

The other gap students and I all go to school at CLIC. It's a language school specifically, and they have many different levels of classes and activities to do to help you with your spanish. For example, you can do an intercambio, or meet with a native sevillano, and talk to them in english for an hour and then Spanish. I did this two days ago, and had a blast with my intercambio. His name is Javier and his first question for me was - "how do you use "dude" in a sentence?!" Intercambios are great for meeting native speakers and bettering your Spanish, so luckily for us, Clic does a terrific job of arranging the intercambios.

    Additionally, there are what my professor refers to as "speed-dates," basically just weekly meetings with a jumble of nationalities, German, English, American, Japanese, Korean, Australian, etc. where everyone tries to meet as many people as they can.. I haven't been yet but they sound awesome. Speaking of greatness, I've been really impressed by our classes at Clic.
We start class at 9:15, have just enough time during break to run and grab sandwiches from Sur, and then second class starts at 12 and we get out at 1, so not too bad if you ask me! Although my classes in Chile were interesting and challenging in terms of my vocab and general understanding of literature, my classes here are definitely better for improving my grammar and the technicalities of Spanish. My teacher, Adrian, is an extremely patient teacher, and I love it when we break from grammar to study songs. He's the only teacher I've ever had who's called me by my full name, however, but perhaps it's better because many people here call me Mary on accident instead of Maddy- so I'm okay using Madeleine for class! He's a salsa dancer, and always puts on the best background music when we're working in class, but I especially like it when we learn from songs- everything from Shakira to Manu Chao to Silvio Rodriguez. I've put the link up above from an 8 tracks mix you guys mightlike... many of which we've listened to in class. 



Maya and I during a class fieldtrip





Hike//Bike - Peru Style

Recently, 5 friends and I (all from the CIEE Chile/Spain gap group to be specific) headed to Peru for an 8 day trip. The trip included a 4 day, 3 night Inca trail expedition in the heart of Cusco, Peru. This blog entry details our first two days on the trip.




On Saturday, we scrambled out of bed at 6 and left our hostel to go to Lorenzo’s house (the event coordinator) for breakfast. I hogged the peanut butter, and we all enjoyed traditional Peruvian bread (which is a kind of softer, thinner, round bread than the typical Chilean “pan batido”) with eggs, bananas and jam. Then, we all gathered around to hear some of the plans for later, and piled in the car with 15 new friends to start the bike tour. At the top of the Mountain, El Nevado Verónica, also known as Wakaywillque, we geared up for an intense, drenching rain descending 36 mile ride to the bottom for lunch. The road we rode on was extremely safe, except for some terrifying tour busses that would swerve by and leave a cloud of gas that left you gasping for air minutes after they passed, and the occasional puddle and construction hazards that left my shoes/clothes absolutely saturated with mud and water. When I finally got to our meeting spot for lunch, I noticed everyone wringing out their shoes and walking around barefoot, the after effects of what felt like our own Hurricane Sandy. After an amazing lunch of fried broccoli, soup, and beef and rice, we headed to the hostel. We had a lazy night ahead of us, and went to bed full, and had a relaxing and restful sleep. We woke up to screams the next morning, however, when Michelle discovered that a cockroach had fallen on her head at around 5:30 in the morning. Later, the british boys Tom and Alex in our group joked that she had been a great alarm clock for the whole hostel. The day continued with a….





If a 12 hour, ascending in elevation, 80 percent humidity, 90 degree weather, mosquito infested hike sounds like fun to you, you might be a gap student.

But the hike was definitely the most rigorous I have ever done, mainly because of the extra 25 pounds due to us carrying all of our stuff with us (and I was stupid enough to pack not only my DSLR but my Canon camera as well, along with various beauty products as well.. never again). Michelle and I took the hardest parts slowly, talking and laughing about our struggles in Spanish with our Peruvian guide Steven the whole time, and at one point he took both our bags (without asking) and sprinted up the steepest, rockiest part without a word, leaving us gasping in disbelief about how out of shape we must be. The trek took us through canyons, beautiful views of the jungle interior, dry river beds, swimming holes, and up ancient Inca trails. However, I started feeling exhausted on the way to lunch. When we finally arrived at the small village where we were going to eat, my friend Clay shot me a serious look and said, “Wilbur just told me we’re skipping lunch.” My face fell, and two of my other friends started cracking up at my expression and Clay’s very unfunny joke… however, lunch revived all our spirits and we continued the hike without a problem. About ¾ of the way through the hike, we crossed a river using a very old pulley/ cable car system. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time, as we were 50 feet up from the churning rapids, a buzzing hornet’s nest, and a group of Peruvian men attempting to cut a stuck log with a chain saw… definitely an unforgettable experience. The happiest moment of the hike was climbing down the hill to the hot springs at Santa Maria- Michelle and I hiked our bags farther up our shoulders and ran down it in happiness, whooping and hollering the whole time. After a great swim in the natural hot springs, I caved in and bought a Coke and Reese’s (I know, how American of me..) and nearly cried from how good it tasted after all our trekking that day. We had another early night to bed in the hostel, and drifted off to sleep stuffed and content.






Santiago De Chile

As I mentioned previously, Hayley, Mel and I went to Santiago this weekend. We left Friday morning, and had a great time. A basic summary of our trip-


After a two hour bus ride, we arrived in Santiago and took the metro to get to our hostel. We checked in, had lunch there, and relaxed before heading out and walking around and seeing some of Santiago for ourselves. One of the more interesting things we found was a bridge where couples had attached locks to the sides of the bridge and painted little notes to each other on the sides of the bridge- some of the inscriptions were so old that they had started to fade! After that, we ended up finding an amazing artisan fair, with lots of local and home-grown organic products. For our dinner, Hayley found a stand that was selling whole-wheat vegan empañadas filled with cheese and sautéed vegetables- it was a great take on the typical Chilean empañadas and absolutely delicious.



We began the day by eating breakfast at our hostel, and then took the metro to Parque Los Dominicos. There, we picked up our 5K Las Mujeres Corremos race registration packets and some delicious raisins at a farmers market before heading back to the hostel. We then went to Fantasilandia, which is a large amusement park. It was definitely an interesting experience (as I’ve never been taller than an entire crowd before, that’s a new one) but it was worth it when we got to ride some awesome rollercoasters. After that, we headed back to the hostel to meet Hayley’s cousin, Mark. He works at the US Embassy in Santiago and although he had never met Hayley before, it was wonderful to meet his wife and 3 month old baby, Matthew. They were extremely polite and we had a great dinner in a restaurant off of Calle Bellavista with them. We were tuckered out and jumped into bed as soon as we got back to our hostel.


We woke up early to get ready for the race, and then took a colectivo (local black and yellow taxi) to Parque Los Dominicos. We had a great time doing Zumba as a warm up for the race, and running it as well. Hayley actually finished 25th out of  3,500 people which is absolutely amazing! Mel and I finished closer to 300th place.. but who's counting?! After the race, we enjoyed free bananas and oranges and a cooldown stretch. It was a great experience overall, and I'm sure we'll be signing up for more 5Ks and races in the future.


Gap Bloggers

  • Eva - Gap Year Abroad in Japan
  • Eamon - Gap Year Abroad in Spain
  • Sage - Gap Year Abroad in China
  • Kira - Gap Year Abroad in France
  • Smith - Gap Year Abroad in Chile
  • Maddy - Gap Year Abroad in Japan
  • Hannah - Gap Year Abroad in Italy
  • Chloe - Gap Year Abroad in Chile