Finding comfort outside the zone

Posted on the 9th June 2020

We interviewed Jane about her reflections on her Lattitude Gap Year experience as an Outdoor Camp Assistant in Northern Ireland.

I volunteered as an Outdoor Camp Assistant at Greenhill YMCA National Outdoor and Residential Center, in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, leading a variety of age groups in activities like climbing, archery, and team building exercises. Greenhill hosts volunteers from all over the world through Lattitude and the equivalent programmes abroad. Because of this, I was able to meet and live with a group of kindred spirits during my year abroad.

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What was your reason for doing a Gap Year?

The main reason I chose to do a Gap Year was because I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I graduated high school. I knew I wanted to go back to school but had no idea what for,  I wanted to explore the world, and I knew I needed to do something to take steps towards figuring out what I wanted in life. Lattitude seemed like the best possible plan for me to accomplish all of those things at once. I suddenly had an opportunity to step out on my own as a young adult, experience a new job unlike anything I had done before, while maintaining a love for travel and the outdoors.

It also gave me the opportunity to separate myself from everything I had grown up with, people, places and expectations.  I knew that for me to grow into a well-rounded adult, I would have to force myself into a situation where I knew nothing and no one and build myself back up. The thought of all this terrified me but that’s how I knew I made the right choice. In a lot of ways I made it harder on myself than I needed to, but it was because of the discomfort and fear I felt at first that I became who I am now.

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What’s one thing you learned or one thing about you that you feel has changed?

Before Lattitude and Greenhill, I could have never imagined myself in such a role. In school I did everything in my power to be quiet and blend in to the background, and the thought of leading a group of kids terrified me. Then suddenly it became my comfort zone, I loved interacting and working with all age groups, and even the difficult ones who at the beginning put a damper on my day, turned into a blip on the radar. I could have never imagined I would feel so at ease with not only interacting with people, but also being  the one they looked to when they needed help, the one who was responsible not only for their group on arrival but for each person we took on a session. In the span of a year I grew to not only be confident in my choices as a leader but also confident as a person.

When I arrived, I hid in my room, barely speaking to anyone and leaving only long enough to get food. If anyone tried to speak to me, I could barely squeak out a response before hurrying back to the safety of my room. By the end I was one of the last people to bed every night, I shared a room with a girl who turned into my best friend and met people and had experiences I will carry with me forever.  I had completely come out of my shell and had formed everlasting bonds with not only the volunteers and staff at my placement but also with kids I worked with. I’ve went back to visit each summer since to see all the wonderful people I met, and still have kids come up to me, remembering my name and I theirs.

Would you recommend others consider taking a Gap Year?

I recommend that everyone take a Gap Year! It was one of the best choices I’ve made and has affected in me in a million different ways. Whether you’re 18 and fresh out of high school like I was, or you’ve already been to secondary school and need something different, or any other situation you find yourself in, you can always learn something more about yourself or about another part of the world. Lattitude let me discover a new place that has become like a second home, and I’m forever grateful that I made the choice to take a Gap Year.

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