BY KENZIE ROBERTS | 28 MARCH 2017
I have become such a different person since taking this gap year, something I was really scared of at first before I left. Everyone was telling me it would be a great growing experience and I would mature so much.
What if I changed and grew TOO much? What if my family and friends don’t recognize me anymore and I started to get along with grandmas better than I do my own peers because I was too ‘mature’ for them?! (Disclaimer: Grandma’s are awesome. Especially mine. Also, I think I overestimated just how mature I would become. I still dance in grocery stores, much to Mechelle and Ruth’s dismay.)
Sharing these fears with those closest to me, they were quickly assuaged. “We all grow in different ways and at different times.” my Mum told me, “Your friends will still be there and love you when you get back, no matter what”. Thinking about my friends and who they are as people, I knew this was true. They were excited for me and proud of what I was doing. So off I went.
I have found that this experience, the gap year experience, has actually been really good for me. Before I came to Thailand, I was a little obsessed with social media and what everyone else was up to and ‘what Khloe Kardashian was wearing’, and the ‘who tweeted what about whose best friend’, and ‘Brad and Angelina Pitt broke up?!’
I was absorbed in a world that I could hold in my hand but had absolutely no effect on my life. It was good to get out of that hold that Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat had on me, and go do something. To see the world with my eyes instead of seeing it through the screen of my phone.
I would look at pictures of all of these exotic places that people went to and would often say “Oh I want to travel!” (Side note: ‘Traveling’ is all fun and games until security dumps your purse over and sends it through the scanner three times because of a broken earring). When the opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be just like the pictures all of my friends posted when they went on missions and aid trips. It’s a lot different when you are staying for longer than a week or a month, as many of my friends did. When you are staying for a year… the money, visas, permits, and the registrations… it’s a lot. It can be really overwhelming when you don’t speak the language either. The plane ride and time change itself is enough to put you in bed for a week. Not to mention how rough culture shock is. I was really disoriented by all the different ways they do things out here. Even going grocery shopping is an ordeal. Don’t even get me started on driving. It’s like everybody’s trying to die.
Despite all of this, I would never have changed a thing (other than studying the language maybe). I have learned so much about different people, different cultures, and different customs. There is more to this world than what we’re taught in high school. There is more to knowledge than the cells inside of a leaf, and the Pythagorean Theorem. There are entire cultures and people groups I had never heard of before coming out here, but are so prevalent today. For example, the world’s longest running Civil War has been going on since 1948 between different ethnicities in Burma and the government, and is still an ongoing issue. I had never heard of this war before. Not in school, not on the news, nowhere. I hadn’t even heard of the Karen or Rohingya people before! I have also discovered almost complete independence. That in itself is terrifying, but at the same time, exhilarating. You can leave dishes in the sink and go to bed whenever you want… but you have to buy yourself food and some of it actually has to be healthy. You have to pay bills and schedule doctor’s appointments, and all of the various things that come with being out on your own. It’s amazing because I finally feel like a grown up.
I have also learned a lot about the actual workings of Non-Profit groups and organizations in my (so far) 8 months here. What we are taught in school is so little of what is really out there. An entire world is there waiting for people to go out and work to improve where it’s at now. The videos you see of the scantily clad girls in prostitution rings need action, not a repost on Facebook. The picture of the sad homeless boy needs you to get up and make a change, not a like on Instagram. One like does not equal one prayer. Your donations are important, but one thing I have learned, and took rather hard, is that the money you donate DOES NOT always go to that child or that particular orphanage or children’s home.
When I told people that I was going to take a gap year, most of them assumed that I would be slacking off and that I didn’t want to go to college. When I told them I would be spending it in Thailand as an aid-worker, they immediately congratulated me and told me how amazing of an experience it would be. I am not going to lie to you, I took a gap year mainly because I didn’t want to go to college yet. I had just spent the past 12 years of my life sitting behind a desk learning menial things that I may use one day (still haven’t used my knowledge of mitochondria being the powerhouse of the cell, but I know we studied it for a straight week). I wanted a break. I did, however, need something to fill this break with. So I came out here where I have grown and matured and become a better version of myself. A more aware, questioning, curious, creative version of myself. This gap year has not created a new Kenzie, rather it expanded the possibilities and options for the old one.
By Mackenzie Roberts
Posted on Tue, March 28, 2017
by Global Alms Team