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Anything But a Gap Year

"The world is so much bigger and so much more complex than I'd ever let myself imagine it to be. It turned my life into an exploration of people's stories, and I hope I never lose that." - Rosalie Bull '20

Rosalie Bull and Ian Treger Two first-year students take a gap year to live abroad and learn about a different culture -- and themselves.

Most of Washington and Lee University's first-year students are matriculating right out of high school. But two of them, Rosalie Bull, of Dallas, Texas, and Ian Treger, of Lexington, Virginia, chose to take a gap year before starting college.

Far from taking time off from their education, both lived abroad to learn about a different culture and to learn something about themselves.

Rosalie, as part of the Global Citizen Year Program, lived with a family in the Pastaza region of Ecuador, a part of the Amazon rainforest. She was an apprentice at Parque Botánico Los Yapas, a non-profit organization created by a group of agronomists, biologists and a computer engineer interested in nature conservation. The park works on several projects including reforestation, an orquidarium, endemic palm-tree planting, an organic farm, medicinal plants and essential oil distillation.

"I was interested in doing a gap year because I wanted to be intentional with my education and with life in general," she said. "College is one of the first big decisions we make as adults, yet it is usually not one we make of our own accord. College is a kick-butt opportunity, and I wanted to make sure that I was doing it for myself. More than anything, I wanted to see the world and widen my perspective before deciding what to do with my life."

At the moment, Rosalie is interested in anthropology and the Shepherd Poverty Program. Her year abroad "gave me a new sense of wonder. It's like the saying, ‘The more you know, the more you know you don't know.' The world is so much bigger and so much more complex than I'd ever let myself imagine it to be. It turned my life into an exploration of people's stories, and I hope I never lose that."

She wrote about her experiences on the Global Citizen Year website.

Ian Treger '20
Ian Treger '20

Ian spent the year in Bonn, Germany, attending a German high school because, he said, "I wanted to let myself become a more mature person before starting college. I also wanted to travel and to learn German."

He added, "Taking a gap year also revealed certain interests that I didn't know I had, especially my interest in languages. Learning German helped my concentration, and living abroad made me independent and able to rely on myself. I'm interested in studying history, German and French at W&L, but there are also many other courses that interest me."

In his blog, Ian summed up his experience: "It was difficult to come here. A new country, language and people at first made me hesitant. After six months, something clicked, and my German improved immensely, and, as a result, I gained confidence and became more open. I started speaking with everyone and expanding the circle of people I spent time with. Somehow I went from being an exchange student in the first six months, to being something more for the last few. I look at my life in Germany now, today, and there's nothing negative I can find."

-Louise Uffelman | luffelma@wlu.edu

Global Experience

Lexington, Virginia, is a warm, welcoming and historic college town located in the Great Valley of Virginia. Yet Washington and Lee maintains a vibrant multicultural community, with global opportunities reaching far beyond the campus' borders.

In Action People and Programs

Lexington, Virginia, is a warm, welcoming and historic college town located in the Great Valley of Virginia between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. Yet Washington and Lee maintains a vibrant multicultural community, with global opportunities reaching far beyond the campus' borders.

Students at Washington and Lee are encouraged to study abroad, whether it be for a year, a semester or a four-week, faculty-led Spring Term course. Some students seek out international programs for summer experiences and can find funding through Johnson Opportunity Grants or other institutional aid. Over 60 percent of our students study abroad at some point in their undergraduate experience, and students who show significant commitment to global interaction may apply to have their experiences recognized with a Certificate of International Immersion.

W&L's commitment to global learning extends to the faculty as well. Professors are encouraged to integrate international experiences and perspectives in their teaching and research. International students, scholars and performers bring new cultural perspectives to campus, while partnerships with a number of universities and programs abroad provide both students and faculty with valuable research opportunities.

In 2014, the University broke ground on the Center for Global Learning, a 26,000-square-foot facility that will house several language departments, classrooms, instructional labs and public spaces that will encourage student and faculty interaction.

Outside the classroom, students can to apply to live in one of two international theme houses and join a number of globally minded student organizations, which plan events and bring together students interested in a global undergraduate experience throughout the year.

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At a Glance Facts and Figures

Over 60% of the class of 2013 participated in an international experience during their  four years at W&L.
Last year, students studied, interned, did research or volunteered in 45 different countries.
W&L broke ground on the $13.5 million Center for Global Learning in 2014.
W&L students hail from 38 countries.
W&L offers 15-20 Spring Term Abroad courses offered annually.
W&L received $796 thousand in grant funds to support the development of new programs and projects in international education.

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Washington and Lee University provides a liberal arts education that develops students' capacity to think freely, critically, and humanely and to conduct themselves with honor, integrity, and civility. Graduates will be prepared for life-long learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.