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Student Profiles

Cole Clark, Class of 2016

Hometown: Pebble Beach, CA

Major: History

What he did: Cole stayed with host families in Istanbul, Turkey, attending high school classes in Turkish and volunteering at a local art school for children with disabilities.

“I think my gap year allowed me, for the first time, to see myself outside of a quotidian context. By forcing myself into alien and sometimes unpleasant environments, I was able both critically evaluate my own performance as a person and to solidly enumerate specific goals for the future. I also feel like I was able to gain an intimate understanding of a place and culture that appears completely foreign to most of my classmates.”

Nathalie Folkerts, Class of 2016

Hometown: Marion, IA

Major: Potential Public Policy Analysis (PPA)/Development Studies Major, Media Studies Minor

What she did: Nathalie was sponsored by Rotary to live with families in Montbrison, France, attending high school classes in French, volunteering at a local hospital, and learning about French culture.

“My year in France taught me so many different things about French culture and myself and allowed to grow as a person. In intimately immersing myself in the French culture, I was able to consider the world from a new perspective and gain new insights into what I really wanted out of life. However, most importantly, I gained three new sets of parents, ten new siblings, and a whole slew of friends that have all shaped me into the person I am now.”

Emily Hill, Class of 2016

Hometown: West Cumberland, ME


What she did: Emily worked for the first half of her year with many different organizations including a greenhouse, theater nonprofits, and at an immigrant resource center. Then she traveled to Ecuador, working for two months in Quito to provide educational support for children and to teach English.

“It has helped in so many ways. Increased confidence, independence, cultural awareness, resilience, etc.  I also learned Spanish in Ecuador, a definite plus living in Southern California.  It has also made me more comfortable negotiating the 'real world' (looking for jobs, taking advantage of whatever opportunities come my way, befriending strangers).”

Max Houtzager, Class of 2016

Hometown: Ross, CA

Major: Media Studies, potential Economics or Japanese Minor

What he did: Max pursued his international pro mountain bike racing career, traveling to competitions in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and cities around the US.

“I spent a lot of time meeting people from all over the world, learning about different cultures, exploring in the wilderness while training on my bike, pushing my limits in various ways, and just letting my mind wander. The value from these experiences is definitely priceless. I learned a ton about myself and life in general (lifestyles, personalities etc). Overall, I feel like I can independently accomplish more on my own now that I know myself so much better, I can more regularly perform at 100%.”

Aidan Orly, Class of 2016

Hometown: Westport, CT

Major: Biology

What he did: Aidan traveled independently to Peru, where he lived with and volunteered in the rainforest, to Australia, where he worked on a watermelon farm, and to the Thailand, where he lived in a Buddhist monastery.

“Traveling to such different countries, especially on my own (not on an official program), opened my eyes to a wide array of diverse cultures. I immersed myself in the Latin American lifestyle I learned about in Spanish classes, bonded in a hostel with backpackers from all over the world after long days on a farm, and engaged in Buddhist tradition starting at 4 am each morning. Precarious situations challenge the lone traveler, but there was never a difficulty I could not overcome. Because of this, my confidence, independence and appreciation for the simplest comforts grew enormously.”

Dakota Spear, Class of 2015

Hometown: Bethany, CT

Major: Biology

What she did: Dakota worked at a sea turtle research and conservation station in Costa Rica through a program called United Planet. While there, she was able to learn about Costa Rican culture and sea turtles, learn Spanish, and travel to Panama, Nicaragua, and throughout Costa Rica.

“My experience really helped me gain perspective on different communities, cultures, and what is important in the world, and taught me a lot about my own values. I have more appreciation than I ever would have about other cultures and places, and keep in close touch with friends from Costa Rica and other countries that I met while there. I also now have confidence regarding international travel, and fully plan to keep traveling in order to learn about other cultures and ways of life in the future.”

Adam Horowitz, Class of 2015

Hometown: New York City, NY

Major: Cognitive Science, Minor in Religious Studies

What he did: Adam spent his time on a Global Citizen Year living with a family in a favela in Brazil teaching English and basic literacy along with working with the local government housing administration to manage and direct UN funding.

“I have gained perspective in the extreme, and certainly passion. I have a sense of the vastness of the world and how much I do not know and need to explore. I have a sense of myself as American from a Brazilian viewpoint, and a second home in Brazil. And I'm at Pomona with a sense of where I can go afterwards and the difference I can make.”