Thinking Beyond Borders

Thinking Beyond Borders


A gap year is your time to get outside of the classroom and learn in the real world. It’s a time to find the direction you need to make college meaningful.

Take a gap year with purpose.

Go beyond just travel or service. Our global community faces complex challenges that require more than simple responses. TBB provides the skills and experience you’ll need to find lasting solutions. You’ll live alongside families and study with leaders working to address issues like public health and environmental sustainability around the globe. You’ll join a community where young people are finding their voices and learning to transform our world for the better.

What You'll Gain with TBB:

- Direction and Purpose
- Ownership of Your Learning
- Community

*TBB is a 501c3 educational non-profit.


PO Box 4432
San Rafael, CA 94913
United States

$9,999! Join the Asia Gap Semester before July 31st!

Apply now to receive an automatic tuition discount!


Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Hi! I was a member of the 2018-19 cohort on the TBB Global Gap Gear Program. It is hard to even start to put into words the overall experience of TBB. If you want to dig deep into the depths of yourself, your identity, and your place in this world, then this might just be the perfect program for you, as it was for me. There is something about traveling constantly, in places where you won't see any other tourists, learn from locals, create incredible family bonds with those who welcome you into their houses/families, and all without technology!! When I decided to go on a gap year, I knew I needed space from my life back home, from our culture and society. I needed space to be able to GROW! and expand. I was yearning for a break from sitting at a desk, and that being the extent of my learning in classes. I wanted to go out, to explore, and to be free/encouraged to do so. Thinking Beyond Borders sets you up for incredible opportunities that you yourself are responsible for making happen. Want to plan a trip to the beach with the whole group? Ok, sure, go find a hostel and let's get it organized. Coming super late to seminar because you started having a conversations about defining poverty with a local policeman and he wanted to get coffee and keep talking? Sure, no problem! Be sure to ask him about what got him there. It's these types of spontaneous moments of learning, growth, expansion, and perspective shifting that fosters such unique experiences. My journey couldn't have been possible without my AMAZING leaders and friends. This trip was exactly what I was looking for:
-traveling in foreign places
-living with local families
-learning their language
-independent/ plenty of alone time
-intellectual stimulation (seminars/language lessons/local speakers all throughout each week)
-so many good books!!!
-plenty of time exploring outdoors, hiking, swimming, etc
-a curriculum specifically made to learn more about yourself
-no phone/personal computers
-supports vegetarians!!

I could talk about this program forever. I had one of the most trans-formative times of my life, and I give most of that credit to TBB, for even getting me there, for stretching me in all different ways, and for being an incredible support system the whole way through.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Sitting on the plane from Morocco to the U.S...."no! noooo! What the HELL am I supposed to do now?? I never want to leave my TBB family!!!"
(it's ok, transitions is going somewhat smoothly, I'll have these friends and mentors for the rest of my life:)
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

I participated in the fall of 2018 Latin America semester and absolutely loved it. No other program compares to TBB. Everything I saw in each country I was in, the connections I made with locals, and what we learned in seminars seriously can't be found in other programs. There were many challenging parts but in those moments I found that's where I grew the most. TBB teaches you to think critically and I am so grateful for the different perspectives I gained through my experience. I've been back from the program for about three months now and everyday I use what I learned from TBB. Additionally, my program leaders and the other students with me were by far one of the best parts of the program. They were, and still are, my second family. To be with a group of people that have the same mindset as you is indescribable, those bonds will last a lifetime. I really would recommend this program to anyone thinking about a gap year!

What was your funniest moment?
One of the funniest moments was around Thanksgiving when we were all craving some banana bread. So, one of the students decided to make it. We had pretty limited resources as the grocery stores are really different then in the states but we managed to get all the ingredients. The student who made it left it in for too long and put in way too much baking soda so it tasted just awful but looked pretty good if you haven't seen banana bread for a while. It kinda looked like chocolate banana bread. Since it looked decent we got everyone to try it, we told everyone it was the best banana bread ever and got them super excited. Seeing their reactions was the funniest thing I've ever seen. Some people tried to be nice and was like ohhh wow this is great! Others just immediately spit it out.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB)- the pioneer and best gap year program on the market. TBB is able to combine cultural, social, academic and personal learning in an incredible, enjoyable, challenging and exciting way.
Every students gets the opportunity to learn and grow in the area he/she wants to grow and learn in.
TBB provides a structured and safe learning experience all around the globe, that is hard to find somewhere else. The extremely well trained staff creates a web of support for students who need it. TBBs' program is far away from volunteerism and focuses on sustainable worksites combined with student focused seminars, taveling the world and learning about new cultures. Critical thinking and the ability to ask questions is one of the key values of TBBs mission.
I did the global gap year 2016/17 and all I have written above isn't to advertise TBB, it is a honest reflection of my relationship and time I spend and worked with TBB over the cause of seven months.
TBB global gap year program is the best way to learn about yourself, the values you hold and the world that surrounds you. If you are looking for something to do before college you should get into contact with TBB. Many TBB alumni students are happy to get into contact with further students and help them to get to know TBBs mission better. Next to a big number of American alumni students TBB also has many European almuni students, who will offer support in the process of getting to know TBB.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

I wanted to do something that was off of the beaten path, the beaten path of course being going to college right after high school. This gap year program certainly fulfilled that "idea". I've learned and experienced things that no college freshman that went straight from high school to college would ever even dream of. I've experienced poverty, disease, death, hunger, and corruption in the countries I have visited. Amidst these pains, I have also experienced beauty and elegance in their oddest forms. From natural beauty of the ocean in South Africa, mountains in India, and the forest in Ecuador, to human beauty in its most unique forms. Individual human beauty...people that, despite suffering from several major illnesses, somehow manage to keep on living, struggling, and rising above some of the most daunting circumstances I have ever seen. People that have gone through hell yet still manage to put a smile on their face and laugh through the pain were probably the best things I experience. It beats out experiences such as the Taj Mahal, an African safari, and Machu Picchu. This trip changed my life for the better in countless ways.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Words cannot describe how amazing my experience with TBB was. I came into this program burnt out from high school, wanting to travel and learn more about the world and myself, as cheesy as that sounds. To say that the program changed me would not be true, TBB gave me the safe space and the tools to truly discover more about the worlds issues and how I can become an effective agent of change. TBB gave me an amazing community of people and the opportunity to go live and work in these local communities. You cannot learn about the world in a classroom, we learned through interactions with our host families, through readings and seminars, through discussions with each other at anytime of day, through random adventures, and through questioning what we saw around us. If you get the chance to do TBB, take on the challenge and just do it, you won't regret it.


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Alumni Interviews

Alumni interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Mattie Leila Wyndham

Mattie is an Anthropology & Women's, Gender, and Sexualities Studies double major at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Though a current Mainer, she was born and raised in Pawleys Island, South Carolina with a fierce love of grits and sweet tea.
Elephant ride during Global Gap Year

Why did you pick this program?

I get this question all the time, and I still don't have a succinct answer. Essentially, I first found Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB) because of its scholarship program, which I knew was a necessity for me. When I found TBB, though, I knew it was perfect for me. I read the Global Gap Year itinerary on their webpage and was blown away by the balance of the program.

TBB's Global Gap Year is not just about "seeing the sights" and "having adventure." You have that, sure, but TBB is for students seeking a path to becoming an agent of change. The combination of travel, education, and community speaks to that.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

I urge them to question why they are going and what their role will be once abroad. Thanks to TBB, I understand the harmful effects of some humanitarianism, voluntourism, and general travel. I have lots of friends here at Colby talking about study abroad or doing service work abroad, and I know some of them have not actively engaged in the type of conversations that raise these questions, but I personally try to have these conversations and pose these questions regularly.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Just one piece?! There's so much! Well, I think it helped me a lot to read the student blogs prior to the trip and connect with alum. I think it was a big advantage to my personal journey that I knew what I was getting into and had expectations for what was ahead of me. I knew the connections, community, and change work students before me had found, so I knew to take advantage of the opportunities TBB provided us.

With this in mind, I would also say get close to your program leaders! It is in an extraordinary gift, having three incredible, beautiful, dedicated, loving mentors who can help guide you through the challenging and transformative pieces of your Global Gap Year.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

My favorite story? Well, I have funny stories, sentimental stories, humorously tragic stories. But I suppose for this interview, one of my favorite stories to tell was actually told to me by one of my best friends, Aaron.

In Ecuador, which was our first country, we were living with the indigenous Tsa'Chilla tribe in Bua, Ecuador (close to the city of Santo Domingo). Like most of us, their second language was also Spanish, so it made communication that much harder. One morning, Aaron was at breakfast alone with his host father, Fausto - the community shaman.

Attempting to make conversation, Aaron picked up the jam from the table, which was branded "Snob," and proceeded to inform Fausto that in English, "snob" means "un person estúpido con mucho dinero" ("a stupid person with a lot of money"). Hearing this and not fully understanding Aaron's attempt at Spanish, Fausto nodded and silently removed the jam from the table. The jam was never seen again.

I love this story firstly because I find it absolutely hilarious, especially knowing Aaron and Fausto as people. Two pretty eccentric dudes.

But I also love this story because it reminds me of the warmth and relation we cultivated with our host families, especially in Bua. Across linguistic and cultural lines, we found deep connection with people from such different ways of life.

These lessons in love and community continues to guide me over a year later.

More on Mattie's transformational experience with TBB:

If you want to be radically transformed and guided into becoming the person you were meant to be, take a gap year with Thinking Beyond Borders. This program is not for everyone, but those who do it learn to love radically and question intensely.

I truly learned what love looks like on TBB. I learned how to love myself and how to love others. I developed the capacity for higher order empathy and for honest forgiveness. I discovered an ability to challenge my assumptions and look inward. Beautifully, I have come into college with a sense of self, which most of my peers cannot say. TBB helped me develop my own set of values; I am who I am because of TBB.

At 17, 18, 19 you are at a critical junction in your life with so many options ahead of you. I hope everyone has a chance to experience the kind of love I found on TBB.

Staff Interviews

Staff interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Chris Morales

Job Title
Program Leader
Chris is a teacher, mentor and guide. He is passionate about facilitating deep experiences for young adults whereby through exploration of the cultural and natural wilderness, young adults come to understand themselves and the world more deeply.
guy on a mountain

What is your favorite travel memory?

This is such a tough question - each experience is unique and speaks to different parts of me. One amazing memory that easily comes to mind though takes place on the coast of South Africa, in Tsitsikamma National Park. I was with a small group of students on a weekend of independent student travel (that I was lucky enough to be a part of). We had rented a small cabin on the wild shores of the park, overlooking a large rocky reef and even bigger waves crashing against it. From where we were, we were able to watch the sun set over the ocean in the west, watch the moon rise over the ocean in the east, gaze at the beautiful stars all night, and then watch the sun rise over the ocean in the east. It was the first time I was able to see the sun both rise and set over the ocean, and truly a magical experience to share with my students.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

There are so many people involved when it comes to a gap year - students, parents, employees, and people all over the world with whom the travelers interact - and success probably looks a bit different to each of those groups. I think, however, that no matter the company, evaluation and assessment are HUGE factors that often get overlooked but are crucial to longterm company success. Getting feedback from all involved and having the openness to adjust programming while still maintaining the mission and vision or the organization is key.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Absolutely. Throughout my time with TBB, my view of how to create change in this world shifted. I knew that education was a key mechanism in creating change, but as we learned and discussed education as part of the TBB curriculum, I realized that education can still be quite oppressive, and true liberation, an essential part of peace and justice, can only come from a liberating pedagogy where truth is something co-created by teachers and students and is forever and always changing to the current context of the world and our lives.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

I think TBB deeply understands the potential for negative impact involved with international travel and has structured its programs accordingly to maximize learning and minimize negative impact.

It is a humble organization that values learning over service and brings this attitude to itself as an ever-evolving organization, and the communities it visits.

This filters into the curriculum in deep and beautiful ways, and thus into the students, and because of this, I believe it brings the potential for humanizing relationships - what should be a key part of all international travel.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

It's beautiful to see the transformation that occurs in the students from the time they enter the program to the time they leave. Even more beautiful is when I get to witness the continued transformation as they bring back their learnings to their home country and communities. As a long traveler and global learner, I know that this return and reintegration is often where the hard work exists. Some of the best stories I've heard from return students are often some of the most painful conversations I have. The deep questioning that the students have learned on the trip often makes it difficult to reintegrate into their former social circles. Stepping into college, I find some students with one foot in one foot out of this society, not really sure about how to make sense of the world anymore. Although it is difficult for them, it is inspiring to see, and I know that the hardship is all part of a longer journey that will eventually lead to immense internal growth and societal transformation.

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