Gap Year Experiences Nicole Brigstock

College '20, Political Science
Volunteering in Nepal

My gap year experience:

When I was in Nepal during my gap year, I was volunteering at an NGO that provided daycare for children with Autism and Down Syndrome. I had a lot of discussions with the director of the NGO, one of which brought us to the topic of women's rights. He told me about a cultural practice in Nepal known as Chhaupadi which places strict restrictions on girls and women when they are menstruating. They must live in huts separate from their house during this period. This poses many human rights issues as they are not only socially stigmatized but also made more vulnerable to weather, dangerous animals, fires, etc. When I got to Penn over a year and a half later and was in an Introduction to Human Rights course, we were tasked with writing a policy memo about a human rights issue. Using the background knowledge I had gained while living in Nepal and learning about women's issues firsthand, I was able to study the practice more critically and suggest policy avenues that the Nepali government could take to help alleviate the human rights concerns associated with Chhaupadi.

Taking a gap year was the best decision of my life!

Highlights from my gap year:

  • Going bungee jumping off the tallest bridge bungee in the world in South Africa

  • Learning about Nepali culture and seeing the Himalayan Mountains

  • Traveling to the Amazon and going swimming with pink dolphins

  • Teaching English to Spanish-speakers in Ecuador and Perú

  • Learning how to be present, how to prioritize my own happiness, and the importance that my cognition has on my actions

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