During their first year out of high school, many 18-year-olds sign up for basic biology, psychology and Speech 101.
Anna Malsky from West Pittston signed up for Fiji, Australia and New Zealand instead.
These aren’t courses ABOUT the foreign countries, but real volunteer experiences she’ll have as a participant in Global Gap, a program designed to help young people spend a year between high school and college learning about global issues and immersing themselves in other cultures.
For someone who wasn’t certain what she would have studied if she immediately enrolled in higher education, Malsky said, the program sounds perfect.
“I always told my parents I wanted to travel,” said Malsky, 18, the youngest of Gina and Leo Malsky’s three children, who recently graduated from Wyoming Area High School. “I think it’s going to be an adventure.”
Information she gleaned from past participants’ blogs makes her suspect she’ll find herself shearing sheep in New Zealand or performing other farm tasks.
“A lot of it is agricultural,” she said.
Testimony from past participants includes comments that their months abroad left them feeling more mature and capable of facing all sorts of challenges.
“If I can survive the jungle, if only for three months, I’m not afraid of anything,” wrote one young man who spent time in India.
While Malsky’s adventure could include anything from helping to build a road to tending organic crops, she expects there will be time for backpacking excursions, hiking, scuba diving and bungee jumping.
The program, which begins in September with orientation in Oregon, allows her to earn college credits through Portland State University, but the most important part will be what she learns, Malsky said.
She’s putting her graduation money toward her plane fare and is looking forward to sampling new cultures.
“We’re so proud of her,” mom Gina Malsky said, predicting her daughter will return with a greater sense of self-knowledge and a wealth of experiences.
“I think it’s going to be a big reality check to see how people live (in other parts of the world),” Anna Malsky said. “We might stay in a hut.”
Speaking of rough conditions, she knows she won’t have 24/7 access to a cell phone or wi fi. She says that’s OK.
“I don’t go crazy if I don’t have my phone,” she said with a grin.