Soon after graduating from high school, I decided to take a gap year with Rotary Clubs International. I went abroad to Utrecht, the Netherlands were I lived with local host families, attended a local Dutch high school, and ultimately submerged myself in this new culture and society. I had applied to schools during my senior year of high school and was accepted to a few of them. Once I told them my plans of taking a gap year, they were very supportive, and even deferred my acceptance for the whole year as I completed the exchange. I went ahead to experience the best exchange an exchange student could ever asked for. I became fluent in the language within 5 months, met incredible friends who I travelled with extensively throughout Europe, and experienced new traditions and cultures I never imagined I would encounter. Best of all, this exchange allowed me extensive time to explore my interests, mold my personal and professional aspirations, and feel confident in my educational decisions. The gap year brought me to learn about the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program. Although I was enjoying this once-in-a-life time opportunity abroad, I knew that I would not be able to attend my dream university back in America if I did not find a way to raise enough capitol for tuition. My dream school, the University of Southern California (USC), had gracefully deferred my acceptance, but I would have most likely not been able to attend it if I had decided to go to college directly after graduation. I also knew I would not be able to attend it after my exchange if, again, I did not find a way to afford it. My back-up school was an in-state public university, the University of Florida (UF), which also gracefully deferred my acceptance until I finished my exchange.
This all meant I had two destinies- either attend UF after my exchange, like I would have if I decided to go to college directly after high school, or, find a way to earn enough scholarships to attend my dream school across the country in California!! I thus, became highly motivated and dedicated a lot of hours to perfecting scholarship applications. I send them to everyone who would accept me as an applicant, including the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program (GMSP). And guess what, I won! I was honored to receive this prestigious award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This not only allowed me to officially commit to my dream school, USC, but also gave me a network of achieving scholars, alumni, and renown companies that seek to help and promote us Gates Scholars in specifically. The scholarship not only meant 100% tuition-free at the University of Souther California for all 4 of my undergraduate years, but also provides me full-scholarship for my Masters and Doctoral Studies! This means getting my Bachelors, Masters, and PhD, all tuition free in the universities of my dreams!
Truly, my gap year in the Netherlands was nothing short of a miracle. It was the best decision of my life. And it turned out to be a gap year made into tuition-free university studies for life! Thank you Gates Millennium Scholarship Program!