Alumna Talia Winningham, Class of '07
I began my time after Youth Initiative with a year of college at Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in my hometown of Fairfield, Iowa. At MUM I mainly took classes within the sustainable living and art majors. I also took a month-long course in South Africa, where we studied their culture and history, participated in a global youth conference, and went on Safari in wildlife preserves, learning about plants and animals native to the area.
After my year at MUM I was feeling unclear about what I wanted out to get out of school, so I decided to take a year off to figure it out. My year off was one of the most difficult of my life, and I ended up feeling lost most of the time. Nonetheless, I managed to work at an apple orchard in Vermont for the fall, hold a few odd jobs, volunteer at an elementary school in my hometown, and go on a two-week road trip down south.
By the end of the year I had decided I was ready to be a in more structured program, so I decided to do Leapyear. Leapyear is a fully accredited gap-year program that alternates spiritual retreats with travels abroad and focuses on the cultivation of the whole human being. During my Leapyear I had retreats in northern California and spent my first semester abroad in Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. I volunteered with various organizations, took Spanish classes, and trekked the desert of Argentina and the Inca trail to Machu Pichu in Peru. In my second semester I returned to Peru and did an apprenticeship with a silversmith, taught English through a volunteer organization, and took salsa and Spanish classes.
When I finished Leapyear I transferred into Warren Wilson College, which is where I am now. At Warren Wilson I have developed my own major through their Integrative Studies program and am scheduled to receive my undergraduate degree in 2014. Even with plans in place, I still like to take things one year at a time.