My First Trip After High School - A Gap Year Experience

My mom has always instilled in me to find something that I enjoy doing and not just to go to school for the highest paying degree.

As I made it through my years of high school, I was no longer certain what I wanted to do afterward, but I knew I enjoyed traveling.

During my senior year, I was blessed with an opportunity to travel to my first ever African country, Ghana, for the whole summer after graduation with Operation Crossroads Africa. Defined by a gap year, that was the most life changing trip ever. In this blog post, I’ll tell you why.

All throughout high school, I was always one of the more mature kids. My mother was so protective of me that I was a good kid and never really had any type of solo experience prior until Africa.

Even when I did get my own car, I didn’t go anywhere alone that I should not have. So this was a different kind of independence.

However, there were many experiences where the college students in my group, had already been through that I had not already.

Here are four new experiences and milestones I crossed off while experiencing my Gap Year.

A Gap Year After High School Experience | Zaakirah Nayyar


I had previous experiences and opportunities to volunteer both locally and internationally. But being overseas in a completely different living environment allowed me to see the volunteer work in a different light. My specific project was teaching elementary level children a basic education, while also teaching photography during the down time. This allowed me to expose my strengths and improve on my weaknesses. Children are the first most honest people, after drunk people.

First Drink

The legal drinking age in Ghana is 18. It was definitely the chance for me to really find myself. No matter what religion or cultural upbringing, there is not one teenager who has not thought about stepping outside of what they know just to know what it is like. I had that chance. Thanks to the family of eight (group members) that I was with every single day, I was drinking responsibly.

A Gap Year After High School Experience | Zaakirah Nayyar

First Real Adult Kiss

Low and behold I’ve always had kisses, but I’ve always shied away from kissing grown men. Well again, the age of 18 is considered an adult there in Ghana so, for the first time, I kissed a grown man. That’s all I did and that’s all I’m going to say.  

First Club Experience

It was a Friday night, and I and three of my group members went club-hopping to enjoy some good music. Little known fact, my first real club dance, was the same guy who was my first adult kiss.

In summary, if you are considering taking your first gap year, I think you should! Here’s what I got out of it:

  • First time being on my own

  • Learned a lot about life

  • Not pressured to fit the norms

  • More life experience than most

  • Find myself sooner than later

By the time I did decide to pursue my education further (photography), I was more prepared than ever to live on my own, or with unfamiliar faces, aka roommates. I had a better grasp on what I wanted in a man. I also began setting more volunteering and travel goals for myself (hence 30 countries by age 30).

A Gap Year After High School Experience | Zaakirah Nayyar

As a disclaimer, I wanted to let you know that I am a Muslim-American. My parents converted. My cultural experiences do not define the experiences of any other Muslim American. If you have any personal questions about my religion, feel free to email me.

Despite being an alumna, I am not an affiliate of Operation Crossroads Africa. I do not endorse these experiences as a part of the curriculum. These were my own unique experiences.

However, if you are interested in volunteering with the organization dubbed the Peace Corps before the Peace Corps, I am happy to share my volunteer experience in more depth. Email me.

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