Following in Her Footsteps

Monday, October 08, 2018

Maggie Doyne’s journey began in 2004 as a pretty typical 18-year-old from New Jersey. She attended a great public school and received one of the best educations our country has to offer. But as she got closer and closer to her high school graduation, she began to wonder if she was really ready to attend college.

Maggie had learned so much in school about math, history, and playing sports, but had the realization that she hadn’t learned very much about herself and the world around her. Eventually, her desire to learn more sparked her decision to sign up for a gap year which took her to the South Pacific, India, and eventually Nepal.

Once in Nepal, Maggie used $5,000 of her babysitting money (wired to her by her parents), to open a children’s home for orphaned, at-risk, and impoverished children. Her foster daughter Nisha, who was 7 at the time, was the first child to come into the home. Two years later, Maggie also opened a school which Nisha attended until she moved to the Netherlands to attend high school at UWC Maastricht on a full scholarship.

In May of 2018, Nisha graduated and made the decision to follow in Maggie’s footsteps by taking a gap year of her own. This journey has come full circle for Maggie, and to prepare Nisha for her next adventure, they decided to sit down to go over any questions and last minute jitters. See below to see what they had to say!

Nisha: What made you decide to go on a gap year? How did you know you were making the right decision for yourself? Did you know anyone else who had taken a gap year?

Maggie:   My mom and dad were "pro" gap year and traveling.  They wanted us to see the bigger world out there and step outside our comfort zones.  My big sister Kate was the first to take a gap year. She came back from a year abroad glowing with so many stories to tell.  It lit a spark in me, and a few years later I decided to do the same thing. After so many years sitting in a classroom, I felt burnt out, unsure of my future and that I’d lost some of my passion for learning.  I didn’t feel ready to make a huge investment in college and I wanted some time for self discovery.

Nisha: Do you think the BlinkNow Foundation would have ever been started if you had gone straight to college out of high school?

Maggie:  I definitely don’t think BlinkNow would exist had I not decided to travel and see the bigger world out there.  There’s just no way I would have ended up in India and then Nepal had it not been for the gap year experience and where it led me and how it opened up my eyes.  It was the beginning of the next phase of my education which was setting up BlinkNow and all our projects there.

Maggie and Sunita in India.

Nisha: How did you find the right program for you?

Maggie:   I chose LeapNow because it was one of the only good reputable programs that existed at the time and that’s what my sister had done.  Now there are many many more and I’m happy to see more students around the world taking the big step. I’m so excited for you to do Global Citizen Year!

Nisha: What is the one thing you were most worried about the night before embarking on your trip?

Maggie:  I remember the night before my trip so vividly.  I was trying hard to get everything to fit inside that one little backpack.  I had butterflies mostly about flying on my own for the first time and meeting everyone in the group.  It was one of the first times I’d gone into something not knowing anyone. My friends were all off at college and in dorm rooms.  What I was doing just felt so different and big and scary at the time. Everything about it.

Maggie on her travels!

Nisha: Was it easy to make friends? Do you still keep in touch with any of them?  

Maggie:  The entire group of us became really close.  There were 12 of us and two leaders. My closest friend became Hannah, who you obviously know because she and her sister Safira have been to Kopila. Actually so have Becky and Marissa two other friends from the trip.  We are all in touch. Interesting fact, I am the only one who didn’t go straight on to finish university. They all went to amazing prestigious schools. I stayed on in India and then ventured to Nepal.

Nisha: How long did it take you to adjust?  Did you ever get homesick? If so, how did you work through it?

Maggie:  The first part of my gap year was such an adventure.  We were moving around so much from week to week. Buddhist monastery to scuba diving to outdoor leadership school, to homestays with villagers and enviromental work in the outback! I didn’t get homesick at first but it definitely hit later on.  The hardest moments came when I felt like I was missing something from home. The most comforting thing was getting back to NJ and realizing things were mostly the same. I was the one who had changed the most.

Nisha: Do you have a memory about your gap year that stands out more than others?

Maggie:  I have so many but the highlight was probably living in a small fisherman village in Fiji and becoming so close to the children there.  That’s when something clicked for me. I was so happy. I knew that no matter what I wanted to work with children. The lowest point for me was at the outdoor leadership pursuit center in New Zealand.  We were given a map and a compass and had to navigate through the forest and through rivers to get from point A to point B. It was pouring rain. We got lost. We slept in a leaking tent and huddled together for warmth. My boots didn’t fit right and I got horrible blisters. Thank goodness for the boy scout in our group that finally got us back to base camp, is all I can say.  

Maggie in Fiji.

Nisha: What was the most useful item you packed?

Maggie:  Can I choose a few? First rule of thumb, PACK LIGHT.  Then I'd say: 1) headlamp 2) good rain jacket 3) good socks.

Nisha: What are the top 3 pieces of advice you want me to know for my gap year trip?

Maggie: Hmm...I'd say:

  1. Be careful with your passport.  Never put it in that compartment in the seat infront of you in the airplane or under your pillow in your hostel or anywhere else but in a safe secure place.
  2. Push through the uncomfortable moments. You’ll get homesick.  You’ll have hard days. Remember those are the stories that shape you and that you’ll carry forever. And like all hard things in life…they will pass.
  3. Always listen to your intuition. That’s really important when you’re traveling to an unknown place and out of your comfort zone.  You’ll want to go off the beaten track and go to new places and go on all kinds of adventures but listen to what feels right and the voice inside of you.

Nisha on her own travels!


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