Team GoAbroad is elated to introduce our Gap Year Giveaway winner, Stella Childress. Stella will be heading to Ireland for a post-grad gap year with Stint Ireland. Her prize pack also included travel insurance from Volunteer Card, a flight from StudentUniverse, and a weekend trip in Europe from Andy Steves Travel. Here’s what Stella had to say when we interviewed her about her amazing win!
If you’d like to support Stella’s journey, take a look at and share her Fund My Travel campaign.
How did you feel when you found out you won a gap year experience in Ireland?
It was hard to believe I was going to receive something as great as this opportunity. After double checking that it wasn’t spam mail, my heart flooded with joy and thanks. I thought back to the sweet memories I have from a weekend in Ireland during my study abroad trip to Scotland and began to imagine a whole year in a country that was so hospitable and endearing to me. As cliché as it is, it is still hard to believe this is actually happening.
How do you feel your gap experience in Ireland will contribute to your academic experience and/or professional development?
My primary calling in life is to be a writer. During my study abroad in Scotland, I was trained how to travel write. Going to Ireland will give me ample chances to travel write and give me plenty of experiences and materials to write dynamic stories that can touch other people’s hearts and minds. Practically, it will build my portfolio, but best of all it will give me dream-like experiences to capture on paper and kindle my love for writing. My secondary calling is hospitality. Last year I worked on a poetry project capturing the essence of hospitality in two landscapes: Ireland and the Sahara Desert. The people of Ireland do hospitality so well and I am looking forward to learning skills from them I can apply at my future Bed and Breakfast in the Appalachian Mountains. I may just extend my poetry project as well, with some real Irish hospitality experience.
What attracted you to the Gap Year Giveaway?
First, the location. So far, if you can’t tell from my previous answers, I love Ireland. To be able to live in the Irish culture for an extended period of time will give me more of a global perspective to base my actions on. When I studied abroad in Scotland, it was for three weeks in the summer, and that is just not enough time to really savor and understand a culture. Ireland is like my second chance. This Gap Year Giveaway has paved the way perfectly for me, and that is exactly why I entered — for an open door.
In your opinion, why is meaningful international travel so important?
In 2013, as a bright-eyed high schooler, I boarded a plane to Nicaragua. One week later, on the plane ride back, I vowed to myself I would never travel without a clear purpose greater than myself. I didn’t want to travel just for me, I wanted to travel for the people around me. In Nicaragua, I was exposed to a beautiful culture and an impoverished lifestyle. I will always remember serving at Tesoros de Dios, a facility for disabled Nicaraguan children. The people marked me so deeply.
Meaningful travel is certainly filled with serving people of other cultures, but it is also learning about their culture and their lives. I am a representative for the U.S., specifically for Kentucky. With meaningful travel, two human beings can come together and learn about life and love. My hope is for travel to become more and more accessible, so others can be exposed to the whole world, not just their own world. Meaningful travel leads to a global perspective and appreciation that will bleed into everything you do.
We can’t wait to see how Stella’s gap year further influences her career goals. Congratulations again Stella!