Gap year student and Travel Access Project grant recipient Michelle Zhang used her year to become fluent in Spanish while spending time in Guatemala, Mexico, Columbia and Peru. She began by studying at a language school on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and bonding with her host family. She then went on to intern in Oaxaca Mexico with the EnVia Foundation, an organization that empowers women through microloans. As if that wasn’t enough, she then went on to backpack solo for two months in Columbia and Peru, making friends and conquering challenging treks along the way. 

Michelle with her Spanish teacher in Guatemala


Spanish School: Jabel Tinamit

Michelle’s paintings of her homestay family:

Michelle’s portrait of her homestay sister at the fair
Michelle’s portrait of her homestay dad

Oaxaca, Mexico

Michelle worked for EnVia Foundation -> take a tour with them if you go to Oaxaca! 

Michelle with an EnVia grant recipient 

Columbia & Peru

Michelle’s favorite spots:

Medellin, Columbia 

Jardin, Columbia 

Michelle’s treks: Choquequirao  (unknown sister of Machu Picchu) and Salkantay Trek 

Plan ahead for Machu Picchu and get your pass ahead of time (at least a week!)

Michelle’s pick for hiking shoes:

Merrell Moabs

Don’t forget: Travel Access Project grants will reopen in Feb 2019!

See also: Gap Year Association Financial Aid page