Alum Series: Alex & Rhys - Becoming Friends & Making Progress

Coming from different backgrounds Alex and Rhys were unlikely friends, but were joined together by the same gap year program, which transformed their lives. In this episode, Alex and Rhys now on their second gap year share their experiences and transformations thus far.



Who are Alex and Rhys?


Alex was born in New Brunswick and moved to Ontario for university. He’s someone who genuinely loves to learn, whether it be psychology, philosophy, physics or nature. He’s currently a video editor for Mentor You, which he also learned to do over the summer.


Rhys is two years removed from highschool and is on his second gap year. He volunteers for the Red Cross and works for Discover Year and American Eagle. He is passionate about sports and fitness and recently found a new passion for self-improvement books.


Alex and Rhys met at Discover Year, a program they both did during their gap year. When they first met they both brushed each other off, not wanting to be friends. It wasn’t until they both arrived early for a workshop when they accidentally became friends and the rest is history.


Why they took a gap year


Having dyslexia Rhys found it difficult to academically succeed in highschool and because of it he was often called names, which he later realized took a greater hit to his self confidence than he thought. At first he was ready to jump into pursuing a psychology degree after highschool, but because of his experience he decided he needed to take a break and with the space he gave himself he realized he needed a different environment to succeed in.


Alex said his life got turned upside down in highschool, but he always got good grades and was interested in space so he pushed through anyways to take astrophysics in university. Coming from a French highschool to an English university, he struggled to keep up in some of his courses because of the language barrier. On top of full time school and the extra work he was doing to keep up, he also worked 35 hours a week. Eventually, he noticed he wasn’t happy and realized it wasn’t his true calling.


How their gap year transformed them


Alex learned the true meaning of curiosity and how to be comfortable with uncertainty. A friend’s curiosity helped him see New Brunswick in a whole new light and he found himself having more open conversations with the people he met. Before his gap year, Alex was a super anxious person who avoided making mistakes by planning ahead. Through the uncertainty of taking a gap year he learned that uncertainty is life itself and knows how to better navigate the future without feeling anxious.


The biggest transformation for Rhys has been in leadership. Before his gap year, he always gravitated towards leadership roles, but for the wrong reasons. He asked his coaches how to be captain because he thought he was good enough and wanted the status. Now, he asks for feedback because he genuinely wants to improve as a leader and applies that to all his jobs.


Going on a solo trip to Australia also taught him to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. When he got lost at the beginning of his trip he would panic, but by the end of the trip he was able to take a deep breath, think critically about the situation without panicking and get himself home safely.


Advice for other gappers


Rhys said he would tell his grade 12 self not to let other people get in the way of what he wanted to do, instead of listening to the comments people made about his dyslexia and whether he’d make it in the real world.


While Alex dares listeners to dream. It might seem easier to push through miserable moments, but because he allowed himself to believe that there was something more he gave himself space for bigger things to happen.


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