Morgan Christensen Calls SNC Gap Program a Life-Changing Experience


Abby Wittler, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

As students ponder what route they want to take after high school, they may think about going straight to college, taking a gap year, joining the military or going to technical school.

An opportunity they might not think of but may be right for some is the St. Norbert Gap Program. This is a unique take on their first semester of college that includes traveling and doing service around the U.S and beyond.

This fall, Morgan Christensen, a 2018 NDA graduate, embarked on the adventure of a lifetime through the Gap Program.

She decided to pursue this experience for a few reasons, not wanting to jump right back into a classroom, wanting to get real-world experience, and the biggest, “Being able to earn college credits while traveling and deepening my passion for fighting social injustice.”

During this trip, they spent a month hiking, rock climbing, and canoeing in the boundary waters before having a week break on campus. They then headed off to the Brother David Darst Center in Chicago to learn about social injustices.

After this chapter, they traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to learn about the Native American population there and the struggles they still face to this day. Next, they traveled to El Paso, Texas, where they participated in a border immersion program to learn about immigration policies.

Before their last stop, they headed home for a week to spend time with their families before flying to Guatemala. They spent a month with a group of host families learning about the genocide they experienced and how the U.S. was involved in the tragedy.

“The Gap Program partnered with De Le Gente there, so we did a service learning experience through them. We were able to travel to Tikal and Lake Atitlan and hike Volcan de Pacaya. One of the best parts about Guatemala was living with host families for three weeks,” Christiansen explained.

Throughout this experience, Christensen grew in many ways, including finding many career paths that interest her.

“With every place I went, I left hoping to obtain a career in that field. I want to be an outdoor educator in the wilderness but also a lawyer who defends immigrants while simultaneously running an NGO that supports those mistreated due to race and working to resolve the extremely unfair wealth distribution issue in Guatemala,” said Christensen.

She told how there are a lot of things she wants to do but she is now focusing on deciding how she can do the most good for society in one career.

For anyone thinking about taking this path, Christensen said, “Do it. I know how terrifying it may feel, but it’s 100% worth it.”

 TOO GOOD NOT TO SHARE–More from Christensen Interview

What is your favorite memory from this trip?

I have so many good memories it’s hard to pick just one, but I think one of my favorites would have to be our crash to Jut Lake. In the Boundary Waters between lakes, there’s a portage trail where you carry all of your stuff and canoes across into the next like. For some, there’s no trail so you just have to follow the compass and wander through the wilderness with a canoe on your shoulders until you find your lake and doing this is called crashing. We spent around 4 hours trying to find our lake and were waist deep in mud at times. When we finally found it, it was completely still and there was a beautiful sunset over it. The next morning there was another beautiful sunrise and we saw a moose across the lake and then later that day we got to go on our solo, where we were alone in the wilderness for 24 hours.

What was the biggest challenge?

Trying to grapple with the idea of privilege and not being able to disperse my privilege and give it to people who were born with less privilege. But also, being away from my cat. If you know me at all you know how much I love my baby cat.

How does it feel to be back in a normal classroom setting?

It’s weird for sure. I’m always kind of hoping that my professors are going to suddenly tell us that our train across the country leaves in a half hour or our flight to another country is next weekend. I definitely miss being out in the world, but a sense of normalcy is nice as well.

Do you feel that you learned as much as you would in a semester of classes?

Absolutely. The knowledge that I acquired on Gap I could not have gained in a semester on campus. The service learning aspect combined with classroom material made all experiences extremely in-depth and impactful. I also learned a lot about myself which is equally as important.

What is your major (if you know)?

I currently plan on majoring in sociology with a concentration in human services and a minor in peace and justice.

How much time do you spend at home?

Since I live so close to campus, I tend to see my family at least every other week. I don’t necessarily go home for the whole weekend, maybe just a few hours, but they’re pretty cool people, and I enjoy spending time with them. (Sorry if this embarrasses you, Jack.)