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Rebecca Thomas '06, Outdoor Education

Rebecca Thomas '06 attended Colorado College after graduating from Bryn Mawr. Since she graduated, she has traveled around the world, leading service trips as well as a safari in Africa, including a bid to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Read Rebecca's reflection on why she loves what she does, and how Bryn Mawr helped her get started.

After I graduated from Bryn Mawr in 2006, I was accepted to Colorado College, but I was set to start in January instead of September. That’s really how all of my traveling started. Since I had a semester off I started looking for study abroad programs, and found one based out of New Zealand that ran a trip in Southeast Asia. I left for Thailand in September, and backpacked with a group of 14 for two months through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

While I was in college I studied Spanish and education, and was able to visit Costa Rica a couple of times and also go to Spain. Once I graduated, I found a company called Overland. There was a cool Bryn Mawr connection there, because the director of leader hiring is Jonathan Igoe, who was my older sister’s Middle School teacher at Bryn Mawr. I started working for Overland in the summer of 2010 and led two community service trips for high schoolers, one in Costa Rica and one in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After that I wasn’t ready settle down or sit at a desk, so I got connected to Living Social, which had just acquired a backpacking company known as Urban Escapes. They hired me as their Mexico experience coordinator in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. I worked for them for two years, leading trips for four months and then helping to develop tours in Hawaii, Iceland and at the Grand Canyon. I ended up leaving the company because at the end of the day I loved what I was doing, but I wasn’t ready to give up living out of a backpack. Now this summer is bringing me back to Overland, where I’ll be leading a trip in Africa for students in tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades. It’s a four week community service trip and we’ll be working in an orphanage, going on safari, and also making a bid to summit Kilimanjaro. It’s a really exciting opportunity.

I think that my experience at Bryn Mawr gave me the confidence to pursue opportunities like the ones I’ve had with Overland and Living Social. I was Athletic Association president here my senior year, and experiences like that, combined with being in small classrooms, really helped me build confidence. It takes a lot to throw yourself into a new culture with a new language, and I’ve been able to experience so many different places and so many different people. The confidence Bryn Mawr helped me to develop is really where that all comes from.

My favorite thing about my experience at Bryn Mawr was the community. Even now, traveling as much as I do, I love being able to come back and see old friends and teachers. This has always felt like my family. I love the community, and the friends that I’ve made here are a great support. I still keep in touch with a lot of my classmates — I’m having dinner with a couple tonight, and then seeing three more when I’m in Colorado next week.

After my trip to Africa, I’ll be returning to the company that I traveled to Southeast Asia with. It’s all coming full circle, seven years later. I’ll be with them through 2014, leading my own trips seven months out of the year for 18-25 year olds. I’ll be teaching a class about the history and culture of Southeast Asia during the trips, which I’m really excited about, since education was my minor. Aside from the travel, I’m most looking forward to helping these kids become more confident and gain leadership skills through this great travel experience.