Introduced by Jay Gosselin, Founder, Discover Year

Blog written by Ana Alves, International Student, Discover Year

As we help our young people prepare for the uncertain world that lies ahead of them after high school, there are two important personal characteristics that are essential to help them thrive. One is interest – the pursuit of experiences for the innate satisfaction they gain from the experience itself, rather than an external reward such as a diploma, money or recognition. The other is coping skills – resilience, motivation, critical thinking, tolerance for ambiguity and interpersonal communication, to name a few.

Sadly, too many of our young people are not thriving in their post-secondary lives. In fact, we are in the midst of a mental health crisis in which record numbers of young people are suffering from prolonged anxiety, depression and debilitating stress. This is the reason we founded our purposeful gap year program, Discover Year. We are helping young people proactively build their confidence, self-awareness and coping skills as they transition into adulthood. To give you a sense of the power of a purposeful gap year, we wanted to share one of our student’s recent blog posts.

Ana Alves is one of our first international students at Discover Year. She is an inspiring example of a young person filled with the courage to challenge the status quo as well as the compassion and curiosity to bring others along for the journey. We hope you enjoy hearing from her.

“Hi everyone! :D

Before I tell you who I am, let’s go back in time and remember how this all started.

… Overflow of thoughts in my mind... Anxious about the future... High levels of pressure from society to follow a path considered mandatory and ideal... Everyone telling me I would end up in a supermarket job if I didn’t go to university…


It was time to shut all the external distractions and listen to my inner voice. While going through all types of emotions, I started looking up alternatives: nothing better than watching YouTube videos about gap years, right? Suddenly, a Ted Talk with a very appealing description popped up: “Gap Year: A Path to Purposeful Education | Jay Gosselin”.

Hum… let’s watch it.


17 minutes later: WOW! Finally, someone who truly understands what I am feeling and doesn’t see the world as black and white! Jay Gosselin brightened my mind and I couldn’t wait to contact him.

A few days later, a video conference was scheduled between me and Jay, and I was terrified: “What? Speaking with a stranger from CANADA in ENGLISH? I am not ready!” - I thought.

On January 4th 2019, I got out of my comfort zone and it was amazing! Jay was SUPER kind, and I was feeling less and less anxious about everything. It was then that the adventure of my life began to take shape.

Some months later, I found myself crossing the Atlantic ocean from my home town in Portugal to come to Ottawa, Canada. Now, I am experiencing a marvelous stay with an incredible host family thanks to the generosity within the Discover Year community.

My name is Ana Luísa and I am 17 years old. I am proud to say that I am one of the first Discover Year international students.

Since I began my Discover Year, many people have asked me: what has been the greatest impact so far?

There’s no simpler answer than this: MY MIND!

And if I were to tell you that your insecurities are a result of your mindset? Many of us leave high school fearing uncertainty, lacking confidence and judging ourselves for every little imperfection. On the other hand, we are hungry… hungry for new experiences, new people, new perspectives… but fear always seems to block us.

Your anxiety-filled days may be close to an end.

Discover Year is helping me break strong mental barriers that were preventing me from releasing my full potential and being my true self.

What before was constant self judgement is now self-love.

What before was perfectionism is now self acceptance.

What before was fear of uncertainty is now excitement for new experiences.

What before was constant self-doubt is now belief in my abilities.

What before was lack of initiative is now life control and discipline.

Besides loving my family and friends from Portugal, being far away from home is giving me the time to bring my deep values to light. Now they shine so bright, that the only way of not following them is if I intentionally decide to ignore them.

I couldn’t be happier with my decision to join this fantastic program and meet all these marvelous, lovely, sweet, wonderful people. Love is what I feel for them and I know they will always be in my heart!

My path has never been as clear. I may not be able to predict my future job title, but I know how to approach life. I know I can be happy and you guys can too!

Wishing you all a day full of action, openness and authenticity :)”

For more information on how we can help young people from your community develop greater self-awareness, confidence and career skills after high school, visit