Meet Chan Woo, Vanguard '18. Read on to learn about his Vanguard experience.
How did you hear about Vanguard?
My mom learned about it first. She heard from Seth Chun’s ’16 mom on a website where Korean American moms just kind of linger together. My mom told me hey, look into this gap year program.
Were you looking for a gap year?
No, I wasn’t actually. But my mom kind of was highly suggesting it. At first, I said no, I want to go straight to college. And then things just happened and I was like you know what, college is not going to work for me this year. I’m going to look at Vanguard. And you know what? It was a pretty cool start to my higher education experience.
I took a whole year to see different parts of the world, experience different cultures, and learn how to live in a small and intentional community.— Chan Woo, Vanguard '18
So what would you say that Vanguard provided that you weren’t expecting?
I came in with little to no expectations but walked away with great friends and a lot of experiences that were super cool to have before going to college. I took a whole year to see different parts of the world, experience different cultures, and learn how to live in a small and intentional community.
What would you say are ways that God met you during Vanguard?
God definitely met me through the people I met here. That was huge – they were just so caring and had great morals that I lacked. They were always a positive influence and held me to high standards.
I saw God through nature, the abundance of it. For example – the solos, where we take half a day to be alone, journal, pray, read your bible, just be with God. You get to be present exactly where you are. You don’t often get time like that, but that time is set aside once a month at Vanguard. And that’s just one component of how they set aside time for you to be with God.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned how to sit in silence and soak up time alone. I think I was kind of shallow and surface-level before. I never really learned how to go deep with people. I learned how to deal with conflict because, in a small community, it happens. I learned how to lead in situations I didn’t think I could lead. I learned how to push my boundaries: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. I learned how to be present.
How did Vanguard provide a space for you to learn those things?
The program is very intentional. With everything they do here – like the solos I talked about before – those helped with reflecting on where I’m coming from and where I want to go. The small and intentional community helped keep me accountable.
The program is just really well-crafted so that you’re put in a lot of different experiences. I mean, of course, it’s all up to you whether you want to take that step and be willing to improve and change. But the program definitely provides chances for you to see, reflect, and grow.
I mean, I’m going to be lifelong friends with the people I met here. The experiences you get here…I don’t think you’ll ever get another chance to do anything like this in your life.— Chan Woo, Vanguard '18
What is something that you would say to someone who knows nothing about Vanguard?
I would talk about the community – I mean, I’m going to be lifelong friends with the people I met here. The experiences you get here…I don’t think you’ll ever get another chance to do anything like this in your life. For example, the seven-week tech fast. It’s one of the highlights of the year because you learn how to be present with people and stop being so distracted. It’s pretty cool.
How did you benefit from not going to college immediately after high school?
You get the whole year to recharge. I wouldn’t say it’s worry-free, but by not going to college, I got a chance to reflect and learn more about myself. If I’d gone to college, I would have had to adjust to life away from home while managing academics.
...there’s just so much love and investment that’s poured into you. This is an entirely different world – you have friends, this small community, that’s going to invest in you completely.— Chan Woo, Vanguard '18
What would you say sets HoneyRock, home of Vanguard, apart?
The intentionality. I’m not saying other gap year programs aren’t intentional, but there’s just so much love and investment that’s poured into you. This is an entirely different world – you have friends, this small community, that’s going to invest in you completely.
Also, the outdoor activities – I remember one Saturday we got bored. So we got out on the lake and went waterskiing, rode mountain bikes on the trails, shot arrows at the archery range, and climbed at the wall. It was all of that in one day. Here, you get to experience life away from constant technology – it’s awesome. It’s so great.
What would you say to someone who’s graduating high school and doesn’t really know what to do next?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my career right after high school. Taking a gap year gave me so many amazing experiences – I highly recommend it. I think a mistake people sometimes make is worrying too much about what’s next. I’d say have an open mind for things outside of the norm. Don’t be discouraged if you still don’t know what you’re doing – more people than you’d think are in the same boat as you.