12 Seniors Take Gap Years
by Elizabeth Muse on Friday, June 5th, 2015
After endless standardized tests, tedious academics, and the overall pressure of high school, more and more students are beginning to take gap years. Students taking gap years often work full time, pursue extracurricular interests, or take part in an organized travel, study, or volunteer program before attending college the following year. There are no official statistics on how many high school students in the United States take a gap year, but based on the growing number of programs available, students are definitely taking an interest.
Here at Milton, there has been a jump in the amount of students taking gap years from 2012, when only four students took a year off, compared to 2014 when 9 students took one, and finally, this year’s class in which 12 students are taking a gap year. Two of the graduates taking a gap year, Sophie Lenihan and Peter Remsen, shared their opinions on their coming experiences.
Next year Sophie, a competitive equestrian, will be spending the fall competing at horse show finals across the country almost every weekend. Then, during the winter, she hopes to get an internship with either a veterinarian or a photographer. Finally in the spring, she will be traveling to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji for a community service and travel trip where she will stay with host families. While in the different countries, she will learn about the cultures and volunteer on farms and at local schools. Sophie shares that she is most excited for this part of her gap year, saying, “It is a three month long trip, and I think it will be such an amazing experience to visit these really awesome places.”
Sophie is hoping that her gap year will recharge her, as, “After such an intense high school career, I am kind of burnt out from school, and I think this year will provide me with a really unique opportunity where I will have no real stress and can have some really cool experiences.”
For Peter’s gap year, he will spend the first half participating in a Patagonian expedition organized by NOLS (the National Outdoor Leadership School). He will travel to Chile and then spend about three months “trekking around the Patagonian backcountry, living out of a tent, melting snow for water, and learning how to survive in extreme environments and conditions.” The program has two distinctive portions: sea kayaking and mountaineering. For the first half of the program, Peter will be kayaking through the Chilean fjords and glacial areas. For the second half of the program, he will “abandon the canoe for crampons and an ice axe and ascend into the Andes mountain range.” In the mountain range he plans on summiting multiple mountains, traveling across glaciers, and completing technically challenging climbs. Peter explains that “Really, extreme is the only word that can describe this part of my gap year; when I’m mountaineering down there, I’ll be closer to Antarctica than I will be to Chile’s capital.” After returning from the program, Peter hopes to be an intern in congressman Seth Moulton’s office, where he interned last summer. If he does not end up interning, Peter instead plans on getting EMT certified, building on the Wilderness First aid training he will receive during his program.
Peter is most excited about breaking his routine by doing something completely different. “I’m really looking forward to learning how to live in tough conditions. I go to Milton Academy. I live in Dover, Massachusetts. I have my own car, my own bathroom, and a mattress. I will have none of these things in Patagonia. I’ve even been told to snap my toothbrush in half to save weight.” Peter sees this program not only as a way to expand his horizons, but also as a source of relief after years of Milton Academy classes before he dives into more grueling academics when he starts at Georgetown in the fall of 2016. “This is the only moment in my entire life when I’ll be able to go and pursue something I’m deeply passionate about, financed by someone else, without any external commitments. When I’m in Patagonia, I’m in Patagonia. For all intents and purposes, the world beyond the Andes mountains will cease to exist.”
Taking a gap year can offer students a much needed perspective outside of the daily grind of school. Gap year options range from volunteer programs, to jobs, to personal interest. The goal of the gap year is for a student to return to a classroom setting having learned about himself and have a better idea of their future. Peter perfectly sums up the mindset of a student embarking on a gap year, saying, “Instead of working through each day just to make it to the next, I’m going to check all my responsibilities and worries at the airport gate and focus instead on living. If that’s not freedom, I don’t know what is.”
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