Gap Years: Students Postpone College for Real-Life Experiences
by Anooshka Gupta on Friday, June 10th, 2016
As seniors finalize their college decisions, some decide to take a year off and pursue a new, exciting experience in the form of a gap year. Students typically take gap years to learn more about themselves and to take a break from the fast-paced life that is cultivated at Milton. Per usual, most of this year’s seniors taking gap years hope to travel around the world in order to enjoy some time to themselves before pursuing another four years of education. Four of these seniors, Jiyoung Jeong, Sterling Dintersmith, Will Powers, and Aeshna Chandra, hope to further their understandings of themselves by traveling, challenge themselves in new social environments, and gain fluency in foreign languages.
Jiyoung Jeong plans on spending her first five months in China and possibly going to Spain for five months after that. While her plans of working on a farm in Spain have not been finalized, her plans for China are — she will work for an organization called PEER as a teaching assistant in the Hunan province. In most Chinese public schools, the teachers focus on college entrance exams, so students have less freedom in their class choices and frequently take classes that don’t particularly interest them. However, PEER promotes an open, less test-based curriculum in Chinese public high schools.
Jiyoung is “most excited to live in a new culture and meet new people” and “to gain more independence.” As she has never been to China and does not know anyone at the school she will be living at, she is concerned about the challenge of connecting with new people in a foreign place. Her goals include improving her Chinese and “[becoming] a more independent person who has a more definite sense of self and is willing to take more risks.” The biggest motivator as to why she is taking this gap year comes from her realization that “[she’s] always been preparing for something” and that this gap year will allow her “to step back and just explore.”
Sterling Dintersmith’s gap year involves many different components. She will assist on wilderness trips at Chewonki, work on a trail crew, travel to Argentina to work on a horse ranch and explore Patagonia, and hike the Appalachian trail from Georgia to Maine to close out her year. She is “most excited to be active all day, instead of sedentary in a classroom” and “to have better food and weekend activities,” but she is “least excited to have to pay for [her] food and weekend activities.”
By the end of the year, she hopes to have improved her Spanish, walked over 2,000 miles, figured out what she wants to do with her life, and avoided winter weather. She sees next year as a break from sitting in a classroom and as an opportunity to take advantage of college once she gets there.
Unlike Sterling, Will Powers does not have a lot of things set in stone, but he does know that he is going to work in a restaurant in Orleans, MA — his hometown — through September. After that, he is going to be in Japan from October to December and then do WWOOFing (working on a farm in exchange for accommodations) and workaway (promoting exchanges between budget travelers). He might travel to Los Angeles in order to intern from January to March, but he will most definitely walk the Spanish “El Camino” trail and backpack Europe in May. He is paying for everything himself, so his greatest concern is running out of money. He “really [hates] planning and [loves] spontaneity,” so he is most excited for the unplanned aspects of his gap year.
Aeshna Chandra will be working over the summer and starting her gap year in September. She will do WWOOFing in Norway, go to India for two months, visit Japan with Rika Ichinose (I), possibly go to Europe with her brother, and travel to a combination of places — Spain, France, Australia, and Hawaii — over the following summer. She is “very interested in knowing what life without school can be like” and “experiencing ways of life” but nervous about traveling alone and for such a long time.
After growing up in suburban Massachusetts and attending Milton Academy, Aeshna wants “to become someone who can handle and take care of him or herself in most situations.” She hopes this gap year will help her grow in a way that she would not at college. Additionally, she wants to finish her reading list, understand her grandparents, and become fluent in French.
Gap years provide an interesting opportunity for students to explore the world and experience new things. We wish the best of luck to these seniors on their adventures.
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