November 30, 2015

Why I chose to take a gap year, by Katherine Engman

Welcome to our next student entry! Katherine graduated from high school in Wisconsin in 2015, and has just returned from her first gap experience in Costa Rica this fall. In her own words ...

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Personally, I was deeply overwhelmed with balancing the college application process, AP classes, sports teams, managing clubs and a social life. I also, for the majority of my high school years, was pursuing playing college level lacrosse and felt extremely worn out by the time senior year rolled around. At this time last year, I decided I wanted to go to college to focus on my studies not sports. However, I had little preference of where I wanted to go.

Angie, host sister (Gaby) and me at the Independence Day parade

Hiking in La Fortuna
I was always very aware of the change in my life that was going to occur after I graduated high school. I viewed it as the second chapter to my life; a chapter where I could take control of my future. Traveling and learning about different cultures is a passion of mine and is something I always want as a piece of my life.

So, why not start off my new chapter with an example in which to live the rest of my life? People are different and, therefore, need their own unique paths. This does not mean by any means, that going straight to college is lame or "cliche". This just means to stay true to what makes you happy. I refer to my life as chapters because I believe I am making a great story, one that I want to proud to tell my grandchildren.

Being silly with Costa Rican host family
At first my parents did not even want to hear anything about possibly taking a gap year, until I completed the college application process. However, after I chose what college I wanted to attend, they were at least willing to hear my idea. My parents were primarily concerned about where the funding would come from and were also just a little worried about the process, considering how foreign the idea was to them. Knowing their concerns I took the initiative to create a "Gap Year Presentation". This included a plan for how I could earn the money to fund my year and an idea of what I could do. Following this conversation, my parents were on my side and willing to support me with my decision.

Me & monkey!
Every single day I think to myself, this has been the best decision I have ever made. I have been traveling all around Costa Rica with a new friend that I made, Angie, for almost three months now. I have become very confident in my decision making skills and ability to adapt to different environments. I have made life long friendships everywhere I stayed. I have experienced the most out of this world adventure, like: helping monkeys re-enter the wild, taking data and studying turtles on the Pacific Coast and climbing the highest mountain in Costa Rica. I have for the first time, taken control of my life and have chosen to do what makes me happy.

View from the top of Chirripo

My advice would be: entertain the idea of taking a year before college to pursue your interests. A gap year is not for everyone, but it is a great option. I would also highly suggest to finish your college application process before you make the decision to go on a gap year. Then you have the advantage of having a decision, of which path to take your future ,rather than being forced into something.  I am so much happier knowing what college I am going to next year and am able to focus solely on what I am currently doing. Additionally, just like any other big decision, some background research needs to be done in order to come to the right conclusion.

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