July 9, 2018

10 Takeaways of my Gap Year

Center for Interim Programs' student Sophie pursued art in Greece, volunteered in South Africa, studied French in Paris, and interned in Italy. She eloquently shares some of her highlights and gap year takeaways below!

In South Africa, I ended up staying at bush camp for 3 of the 4 weeks, and would have remained there the entirety of the time had they let me. Loved the atmosphere, the cooking, the schedule, the game drives and of course the braiis. I was fortunate on this leg of my trip as I had a friend my age who was booked for the same weeks as me.

Studying French in Paris was very possibly the best part of my year. I really enjoyed the structure of the lifestyle. I found the residency to be very comfortable and fantastically located. I felt the experience allowed me to master a new city, befriend other international students, and actually have an immersive experience well. I found my oral comprehension and speech production in French were what improved most dramatically, probably because we were in classes 6 hours most days in complete French. I travelled most weekends, and visited London and Copenhagen.

I spent 2.5 weeks traveling through Portugal and Spain. I found this bit of my experience to be essential to the year as a whole, as it proved to me my own capabilities to execute plans, navigate new cities and meet people along the way, effectively. I hosted-hopped and took buses from Lisbon to Lagos to Sevilla to Barcelona. My favorite city was Sevilla. I only had two nights and at most two full days in each city, which was a bit exhausting but also gave me a nice snapshot of what I look for in my travel experiences.

Then I had an internship at a hotel in Italy - I absolutely loved my time here. Just as much an internship as a homestay with the family who runs the hotel. The experience was extremely hands on, and I made very interesting contacts and felt exposure to the hospitality industry as a whole, specifically wedding planning.

Those were my specific experiences on each leg of the gap year, now an overview of my takeways: 

1. I've learned to effectively manage my money, and that I value experiential spending. 
2. I've learned to cook, between my time at the art school and working in the kitchen of the hotel. 
3. I feel confident navigating (nearly) any city on my own, having conquered various methods of transport 
4. I feel extremely comfortable sharing and interacting with adults 
5. I feel I am more open-minded and tolerant of differences of opinions 
6. I feel generally happier and more energized 
7. I feel my thirst for learning has been revitalized and am truly excited to get back into a standard classroom environment
8. I feel I can befriend nearly anyone, and have the skill set required to make a friend in minutes (this was particularly developed while hostel-hopping)
9. I feel more responsible for my health and general self-care, as various anaphylaxis reactions required me to self-advocate in a life or death situation. 
10. I feel more informed about the world at large, and seek out opportunities to learn more and discuss global issues. 

And all of the above was also confirmed by Sophie's mom Gina who shares her perspective as well:

I think the gap year was a success in every way a mom could want. There were moments of awe, moments of fear, and a ton of growing up. As a mom:

  • I loved that she had to learn to budget and handle money
  • I loved that she had to handle several real emergencies on her own and/or to identify and seek out help from a stranger
  • I love that Soph can make friends anywhere and quickly form a “family” unit
  • I love that Soph came back with level 10 confidence
  • I love that Soph made lifetime friends of ALL ages
  • I love that Soph returned a more tolerant human being
  • I love that Soph returned more poised, more easy going and less concerned with high school “bs”
  • I love that Soph returned and was able to put on a suit and go right to work full time at a wall street firm. She never missed a beat.

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