December 20, 2020

Three Separate Gaps Since 2002: Trevor Kluckman's Journey

Interim Programs has been integral in my working through three separate stuck points over the course of my adult life. 

The first came about when I was 20 years old. I had dropped out of my second college in as many years, and struggled to feel my path forward after growing up an intelligent student in a small town. My mother heard about Interim Programs in a newspaper article, and we went by car to Princeton and sat down one on one with Holly. I remember questions about what would happen if I could wave a magic wand…I wanted to feel self-confidence. On the other side of this conversation I had 2, separate 3-month-long plans laid out: first, to go to Australia. Second, to go to Europe. I began working in a warehouse and saving for my journey. An unexpectedly long layover in Singapore produced a memory when I’d misread my (paper!) ticket as having a connection 12 hours sooner than my actual flight. I did as much as you could do in 8 hours in Singapore. Landing in Cairns, Australia, I began a 3-month stint that included volunteer conservation work. I helped install an irrigation system and experienced 47 degrees Celsius (HOT) for the first time in my life. I also worked on farms in exchange for housing and food, including a stop at a guy’s place in the bush who rehabilitated local kangaroos that had been hit by cars. I learned to drive a tractor on a coffee plantation. I even helped install a pool at the home of a couple who were nudists. All the while eating mangoes every chance I got. I re-centered and began submitting applications to colleges in the US. I stopped home for the holidays and to audition for theatre programs at the schools I was applying to, and then I was off to France. My time there included a stint assisting an American artist in Paris. She had a beautiful studio and half a century’s residence in the city. My Eurail pass took me to the most beautiful bike ride in the Swiss Alps, the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, whistle stops through Venice, Brussels, Berlin, and more. I spent 10 days at a Buddhist meditation center, and a few weeks in Scotland visiting family. I was introduced to budget airline travel, toilets of different stripes, and friendly hosts. I remember quiet exhilaration when I ordered a pastry in German at a train station. Apart from getting taken by a guy in a shell game on the street in Nice, I got the hang of traveling through Europe by myself and returned to the US and a new college refreshed, motivated, and refocused. 

 The next Interim chapter for me came after I graduated in 2006. The death of a close friend and the end of a relationship had devastated me. Thankfully, Interim had just the place for me to go. I quit my job as a NYC bartender and headed to Project Vote Smart in Montana. I did non-partisan political information gathering from an office uniquely situated on a ranch in the Rockies. It was absolutely beautiful. Big Sky lives up to the slogan. What a place. I met, bunked, and worked with a great group of fellow 20-somethings, as well as a cadre of retirees visiting from across this great land. We all worked Monday-Friday gathering voting records, fundraising details, and more about elected officials and candidates to be dispensed to anybody who wanted ‘em. On the weekends I visited stunning Glacier National Park, got real good at foosball, and learned a little bit of Thai from a new friend who would go on to host me in Bangkok a year and a half later. 

 Third Interim go-around was in summer 2018. I’d drifted from my pursuits in show business, and had some time free before my well-paid yet unfulfilling job working banquets was to pick up for the season. I was in the market for something that was altogether different from anywhere I’d been before. My lack of Spanish had kept Latin America perpetually out of consideration up to that point in my life. Holly told me about a unique place in Guatemala where a former Peace Corps volunteer had undertaken to build a school from entirely recycled materials. This was as necessary as much as it was do-gooder: the community in Comalapa had no waste management system or facilities. I was privileged to encounter a beautiful campus glittering with the sunlight that cast through green, blue, and brown colored glass bottles recycled to let natural light stream through walls I got to help make with mud, hay, and manure (“cob”). My Spanish improved a little everyday I worked alongside my fellows, and as I began taking 1-hour lessons in town after work. The spectacular highlight of the 10 days I spent in Guatemala was my weekend trip to Antigua (“Old Guatemala”). I hiked through hot sun and freezing hail in a single day of climbing up the dormant volcano, Acatenango. Camping that night 1,000 feet shy of the 13,000+ foot summit, my mind was blown when Fuego – the adjacent volcano – erupted and spewed lava down its front and sides right in front of me. I have been fortunate to continue my Spanish lessons with AngĂ©lica, my teacher, via Facebook video to this day. Presently, I intend to use those lessons as a model to do my own tutoring in French via an app. My time in Guatemala also has given me the confidence to take on the challenge of moving to Italy, where my current course-heading is set.

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