An Evolving Answer

Danielle Katz - Brazil


August 19, 2018

This time last year, I was writing essays answering “Why _______ University?” in 500 words or less. For the past 3 months I’ve verbally answered the prompt “Why are you taking a gap year,” and improvised a varying response each time. My reasons evolve, but my most coherent answer yet came, ironically, when I knew the least about the upcoming year. In my final school newspaper article, entitled “A Final Bye-Line,” I wrote:

“Especially during the past year, I have found myself and so many of my peers stuck in the trap of wishing our time away as unsolicited life advisors threw us contradicting clichés: ‘Senior year is your chance to have fun, be carefree!,’ but ‘always think about the future, and don’t get distracted from your goals.’ After a year built off of cliches and conflicting advice, I knew I had to take a gap year before college.

For the upcoming year, I wanted an experience that was nearly impossible to give advice for, in order to construct my own memories. So, like any sane high school senior, for the second time, I will be sticking myself into a country where I know a minimal to nonexistent amount of the language. This time, the destination is Brazil.

Though I am beyond excited, when people ask me what I’m doing next year, the ‘hazardous’ nature of my adventure tends to steal the spotlight. No, I don’t know what part of Brazil, a 3.288 million sq. mile country, I’ll be in. No, I don’t know anything about my host family, but I know that I’ll be learning by living, which may possibly further coddle my inability to choose a specific path of study to focus on, in a way that I am completely at peace with.

After my gap year, I’ll start college at George Washington University with a new perspective and experience in what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. Taking a gap year in Brazil is the unusual, exciting, and hopefully only minorly hazardous, educational stepping stone I need to skip between the stagnancy of Olney and the fast-paced mentality of DC.”

Now that I’ve received previews and snippets of what my life will be like, I don’t think my enthusiasm could possibly translate successfully from anything past an aura onto my screen, so I’m lucky I wrote that article when I did. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to squeeze my life into some duffel bags that I swear look smaller by the hour, taking breaks only to reach my daily Duolingo goal.

Danielle Katz