Gap Year College

Ariel Vardy - Senegal


July 10, 2012

I signed up for college, right when I was told I was supposed to.  Going to college was sort of a given for the school in my demographic.  The question was not “what are you doing next year?”, but rather “what college are you going to?”.

People would learn a lot about me in my answer. As I was signing up for college, I was also researching gap year programs and epic ways to spend a year off. In my quest for ski resorts to teach at in South America, or volunteer opportunities like Global Citizen Year, they learned I make my own paths in life. I am independent, I don’t always follow the flock, and I am a risk taker. I decided I wanted to go on this program because I want a specific type of education. I want to learn about myself, about independence, about different types of people and culture, and a new international consideration.  I don’t know what I want to major in, or what career path to follow, so instead I feel like I am taking a year to “major” in life skills and global understanding.

Every time I have traveled, I have come out feeling stronger from it. When I was in third grade, I traveled out onto a snowy plateau, built an igloo, and slept there until it started melting on me, when I had to run inside from the “plateau” in the backyard. My sense of adventure has led me blindly into local and international forests of both trees and cityscape. Last summer I volunteered in the Israeli Defense Force and lived three weeks in a desert base on a cliff overlooking Lebanon and Syria. In this remote setting, I did volunteer labor in the extreme heat of the days.

Worthy and important volunteer work excites me as much as the independence and culture does, because it’s so satisfying to see the results in the face of someone who was once in need. It becomes doubly enriching, because I help them in an impoverished setting, but they are also helping me understand and grow from their stories and lives.

So when asked the question, “What college are you going to?” I say, “I am taking a gap year” to which they respond, “where is Gap Year College located?” and I then I say: “it has no location, because it’s not college, it’s an experience not tied to a location or institution. I am not going to college next year; I am taking a year to learn about myself, and the world around me. I want to be educated before I start my studies.”

Ariel Vardy