If you had asked me a year ago whether or not I would be taking a gap year after high school, I would have responded with a perplexed smile and said, “absolutely not”.
Obviously things have changed since then. Most significantly (and the reason why you’re reading this blog post) is that I am taking a gap, or, bridge, year! Through Global Citizen Year I will spend 7 months in Ecuador living with a local family, working an apprenticeship, and choosing a path taken by few high school graduates.
You may be wondering, what made you change your mind? To start, I burned out. Throughout high school, I had been the type of student who had his eye on the prize, worked tirelessly to get good grades, and was focused on college admissions (I had visited 5 colleges before junior year so ‘focused’ may be an understatement). During my junior year I had some major successes; I did well in sports (I am an alpine ski racer), scored well on the SAT, and spent a month in Cambodia on a State-Deparmtent sponsored exchange. My hard work had paid off and I had some amazing experiences; I was headed on the normal track towards college. But when senior year rolled around, things changed. Throughout my fall trimester I struggled to find the motivation that helped me achieve so much success in the past; I had lost focus and felt like my life was veering towards a different path.
The spark to take a bridge year began late in my fall trimester when my geography teacher, Mr. Knox, told me about a program he read about in the New York Times called Global Citizen Year. Mr. Knox, who was well aware of my senior-year struggles, was also the teacher who had introduced me to the State Department exchange I participated in the previous summer and knew I had strong passions for traveling and cultural experiences. As I started to discuss the possibilities of a bridge year with him, things started to make sense. Why rush into college when senior year is already enough of a struggle? What’s the harm of taking a year off of school? When’s a better time to take a risk and try something different? A bridge year with Global Citizen Year sounded like the exact thing I needed to do. Take a year off of school to regain motivation and have an incredible experience along the way.
Ultimately, my choice to take a bridge year with Global Citizen Year came from my passions: traveling, studying languages, and discovering new cultures. While my early senior year experiences helped me realize I needed to make some changes, they were not the concluding factors that made me press the ‘submit’ button on my application. What made me press that button was thinking about the opportunities before me and what would best prepare me for the vast world beyond the classroom. I am certain my year in Ecuador will be a challenging learning experience, but by following my passions I am positive I am headed in the right direction.