Dear high school seniors:
Maybe you’re starting your college applications right now, or receiving your decisions, all of which is pretty tumultuous with pressure from your parents, teachers, peers, and even the universities you might or might not want to go to. You’re stressed out about essays and test scores and grades, things you can’t do anything about, but it impedes your ability to focus on tests that are coming up, be them finals or AP/IB exams. Half the time, you just want to sleep and the other half you hold your breath and hope that you’ll eventually implode. Trust me—I know. Implosion practice is where I was exactly a year ago.
Listen, you’ve waited 12 years to finally graduate from high school, 12 years for the the 2 minute walk across the stage, and even though you’re too preoccupied with college applications and all this stress, you have to admit it’s a little ridiculous you’re going to catapult yourself into another 4 years of essentially the same thing, but now with dorms and no dress code. When do you get to put everything you learned into practice?
For me, a gap year meant so many things. First, a year to process everything that I had gone through—all the academic, physical, social, and emotional stresses and changes. Second, it meant that second chance I wanted so badly. All those times I wished that I would have studied harder, had more time for my applications, and had spent less time on arbitrary work that meant nothing to me. Third, it meant exploring the big blue world I knew little to nothing about other than the fact I wanted to see it. Exploring new terrain and how to apply all the knowledge I had accumulated. This isn’t a study abroad, where you’re studying in another country. Instead, you are studying the country itself, with all the culture and people it comes with.
My mom had fought with me for months against the choice, but my best friend told me that if I didn’t do this I would regret it for the rest of my life and he was right. I honestly think my mom being against it helped me buckle down and really think about why I wanted to do this, and why this program was for me. I didn’t make the decision to go through with a gap year until I had already committed to my college, and found out I couldn’t defer. This is not something you do on a whim, and it’s not a program for the feint of heart. It’s about taking risks and rolling with the punches. But unlike other programs, Global Citizen Year isn’t just language acquisition, it’s working with people in the community and understanding your role (and your relative insignificance). It teaches you about history and empathy, and how to implement these things by moving through everything you do with acute awareness. And it’s funny, in all my travel plans, South America was the last place I wanted to go, but here I am, completely enamored and trying to understand how I ever lived my life without granadillasbefore. That’s a fruit, by the way, and the insides look like snot but boy oh boy, if it’s not the sweetest thing I ever did taste.
Yes, everything is stressful right now. You feel like it will be the end of the world if you don’t get into the colleges you want or score high enough on the exams, and you’re not even sure what you’re even going to do when you meet your goals. But it’s not the end of the world, because there is so much more world to explore.