Why I Decided to Take a Gap Year (and How I Ended up Going to Ecuador!)

For my entire high school career, I tried to be perfect. I strived for perfection in my grades and in my extracurricular activities, and I felt as if any little mistake could ruin my chances of getting into college. I think that I put a lot of this pressure on myself because I wanted to see my hard work materialize into something concrete. I wanted some sort of capstone on the end of my high school career.

I used to think that the perfect path in life was linear – perform well in high school, attend a highly competitive college, go to some type of graduate school, get a successful job, etc. Throughout high school, I participated in a variety of clubs, played a sport, played an instrument, and spent numerous hours studying to maintain my grades, all to be the “well-rounded” student that could one day get accepted into the college of my choice.

Well, this year, I received the long-awaited college acceptance when I was admitted into the University of Pennsylvania.

Yet, as I looked back on my high school career, I was not completely satisfied. Something was missing, and I began to wonder, “What if my goals in life do not fall on a straight line?” and “What if I need to take a few turns and explore different avenues?” I began to realize that I had achieved a predetermined view of perfection. This is why I do not want to continue on a path of just doing things to get somewhere else. I need to discover my own form of perfection and work towards reaching more personal, fulfilling goals.

I know the mindset that I want to have when I enter college. I want to be excited and eager, so that I can take full advantage of my education and of the various opportunities that will cross my path. As I watched my friends’ enthusiasm when they were accepted into college and began to prepare for the next step in my own education, it became clear to me that I did not yet have this mindset. I needed to take time to get to this point.

This is why I decided to take a gap year with Global Citizen Year. I want to rediscover my passions and take a year to rejuvenate after high school. I am not saying that I expect to “find the meaning of life” during my gap year, but I truly believe that no matter what happens, I will be able to challenge myself and grow as a person. I want to learn about new cultures and experience life outside of my own suburban bubble. I want to take a chance and do something on my own terms. When I enter college, I want to be prepared to make a difference, and I think a Global Citizen Year will equip me to maximize my future education.

As my gap year in Ecuador quickly arrives, I am both excited and nervous for what the future holds. However, for the first time in a long time, I do not feel burdened by expectations. I am doing something that I truly want to do. Over the next eight months, I cannot wait to explore a new country and see how I grow as an individual. I know that the next year of my life will be filled with amazing successes and discouraging struggles, but I cannot wait to live through it all. I am so thankful for the opportunity given to me by Global Citizen Year, and I am certain that the possibilities for this upcoming year are endless!