Alternative Decisions: Gap Year


Alternative Decisions: Gap Year

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time nothing that is worth knowing can be taught” – Oscar Wilde

I moved to Atlanta, GA my junior year of High School with more than enough credits to graduate. I breezed my way through school. Graduation came and I found myself without a university to attend that fall.

I only applied to 1 school. I didn’t know much about higher education. Whenever I spoke about college with someone I felt as if I always got the answer that you’re “just supposed to go” rather than having an exact purpose.

For some, college works out well, with students having a passion and understanding of what they would like to major in and sticking it out all the way through. For the other 80% of students who enter college with uncertainty, the process can be kind of tricky. Many may leave university feeling as if they wasted money, or even finish with a degree and work in a career that they do not want.

I ended up working at an outbound sales call center that summer, selling doors/patios (something that I felt you would have to be idiot to buy from me over the phone). The job was roughly a 1.5hr commute on the opposite side of town; all while still sleeping on my mother’s couch. Ironically it was the 1st time I had a nervous breakdown. At that moment I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do something long term that meant nothing to me. I QUIT!

I learned a lot about myself during that time. I learned what I didn’t want in life. Even though I benefited financially from the mundane job, mentally I felt as if my brain cells were slowly dying. I often wondered how my life would be different if I had instead come up with a plan on how to use that time proactively.

I started school that spring and pretty much flopped. I believe I switched majors about 4 times. I was never dedicated to school. There was never an occupation that I identified with. I would weigh my options daily, asking if this was something I could see myself doing long term, and the answer would always be NO! I decided to leave after a few years of trying to find a passion.

Over the next few years I came into contact with hobbies and jobs that I thought I wouldn’t mind doing for the rest of my life, with a few tweaks of course.

I eventually decided to try school again, not to attain a degree, but to learn. I told myself a degree would be nice to get but my main goal now is to LEARN. I enrolled in an art school and I did pretty well. It was easier for me to concentrate and perform because I was taking classes that I had interest in.

Gap year – A period of time taken by a young adult to volunteer, travel or work; often after high school or before or during higher education, as a break from formal education.

I took a few accidental gap years! LOL

I feel as if we sometimes get caught in a race to finish rather than taking the time to actually learn. To learn about the world, to learn about ourselves. You could spend a gap year volunteering, traveling, or anything for personal growth. That temporary time away can help you distinguish the possibilities of how you would want to live your life or even how you would not want to live it.

That experience could enhance everything that you get from college. Traveling has helped me sculpt and find my direction towards the things that I would like to accomplish in life.

I had never heard of a Gap year until I started my volunteer experience in the Dominican Republic. I decided to interview some of my good friends and fellow Outreach360 Caminos volunteers. Annika, who took off a semester of college and Kayla took a year off after High School to volunteer teach.

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Kayla Shields

Why did you take a gap year?

Many said I wasn’t committed to school, but really I was more committed to a cause. I craved a deeper purpose to my life and after graduating high school, the world was in my palm. You never know how long your gonna live, and since I knew in my heart I was ready to commit to college for 4 years I figured I’d take some gap years.

Do you feel like you missed anything back home?

Absolutely not. Simple as that.

What did you learn from your trip/time out?

I learned two things. Perspectively. The first was that even though I lived in a tiny beach town on the coast of the Dominican Republic, there was just SO much more out there. We live on a beautiful earth and the experiences, from tasting, seeing, speaking, and living within another culture, far surpasses anything else. It transforms you in such a way that it’s impossible to return to your old dimensions. For the better. Secondly, I found a true love for what I had always thought I wanted to do while meaning and making love for others. I still wake up craving to see my babies I taught, to have breakfast with my people I loved and to see the ocean. It’s all about those little things, man. As they said with the organization, “poco o poco”, little by little. Those are the things that make a life a loving life. It fulfills part of your heart and mind and the souls of the people you’re engaging with and vice versa. It comes down till it’s all about the love.

Was it hard to go back to school after your gap time?

Honestly, no. It made me appreciate the freedom, choice and availability we have here in America. Definitely gotta have to put in a little juice and some determination to offset all the heartache from missing my other life, but it was only my lovely motivation. It was, to me, a little thing I thought of before and now it sets the path for so many in other parts of the world; why shouldn’t I let that be a bridge on my path?

Would you change anything?

If I could I’d extend my time to some gap years. At the time it seemed to many, and myself at points, that it was a heavy amount of time, but really it wasn’t even close enough. Hopefully there’s a tomorrow so I can get there again.

Is there anything you would like to add?

You have to realize you are living a life. Your own life. When you decide to step back and take a little time, and realize how much you can expand your horizons and see the world, its exhilarating, electrifying, and warming. To venture off onto your own path, and being able to take your route of perhaps, helping others and spreading goodness and love, that’s what the world and your heart will have forever. There’s nothing better in the world than the feelings and memories that come through an adventurous spirit that’s all within us. It’s just up to you to find it. Take the risk. Everything always flows lovely in the end.

 

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Annika Hudson

Why did you take a gap year?

I took a gap year between my freshman and sophomore years of college because I felt stuck at school and there was so much more I could be doing. I essentially felt stuck.

Do you feel like you missed anything back home?

I missed my family and Miley Cyrus’s new persona, but when I got home everything was pretty much the same.

What did you learn from your trip/time out?

To listen to your heart; do not let others ruin your drive or discourage you. It also taught me a new independence that I had in myself to continually try and do what I never thought was possible.

Was it hard to go back to school after your gap time?

Going back to school was hard. Getting back into the routine was an adjustment and my writing was very rocky the first semester just because I forgot the basics. But this time did make me more serious about school.

Would you change anything?

I would not change a thing; things may not have seemed ideal in the moment but I would never trade the experience and all that I took from it.

Is there anything you would like to add?

To learn about another culture and experience is something everyone should do. It is okay to be uncomfortable and not know what’s next; you just need to listen to yourself and keep moving forward. Everything has a funny way of working itself out.

Also, Chuck is a realist and the best. He influenced so much and really had an impact on me. I will never forget him saying how something is no longer a favor once it is expected. Pretty much, once you stop appreciating the little things and take them for granted they no longer mean the same thing. Chuck is the best and I cannot wait to see him in the future, you know, wherever life takes us.

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If you would like to learn more about the possibilities you could take while on a gap year check out gapyear.com .

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