The Next Step: Senior Gap Years

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The Next Step: Senior Gap Years

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With the end of the year approaching, sixth formers begin preparing for the next chapter of their lives beyond the Circle. For many, this means attending college following summer break, but for others this means taking a year off from school to pursue other interests, seeking to gain a unique view of the world outside of what many call the “Groton bubble”. Four seniors – Elyssa Wolf, Emma Keeling, Ella Anderson, and Victoria Wahba ‘17 – have shared below details of their planned gap years.

Many people inspired or encouraged these seniors to take a step away from the fast life at Groton as they transition into the world. Several were both guided and enthused by the experiences of those around them. Elyssa was first exposed to the concept when three of her third form prefects took gap years. Similarly, Emma initially considered the opportunity after hearing “positive responses” from her friends and people she knew taking gap years, seeking a chance to have “a break from organized education to find that love of learning again.”

Still other seniors’ decisions were a result of unpredictable obstacles. Following a serious concussion in her fifth form year, Ella Anderson ’17 first started considering the option of a gap year. Going against her doctor’s recommendation and returning to Groton relatively soon after her injury, Ella felt “burned out.” After a college revisit, she realized she “really needed to take a year off” to allow herself to “fully heal.”

Although Ella’s gap-year was unanticipated, Victoria Wahba ‘17 is quite the opposite. She said: “I wanted to take [a gap year] for as long as I can remember,” and cited the need for a “mental break” as her impetus for doing so.  Despite differing individual reasons, the overarching purpose of gap years is, as Elyssa explains, to “gain some life and experience and take a little more direction in life.”

The process for obtaining a gap year may be either challenging or straightforward, depending on the individual colleges’ policies. Fortunately for her, Ella’s was of the latter type – after informing the admission committee that she wanted to take a gap year, she needed to do little else. Victoria underwent a similar process. Elyssa, on the other hand, needed to provide a letter requesting a gap year supported by what her college determines to be a “compelling reason” to take one. Further, she had to sign an agreement stating that she would not apply to other colleges in her time off.

With few time constraints and limitations, the projects that these seniors plan to undertake not only reflect their true interests and curiosities, but also allow for completely new and unique experiences. When visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art over her most recent spring long weekend, Ella found herself marveling over the beauty of the marble statues. After one quick Google search for classes in marble-working, Ella wound up with plans to spend four months in Florence, a portion of that time at a marble-carving school. She then plans on staying with her cousins in London, but has purposefully made few specific plans to allow for unforeseen opportunities. For the last part of her summer, Ella will attend a language program in Seville, Spain, to “perfect” her Spanish.

Like Ella’s, Victoria’s summer will also focus on language, starting with a three-month trip to southern France, where she will be “taking language classes and possibly teaching English or interning somehow.” From February to May, she will be in Egypt, taking intensive Arabic classes at American University in Cairo.

Elyssa, however, prefers home soil. She will start her gap year working two months at her parents’ company in New York City, then spend time at her home in San Francisco. From there, she plans to travel in Europe, specifically in Spain and Greece. Elyssa plans to conclude her year by becoming a certified yoga instructor in Bali – a certification requiring two hundred hours of training – and working as a counselor at a summer camp.

Emma’s gap year will incorporate both familiar and foreign places. She will initially stay local by working on the farm of Groton restaurant Gibbet Hill Grill from graduation to mid-October, learning there how to farm sustainably. After that, though, Emma will join with fifteen volunteers in Nepal to learn about Nepalese culture while simultaneously “educating communities on sustainable water and energy usage.”

From Indonesia to the town of Groton, these seniors will use the upcoming year to not only take a well-deserved break, but also to try things they’ve never done before. What happens after, though, is entirely up to them. While some after the gap year will attend college, others still plan to blaze other paths in life. All will hopefully carry what they learn with them wherever the next chapter of their lives take them.