By Michael Perik
I started my gap year with a lot of doubts and likely would not have done it if not for the people around me, who pushed me to try something new. I remember feeling tremendous anxiety and also some frustration about having to push college back. However as soon as I began City Year, I stopped thinking twice. City Year, while rewarding, has been incredibly challenging. Despite several weeks of “basic training” I had little to no training about how to work in a classroom environment. Everything I learned was on the job. I didn’t know how to foster a relationship with students or my partner teacher. I was able to push through and make a challenging experience rewarding, by shifting how I looked at my life. I learned to focus entirely on the present, rather than waiting for the weekend or constantly imagining what my freshman year at Tufts would look like. This past year became like a bubble for me, I felt free to explore who I was outside the confines of an academic environment. City Year consumed me so much that there were long periods where my freshman year of college seemed as distant as it did when I first started high school.
I want to make it very clear that City Year occupying my time was not by any means a bad thing. If anything it was a great thing. As someone who is always second-guessing himself, it was vital that I enter an environment where I had to develop leadership skills on the spot. The class I supported was hectic, for lack of a better word, and my partner teacher needed someone who could be reliable and attentive. As an untrained teacher’s assistant I didn’t always make the best decisions; in fact, I know I made a lot of poor decisions. However, I’m glad I’ve learned that I can fix my mistakes when I was 19. Those mistakes were important. Without them, my relationships with my students never would have changed, and I would still be on my first lesson of Do the Math with my small group.
It’s jarring to know that this period of my life is winding to a close. As I said earlier, my freshman year of college has seemed distant, but suddenly it seems closer than ever. City Year has taken up most of my free time, and I’m excited to see what my life will be like now that I’m moving on. I have a lot of new knowledge and experience to use. But it is also going to be challenging adjusting back to a more normal teenage life. I’ve spent almost a year with total independence, living in a city all by myself and having an adult working lifestyle. On some levels, I worry about how this experience will impact college for me, but mostly I am very excited for the future.