We all share a similar fear in life that simplifies down to not keeping up with the rest of the people around you. You go on a walk with someone and, if they are walking too fast, you generally tend to speed up and/or expect them to slow down. Life is more comfortable that way, when we are at the same pace, we are generally on the same page. One of my biggest fears before taking a year off was that fact that I wouldn’t be keeping up with the rest of the crowd. I would forget my mathematics, physics, maybe I would even forget how to study, leading me to not be prepared for the college years that lingered ahead. Though I had been under the impression that high school was designed to prepare for college, it was until I began my gap year that I uncovered a methodology that gave insight on how to measure said “readiness” for higher education. I would like to share this methodology with you, but rather in a way where I can take you through my journey first. As the experience of growth is different for everyone, it is appropriate to then generalize my experiences on how they can be applied to any student taking a break in between very crucial times of studies.
As humans, we are constantly seeking some form of structure in our lives. Generally, when you ask a young adult where they see themselves in 10 years, they will respond in the following order: have a good paying job, have my own house, be married, and they might even add on an having kid or two. The good paying job refers to financial stability, the house represents shelter security, the marriage represents relationship stability, and arguably the kids even represent reproductive security. Imagine, some of the most fundamental ways of life put together in a structure all right before your eyes. Sounds pleasing, right? I am spending my year abroad in León, Nicaragua working with a non-governmental organization known as Amigos de Las Americas. This partnership was facilitated by Tufts University, where I had been previously accepted and intended to attend that coming year. Now my question is, why would a highly-selective university send the students that they have just chosen so far away from their very own campus? That is because they have already figured out the formula of this methodology and they can see it’s potential. Working with multiple organizations, I have an overarching structure that allows me to feel comfortable. However, with the globalization of the world and the substantially growing volunteerism industry, anyone can search for similar structure that I personally didn’t work as hard to find. But what you might not have expected is that there is a mental structure that exists less when on a gap year. All throughout high school, you are taught how to learn, the teacher takes control of the learning style within the classroom. Though they may try to work with different types of learning styles, you are the only one that has your type of learning style. It’s like a fingerprint, only your brain is absorbing the world around you and that can be done in countless ways. When on a gap year, my learning environment changed from a classroom to a country, and I was able to open my mind up to it in a way that only I knew how to do.