Will LeVan (Alumni of Dragons Peru Summer Program) decided to pursue a Gap Year in 2018-19. And he was kind enough to answer some questions we posed of his decision making process. Take a look…
Q: How did you come to the decision to take a Gap Year? Was it an intuitive or calculated choice?
A: During junior year I began to consider taking a gap year. I was fatigued from a challenging high school education and hoped that a gap year would revitalize and re-inspire my education. However, my decision was quickly made after my six-week Dragons trip to Peru. After the trip, I realized that traveling and working abroad as I did in Peru would teach me in ways that a classroom no longer could. Additionally, the opportunity to increase my Spanish proficiency and enter college with work and service experience abroad were integral in making my decision.
Q: What were/was your biggest questions going into the process? How did you get them answered?
A: Would it be affordable? Could I find programs that would make it meaningful? What would I do? These were my biggest questions going into my gap year. Through a lot of research, and I mean a lot, I scanned through dozens of programs. The trips ranged from three weeks to eight months and included volunteer work in Philly, education aboard sailboats in the Pacific, and hiking the Camino in Spain. By skimming these programs, a picture of my gap year manifested, including a Where There Be Dragons Semester program in Nepal, volunteering on a sustainable farm in Spain, helping build converted vans in Washington state, and hiking the Camino de Santiago. Websites like WWOOF and Helpstay were very helpful in my search.
Q: Did you have any regrets after making the decision?
A: I only wish I could do more.
Q: Do you know anyone else that’s taking a Gap Year? Do you ever feel lonely in the decision?
A: I have a few friends who are considering it, but never have I felt lonely in the decision because others have been so supportive, and sometimes envious, of my choice and plans.
Q: How did your parents respond to your decision?
A: They were very supportive.
Q: Is it hard to stay committed to your Gap Year vision when all your friends are talking about their fall school plans?
A: Not really. Since I applied to college during this school year and have deferred my enrollment, I’m not too jealous about my friends’ fall plans at college because I’ll know that I’ll have those experiences eventually and don’t have to worry about the stresses of college applications in the meantime.
Q: Do you have any fears regarding your Gap Year?
A: Part of me is worried that I’ll enter college behind in my studies. I think this is a common fear among students. However, I’m confident that I won’t be too far behind and can make it back up quickly. Additionally, I think the lessons I learn over my gap year will be just as valuable, it not more, than anything I can learn in the classroom.
Q: Did you already know where you wanted to go for your Gap Year?
A: I really had no idea where I wanted to go. I did a lot of research and looked at places like Chile, Jordan, Madagascar, South Africa, the Galapagos, Australia, and eventually ended up on Nepal in the fall and Spain for the spring. How did I decide on these places? First off, I love to hike and the opportunities to hike in the Himalayas and along the Camino in Europe are hard to pass up. Additionally, the ability to study Spanish in Spain was a big pull for me.
Q: What do you hope to learn from your Gap Year that you couldn’t learn in school?
A: How to live independently, work with others from different backgrounds, and be more aware and conscious of the world around me.
Q: Did language study play a role in your Gap Year decision?
A: Yes it did. After my Dragons summer experience in Peru, I knew that I wanted to experience more Spanish immersion in a non-classroom setting. I also believe that going into college and feeling more confident in my Spanish proficiency will only be beneficial. Therefore, I plan on volunteering and interning in Spain in the spring of my gap year and then hiking El Camino de Santiago in Spain to cap off my year.
Q: Will you be pursuing any type of internship or particular study of craft during your gap year?
A: Due to busy summer schedules throughout high school, I haven’t had many job experiences. This in part played into my gap year decision because I wanted to have more work experience before college. There isn’t a specific type of craft I’ll be pursuing, but instead just volunteer and work experiences in general. To fulfill this, I plan on working on an organic or sustainable farm in Spain.
Q: What would you say to someone on the fence on if they will pursue a gap year or not?
A: There are very times in life when you will be able to shed responsibilities for a year and just go travel and learn. A Gap Year is one of those opportunities. Additionally, the experiences you have and lessons will be long-lasting. If you can design a Gap Year that will be productive and constructive, I think it’ll be an amazing experience that you won’t regret.
Thank you Will!