Gap Years’ Lasting Impact

By Anna Nickerson, Babson College Class of 2022

A Gap Year is an exciting opportunity for students, providing them with opportunities to get out of their comfort zones, gain valuable life skills, improve independent decision making, gain work experience, and so much more. But how does a Gap Year impact students further down the road once they’re preparing to graduate from college and finally enter the “real world?” Gap Year Solutions believes strongly that Gap Years will have a lasting impact in the lives of students who venture off the traditional path – especially as they navigate adulthood. However, it is one thing to believe this on faith. It is quite another to actually hear the amazing stories that reaffirm why we do what we do! So we spoke with college students to hear how their Gap Years continue to influence and impact their lives.

Lizzy Thidemann graduated from UMass Amherst last spring after taking a Gap Year before her freshman year. During her Gap Year, Lizzy completed a 3 month Outward Bound course in which she traveled to Southern states in the U.S. and the Patagonia region in Argentina and Chile. Through adventures such as backpacking, rock climbing, traversing across glaciers and much more, the program pushed her to new physical and mental limits. After her exciting outdoor voyage, Lizzy spent the rest of her Gap Year earning money as a lifeguard and gaining work experience through an unpaid internship at Tufts Medical. As she reflected on her Gap Year, Lizzy said, “The interpersonal growth that I experienced during my Gap Year helped me pick the major best suited for me, open myself up to new friendships and make my dream of studying abroad in Australia come true… I recommend that anyone who wants to take a Gap Year should. My mental health and college experience benefited in so many ways because of my Gap Year.”

Vicki Maler is another Boston-based college student who decided to take a Gap Year after high school. Vicki, a junior at Babson College, participated in a Jewish Gap Year program called “Kivunim.” Although Israel was the home base for the program, Vicki was able to travel with her cohort to 13 countries and importantly connect with fellow Jewish mentors and peers. This experience has inspired her to become more involved in the Jewish community. While studying “abroad” in San Francisco this past fall, Vicki interned at a Jewish consulting firm. When discussing the experience she said, “I interned at a consulting firm that worked with a lot of the organizations that I met while traveling the world and encountering various Jewish communities. It was a unique and enriching experience to have already met these organizations and then to learn more about their organizational structures and financial allocation through my internship.” When asked about the lasting impact her Gap Year has had on her, Vicki reflected, “I think that the biggest impact that my Gap Year has had on me is my love for learning and curiosity. Because of my Gap Year, I find myself reflecting on my experience and questioning everything. I push for hidden meanings and messages and do not just accept things as truth.”

A former Winterline gapper and current sophomore at Loyola Marymount University, Hayden Bartholomew, also reflected on her Gap Year; “I think more than anything my Gap Year made me more adaptable. I feel like I can handle anything thrown my way.” Another former Winterline student, Leela Ray Barlow, is now a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara and told us “My Gap Year showed me how to accept and present the ‘real me’ and it has changed the way I interact with people of all different backgrounds for the better.”

Finally, another junior at Babson had an impactful Gap Year experience. Walker Praznik spent part of his Gap Year traveling in Japan, Thailand, and Cambodia. He says, “Growing up in Colorado, I was not exposed to a global perspective. The opportunity to expand my perspective and become more globally sensitive and aware is something that I am grateful for.”

So what are you waiting for? Start figuring out how YOU will pause your formal academic training, to embark on a year or semester of REAL WORLD LEARNING, and possibly change your life forever!

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