Gap Year Stories During COVID (Part 2)

By Anna Nickerson

Last week, we highlighted three students who have taken Gap time during a COVID-impacted year. Danielle, Dom, and Alexis all fashioned productive Gap semesters without traveling in the fall. This week, I am highlighting Jack and Sarah, who were able to successfully plan travel in the U.S. 

Jack lives in the metro Boston area, and traveled in the fall with a Gap Year program that pivoted to the U.S. from their traditional international locations. This enabled him to learn about refugee and immigration issues, backpack, explore different outdoor experiences (cougar tracking, studying marine biology, kayaking), and gain wilderness first responder certification while traveling in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Washington and ultimately Hawaii – all with a group of students his own age.

Before he boarded his flight to head out West, Jack received a negative COVID test. He was tested twice more upon arrival and before interacting with his group. Throughout the 70-day program, he remained in a “bubble” with eleven other students and two instructors. He experienced the West’s natural beauty and rediscovered his love for spending time outdoors.

Jack wasn’t always planning to take a Gap Year. Before the pandemic hit, he was planning to attend Villanova in fall 2020. Around the middle of May, his parents raised the idea of a Gap Year. He realized that virtual classes would be limiting, and began looking into options for spending a year off before starting college. From his Gap Year so far, Jack has learned that “there’s no real rush. There’s pressure to stick to the same path as everyone else, but I’ve found that taking a Gap Year is really beneficial. Everyone should take one if they can!”

Sarah has also made the most of her Gap Year, especially given the pandemic. Since the fall, she’s been keeping busy as a tennis instructor for young children, babysitting and tutoring for three families in her neighborhood, and working as a cashier at a local farm in New Jersey.

This spring, she’ll venture to Maui, Hawaii for 2 months with a Gap Year program. The program will enable her to surf, hike, work with marine conservation groups, and even live on a permaculture farm with a small group of students. She told me that she’ll be off the grid for these two months without cell service, which will give her time to focus on her surroundings and learn more about herself.

Sarah expressed that finding a program like this was very challenging. Although she had never given a Gap Year much thought, she finally decided at the end of July that she would defer from Holy Cross. When she made this decision, she originally wanted to travel internationally, but the options were limited due to COVID. Gap Year Solutions worked closely with Sarah to identify a good fit for her travel goals. She originally planned to join a group in Ireland, but due to the COVID resurgence in that country, she shifted to her current Hawaii itinerary.

Gap Year Solutions supported Jack and Sarah by helping them identify their interests and goals, and working with them to structure their experiences. Gap Year Solutions has provided regular mentoring to help them stay on track, and adjust their plans as needed to ensure the most productive time possible!

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