Gap Year Stories During COVID

By Anna Nickerson

As more students opt for Gap Years this year, many students and families looking for Gap Year options are scratching their heads wondering, “What can we do while staying closer to home?”

I recently spoke with several Gap Year Solutions students who have made the best of an unprecedented situation and found ways to stay active, engaged, and excited during their Gap Years. This week I cover Danielle, Dom and Alexis’ stories. They all fashioned productive Gap time without traveling in the fall. Check back next week to hear from Jack and Sarah, who were able to travel in the U.S. despite the many challenges presented by COVID.

Danielle lives in the metro Boston area, and has taken advantage of her time at home to learn more about herself and her personal interests. A life-long dancer, she was planning to attend Elon University as a dance major. When the pandemic continued to worsen, she made the decision last July to take a Gap Year. She didn’t want to take online classes, especially as a dance major.

Danielle has kept incredibly busy. She’s been assisting as an intern and teacher at a local dance studio, working at a coffee shop, and tutoring students during remote learning. She’s reconsidering her choice of college, and is using this time to apply to other schools. Most importantly, she’s learning about herself. Danielle told me, “COVID hasn’t been good for anyone obviously, but this time has given me a great opportunity to learn more about the dance industry and be involved with things I’m interested in. This year has been surprisingly positive!”

Dominic lives in the Washington DC area, and realized that he wanted to take a Gap Year as soon as COVID hit. He decided that online learning would be a challenge for him, since he loves to talk to his teachers and sometimes struggles to stay organized. “College is the beginning to my future, so I didn’t want to waste this time – and I felt I needed a break,” he told me.

Dom grew up in Maryland, but spent three years in Asia attending the Singapore American School, so he wanted to spend more time learning about various Asian countries. He spent the fall working at the Heritage Foundation, a research and educational institution in Washington D.C. At Heritage, Dom did a capstone project about China’s Belt & Road Initiative, for which he received positive feedback from his mentors. He found out recently that his paper might even be published!

Dom found that so far, his Gap Year has given him many opportunities to challenge his viewpoints and showed him a lot about the “real world.” His fall experience has inspired him to consider majoring in Political Science when he starts at Holy Cross in fall 2021.  

Alexis, from the Philadelphia area, decided towards the end of her junior year of high school to forego her senior year and take the GED exam instead. She was having a difficult time striking a balance with her academics as she excelled in subjects like history and English, but struggled in math. She wasn’t getting the accommodation she needed from her school, so she decided to take a different approach.

So this past fall she started working on a human rights project with a Moroccan NGO. This opened her eyes as an American. She gained valuable cultural experience as she helped clean up translation work and responded to people on social media. At the same time, she also worked part-time in a local retail store, and participated in Gap Year Solutions’ ImagineU program which was held in partnership with the Baserria Institute. This online experience enabled Alexis to learn empathy and about other cultures through food. Without her Gap time last fall, Alexis says she would never have gotten these incredible learning opportunities!  

Gap Year Solutions supported all three students by helping them identify their interests and goals, and working with them to structure their experiences. Gap Year Solutions also provided regular mentoring during their Gap time to make adjustments to their plan as necessary, and ensure they stayed on track.

Check back next week for Part 2, in which we look at how – despite COVID – two of our many Gappers embarked on structured travel programs in the U.S.

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