How to Plan A Gap Year Like Malia

By: Olga Khaminwa-Joseph | March 15, 2017
Topics: Education, Gap Year Planning
The internet exploded when America’s favorite daughter, Malia Obama, announced she'd defer admission to Harvard University and pursue a gap year instead.

Many were still unfamiliar with the concept of a gap year and were curious to see what she had in store. Thanks to the help of a number of new sources, we were able to piece together a timeline of Malia’s gap year so far.

If you are a student, currently in the process of gap year planning, I hope this example will inspire you to venture further outside of your comfort zone.

Summer 2016

Malia started off her gap year by following in the political footsteps of her father with a summer internship at the U.S. Embassy in Spain. Normally, the Embassy only accepts upperclassmen and recent college graduates for their coveted internships but in this case, they made an exception. Barack Obama has said in the past that Malia’s Spanish is quite impressive so it stands to reason that she would want to spend her summer embracing a foreign culture on the beautiful streets of Madrid.

Malia and Barack Obama

Photo Credits: Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Although Malia is familiar with the political world, an internship at the U.S. Embassy allowed her to approach foreign politics from an outsider’s perspective. What are Spain’s concerns when it comes to U.S. politics? How do diplomats work to communicate between these two countries? Nothing can stand in the place of real world experience when it comes to politics. For those interested in pursuing a career in international relations, that global perspective may be just what you need to test the waters and get your foot in the door.

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Fall 2016

In the fall, Malia traveled to South America in pursuit of another side of Spanish-speaking culture. She joined Where There Be Dragons on their 3-Month Gap Semester program in Bolivia and Peru. Malia spent three months trekking through the mountains, camping in the Amazon and exploring topics such as environmental conservation and social reform — all while improving her Spanish language skills.

Malia Obama Bolivia

Photo Credits: (NYTimes)

A rural, international experience is perfect for those looking to get away from urban life. Maybe you are tired of your hometown and are looking to explore a new place or you want to become fluent in a new language. Immersing yourself in a foreign environment can be humbling and telling for those feeling lost in a bustling city.

Spring & Summer 2017

But the year isn’t over yet! Sources have confirmed that Malia will spend the remainder of her gap year interning under Harry Weinstein of Weinstein Company. Known for the creation of several award winning films such as Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, and Inglorious Basterds, Weinstein Company is one of Hollywood’s great independent production companies.

malia-obama-black-jeans-spl

Photo Credits: Hollywood Life

This isn’t Malia’s first time working in the entertainment industry. In the summer of 2015, she spent time interning for HBO’s Girls and inspired the show’s writer and star, Lena Dunham, with her can-do attitude. “She wanted to do all the jobs. That was the cool thing. She was totally enthusiastic,” Dunham said to Howard Stern on The Howard Stern Show. Although an intro-level position in the entertainment industry is often monotonous, being where the action is and absorbing what you see happening around you can be invaluable at a young age.

What this means for you: Tips

If Malia’s gap year can teach us anything, it’s that the best gap year is made of a variety of experiences. If you’re a high school student going through the process of gap year planning, consider approaching the task in this way.

Rather than finding one activity to consume all your time, break your year into chunks and dedicate a few months at a time to each of your interests. Give yourself a chance to test out a handful of options and you may be surprised by what activities resonate with you the most. A bevy of unique and challenging experiences will prepare you for the adversity you may face in college and beyond.

While traveling the world, our students try out a hundred different skills over the course of our 9-Month Program; some more and less appealing to some than others. At Winterline, that pedagogy of exposure and experience drives our Global Skills Gap Year Program.

By the end of the year, students have a strong understanding of their likes and dislikes and what areas of study they would like to pursue further. They come home having learned something about themselves and the world — and that’s the most valuable gift you can give yourself from a year off from school.

Ready to travel the world on a gap year?

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