Jack Fenker: Musician & Filmmaker Taking A Gap Year

By: Winterline | April 18, 2017
Topics: Gap Year Planning, Student Voices
Meet Jack Fenker from Sarasota, Florida, about to graduate from high school and embark on the best gap year ever!

Ready for a gap year too?


The concept of a gap year program is still new for many students. When were you first introduced to the idea of taking a gap year before college?

My college counselor was the first person to put the bug in my ear that it was ok to think outside of the box. I had already gone through the application process and had been accepted to some great schools.  Still, I felt out of place. I was just really burned out and was already wondering how I was going to manage the stress of college.

In Europe, the UK, England, gap years are common. A couple kids in my school were considering doing gap years. I talked to one of them about it, started researching, and I found Winterline. To me, it was like this holy grail of gap year programs — you travel and learn skills you actually need for life – not just for college. I just fell in love with it.

Why did you choose to take a gap year?

There are a couple of reasons actually.  I wasn’t having the motivation to sit in a classroom for hours and hours a day. For me, senioritis kicked in the second or third week of senior year. I’ve never been the kind of person that likes to sit in a chair and listen days on end, and this year was no different. I guess I was itching for something else, but really didn’t know what.

I always wanted to travel.

As much as I am excited to go to college, I feel that I am just not ready for the grind that it will be, and should be – not yet.  I love learning, but I’m tired of sitting in a classroom for an hour and a half, and then getting a paper to do. Taking a year to do some hands on learning of real life skills, all over the world – are you kidding me?

It really is exciting, you know?

What country on our itinerary are you most excited to visit?

I’m most excited to visit Cambodia and Thailand, as it is totally out of my comfort zone. I’m somewhat familiar with Latin America; I can speak some Spanish.  I have no idea how to speak Thai, but I am eager to learn!

My goal is when I’m done with my gap year is to hit the ground running in college and be better prepared for life.  I already did the college application and acceptance process, and then deferred my enrollment for a year. So it’s really a win-win, I have nothing to lose by going on a gap year, and so much to gain.

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What was the process of getting the deferral like? What’d you have to do?

Well, I’m not sure how others have done it, but I went through the whole application, acceptance and decision process just like everyone else in my senior class.  My school actually required us to submit all of our applications prior to November 1 of senior year, which was stressful at the time but now I totally get why they had us do it that way.  I really didn’t start thinking about a gap year until I had been accepted and had already decided where I wanted to go.  I knew Hofstra was the place for me, but I had a growing realization that taking a gap year would make me a better student and person in the long run.

I accepted Hofstra’s offer of admission, paid my deposit, and then sent an email to my regional admissions counselor, telling her that I had accepted but requested a deferral of admission.  She was so supportive – And Hofstra was so great – they deferred me for a year, and I fully intend to keep in touch with them during my gap year and enroll next fall.   It’s a win-win.

What activity or learning experience captivates you the most about Winterline?

Some of the things that I really get excited about are the defensive driving with BMW in Germany and the documentary filmmaking in India.  The culinary arts skills kind of scare me, because I have no idea how to cook, but I know I need to learn!

I think the biggest thing I’m excited for is to learn how to cope with others, and learn to adapt to each other.  I think we get that in small doses as kids, but it’s still not the real world.   Honestly, the thing that hit me the most about Winterline was one of the taglines about the first few weeks of the program, about how we would meet our travel companions and “ learn what makes them tick and what ticks them off”. To me, that is a life skill.  That I get to learn it while traveling the world  —  priceless.

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Do you have an idea of what you would like to do in the future?

I’d like to work in the TV or film industry. I’ve always been in love with filmmaking and film critiquing.  I have movie posters on every inch of my bedroom walls. That’s one of my tropes at my school — I’m the movie guy, if anyone has a question about a movie I’ll know what it is. I plan on majoring in marketing or media studies, and then minor in film production.

Have you traveled before? If so, which trip has been your favorite and why?

I’ve been blessed with traditional family vacations — Hilton Head in July, Florida in December, and other trips all over here and there. They were all fun, but then all of a sudden they weren’t. Almost every trip I’ve been on has been either really familiar or really structured.  I’m ready for a new paradigm.

If I had to pick a past favorite, I would have to choose Costa Rica.  It was the first (and only) time I’d been out of the country and I actually had to think hard about adapting to another language and culture.  It was an eye opening experience and made me want more.

What do you expect to gain from your gap year program and while traveling abroad?

In a general sense, I want to learn practical skills that I can apply no matter what circumstance I find myself. I want to gain some real independence (as in I am on the other side of the world and I have to figure it out, end of story).

I’m the first to admit that I have lived in various bubbles for most of my life – first in a high achieving public school system in the Midwest, and then in a private school in Florida. My bubbles are not the real world  — I get that.   I’m excited, I really am, to see the rest of the world, other than National Geographic documentaries.

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What is one thing you want your future Winterline peers to know about you?

I guess I am an old soul.   I’m a fan of old movies, old books, and old music.  I really enjoy the Stones, Led Zeppelin, old bluesy stuff like that. Recently, I’ve gotten into reading certain genres of literature from the Beat Generation, like Jack Kerouac. I love when musicians and writers have passion and are able to express it.  There was a real focus on wanderlust and travel and exploration back then.  I think we need more of that these days.

Tell us something fun about you!

I’m pretty skilled in the art of movie quotations. My friends have called me the first person to ask any question about movies or tv shows.

And finally, Coke or Pepsi?

Pepsi. No question. That said, I will respect to the end your choice for the opposing beverage.  That’s what makes the world go round.  But you are still wrong!

Anything else you want to add?

I really want to express how excited I am, and grateful for my parents, counselors, and Hofstra, who have made this possible for me. I’m thrilled that such as thing as Winterline exists.  I want to suck everything out of it that I can.

I’m excited to get to know the other people in my group. Going through ten countries in nine months is really going to bond us together and I’m just really excited for that. I can’t wait until September!

Ready for the best gap year ever?



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