As a serious and involved student in my high school, I was pretty burnt out by my senior year. I showed up to school every day at 7:00 am for club meetings, went to five AP classes, had golf practice after school, and then studied for hours on end after dinner, until I finally went to bed around midnight. It was exhausting, to say the least. I loved school and learning, but wanted a break from my routine life. I applied to colleges, like most high school seniors, but still found myself feeling restless. I did a little bit of research on gap years, and all of a sudden I found my answer. A Facebook Ad for Winterline popped up, and as soon as I read about the program, I was hooked.
Winterline offered everything that I was looking for. I was burnt out from high school and I needed a change of pace. I saw an opportunity with Winterline to challenge myself by learning outside of the classroom, broaden my perspective of the world, and most importantly, reconnect with myself and who I am.
As I sit here now, looking back on the last year of my life, I know that I made the best possible decision. I have changed and grown from the person I was when I started Winterline. I am more confident, I have more of a voice, and I know myself better. These are all things I wouldn’t have achieved going straight to college. I learned important lessons during my year abroad that will make me readier to take on my actual freshman year of college this fall. Here are 5 lessons that made my year so transformative, and that I’m excited to apply to my first year in college.
- The power of saying yes. I challenged myself in the second portion of my trip to take “no” out of my vocabulary, within reason of course. I had some amazing experiences because I said yes, and was open to new things while traveling. When I get to campus, I don’t want to overwhelm myself by saying, “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way, but I am excited to have that choice!
- How to adapt to new places and changes quickly. During Winterline, I didn’t live in the same place for more than 2 weeks at a time. I learned how to adapt to new places and changes of scenery very quickly. In college, everyone lives in a dorm for the entire first year. If I had gone straight off to college, I would have missed the exciting opportunity to live, well, everywhere!
- Learning doesn’t have to have a letter grade attached to it. I’ve always been extremely focused on grades and my academics. In high school, nothing was more important than maintaining straight A’s. My year with Winterline showed me that learning is more important, and more fun, than a letter grade. I can’t avoid the stress of wanting to get an A when I’m in college, but I feel more prepared to learn than focus on my grade.
- Everyone has universal commonalities, no matter how different we are. During my year with Winterline, I lived with people who I wouldn’t typically have been friends with in high school. But I learned throughout the course of the year, that we all had commonalities, no matter how different we were. I’m excited to go out of my way at college to make friends with people who are very different from me, because we will be able to find our own similarities.
- It’s important to be kind to yourself. I learned a lot about self-care this year. Our saying was, “Self-care is group care.” For me, self-care looked like writing in my journal, practicing yoga, getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and spending quality time with my friends. It looks different for everyone, but it’s important to figure out how to best take care of yourself. I think I’ll be able to prevent some stress next year because I now know so much more about myself and what I need.
If you’re contemplating taking a gap year, my advice is to do it. It was the most rewarding year of my life, and as the recent Chronicle of Higher Education article outlines, it has some incredible benefits for students who then choose to go to college. I wish I could do it again, but I’m excited for my next steps as I venture to Babson College.