Mind The Gap Year

Features  /  by Daniel Chivers '17  /  April 14, 2017

Courtesy of Katherine Xiong '19

As a gap year student from abroad, I think my take on Lawrenceville is different from that of a normal senior. By expanding on some of my own values from this year, I hope that some of you can implement some of them into your own Lawrenceville career so that your time here is more enjoyable and you leave Lawrenceville a tiny bit more enlightened than you would otherwise.

1. Don’t waste your Sundays

You could easily argue that strong academics is the reason people come to Lawrenceville. That may be true, but that doesn’t mean you have to cancel your life to study all the time. If you aren’t studying, spend time with other people, learn to play an instrument, read a book which isn’t for class, or go off campus to see different places (with appropriate permissions). If you sleep for 18 hours, go to Maidenhead, finish your work, and go back to bed then that’s great, but you’re missing out on a massive amount of unmined gold. Don’t get me wrong, you will have a better and more productive time in high school than the huge majority of the population by just doing the minimum requirements, but you don’t have to wait until after college to start your life. There’s more to life than just A’s and B+’s: There’s a whole bunch of letters out there, and you won’t find them by sleeping in your bed.

2. Connect with people. Make everyone feel like they are important.

There are so many talented people from so many different backgrounds here. When you meet someone, look them in the eye, tell them you are pleased to meet them, and shake their hand. Be personable too—when you greet someone, say their name and smile at them. Smiling makes people feel good and feel like they are important. You probably don’t know everyone—you might not even know a fraction of the people—but every single person has their own story and their own experiences. Make an effort to connect with some of them.

3. Don’t try to get the last clap

If someone does something worthy of an applause, by trying to get the last clap, you’re trying to take the attention from that person and put it onto yourself. When someone achieves something, you congratulate them. At Lawrenceville, we should encourage excellence in others. There is so much potential to be harnessed in all of you, so when someone does harness it, don’t make yourself the centre of attention. It’s selfish, even if we don’t recognise the effects.

4. Call someone out if you think they are being inappropriate, inconsiderate, rude, selfish, or discriminatory.

This is hard, but I think it’s so important that everyone starts doing this. If you think it might be inappropriate, it’s likely someone else is thinking it too, or, even worse, someone might have been offended by it but is too scared to say anything. Never be afraid that you might ruin the joke, and you shouldn’t be afraid to make things awkward at dinner if you tell someone they were being inappropriate.

5. Talk to your teachers and duty masters

They may have given you a terrible grade on your last essay, but that doesn’t always mean they hate you. The staff here aren’t just picked out of a hat, they all have stories and attributes which made them great Lawrenceville teachers. They are actually humans, and they have interests too. Talk to them about things you’ve been thinking about or doing—whether you want book recommendations or want to talk about globalisation, TV programmes, or sports. They do have work to do, so try not to harass them too much, but you can learn a lot from them outside the classroom.

6. Don’t be afraid to be wrong or to ask for help

If you didn’t know already, I have made more than my fair share of mistakes this year. Whilst I wouldn’t make them again, I don’t regret them. If this year had gone perfectly, I wouldn’t have learned half as much as I have. I want to share a quote from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” which I finished just a couple of weeks ago. The context is that Jane (who says this quote) wants to hook up with Mr. Bingley but thinks that his sisters have purposefully not allowed him to see her, which makes her mad. She realises that she was wrong and that this was not the case.

“I am not ashamed of having been mistaken—or, at least, it is slight, it is nothing in comparison of what I should feel in thinking ill of him or his sisters. Let me take it in the best light, in the light in which it may be understood.”

We often overreact to events that are out of our control and falsely place fault on other people. Sometimes, when you think someone is acting out of malice, you need to take some time alone to think things over from their perspective. It will often be something much more simple. When this happens, apologise, admit you were wrong, and move forward.

I know these messages are jumbled, but, hopefully, some of you will take some of what I have said and implement it into the rest of your time at Lawrenceville. All of you have the potential to make your time here really special, and I hope you use it wisely.