Gap Year Profiles

Features  /  by Annika Goldman '18  /  May 28, 2017

Olalla Duato '18 / The Lawrence

While we say goodbye to all our seniors this Sunday and send them off to their new beginnings at their respective colleges, a few Lawrentians will start their adventures of gap years before attending college. Gap years are becoming more and more common, but a stigma continues to surround them that suggests the person taking a gap year is unmotivated and will spend the year on the couch. However, our fellow Lawrentians are not in this category, but rather will spend a year with plans that will shape them as human beings and likely advance them in life.

Ghael Fobes

For Fobes, the idea of a gap year was not on his mind until he received an email from Alexandra Largess about an opportunity to spend a semester at sea. Shelby Davis ’54, to whom Fobes expressed his gratitude for giving him an experience to learn and travel the world, gave him this opportunity. After he “spent a bit of time on the Semester at Sea website, [he] knew that this was not an experience” that he could pass up. Luckily, the idea “took very little convincing” from his “incredibly excited and eager” parents, especially since he received a generous scholarship for the program. It will also take place only during the second half of his freshman year, as the program requires the participants to have at least one semester of college completed. Fobes indicated his intrigue in “the notion of traveling and not touring,” to which he found the Semester at Sea program dedicated. The program also values bringing “deep understanding and intellectual curiosity into the lives of people from widely different backgrounds” who will travel to eleven different countries on a boat together. This program will provide him with school credit, and with his existing AP credits, he will still graduate on time with the rest of his classmates in the Class of 2021 at Syracuse University. At the university, he will study Broadcast and Digital Journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and Political Science at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Sydney Finkelstein

Unlike Fobes, Finkelstein has always been interested in taking a gap year, as she “[sees] it as a great opportunity to explore [her] interests and try things [she] may not otherwise have a chance to try.” Unsure about her plans for the future, Finkelstein considers a gap year a chance to “clear up” what she might want to study during college. Although there have been a few disagreements on the logistics of her plans, her parents have been extremely supportive. She will begin her journey in Nepal with a Where There Be Dragons program, where she will spend time “living in homestays and Buddhist monasteries, trekking the Himalayas, volunteering, and studying Nepali language and culture.” She will spend the second half of her year in a country in South America so that she can improve her Spanish while taking part in an exchange program. Her plan has been majorly influenced by her goals of not only to become fluent in Spanish, but also to “[disconnect] from social media and [expose herself] to experiences and cultures” that are unfamiliar to her.

Dorothy Waskow

Waskow took interest in a gap year because she found spending “a year in another country without worrying about a job or making a living” appealing, a time when she would just appreciate and learn about the culture around her. Additionally, she knew that she wanted to take a year off from school before she entered college. Although she will be taking classes, Waskow is excited to “be learning for the sake of learning, rather than achieving good grades.” Prior to suggesting the idea of a gap year to her parents, she researched all sorts of programs until she found the one that she thought was most interesting. She already planned to go to Germany because her grandfather came from Germany, and she “[wants] to go back and explore some of that heritage.” The program that she encountered, Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, is run by the U.S. State Department and the German government and allows for American students to travel to Germany and German students to America for a year. Waskow will live with a host family; attend a local school; have meetings with German government officials; and take trips to the German Bundestag, the national Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany. Though nervous about the language barrier, Waskow sees this opportunity as a great way to improve upon the Germany that she already knows while also learning about the country in which she will live.

Patrick Taylor

Taylor was confronted with the option of a gap year when he got off the waitlist of his first choice, the University of Chicago for the Class of 2022 instead of 2021. He took this option and persuaded his parents to agree because, although he would take a year off from school, “Lawrenceville has instilled values in [him] that won’t just wash away” during his gap year. It may seem like a big deal to take a full year off before starting college, but Patrick and his parents see that it “isn’t a big difference in the grand scheme of things.” During his gap year, he will work in a boarding school in Thailand called The Regents School, a British-style international school that will enable him to “earn [his] own keep during [his] year while also [being] able to enjoy a new place for a long period of time.” Even though he knows that this experience will be like no other, he is still slightly nervous about starting college a year later. He is concerned about losing some of the knowledge that he gained at Lawrenceville, but he will retake a math course to refamiliarize himself with old material once he gets there in the fall of 2018. Also, he will enter UChicago as a freshman while his friends Eugen David ’17, Alejandro Turriago ’17, and Campbell Garret ’17 will already have been there for a year. However, Patrick is still confident that they will “still welcome him.”