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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Gap year students inspired by experiences

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While many high school seniors are eager to start their new lives as college students upon graduating high school, there is a small but growing portion of the student population that chooses to take some time off before heading to college.

Students who took a gap year before coming to Carleton report that their gap year experience contributed to personal development. Joshua Reason, a junior Latin American Studies major, chose to spend his gap year living in Brazil through a program called Global Citizen Year. “I learned to take my time and really value personal relationships,” Reason said. “I think that what was always missing in my life was this idea of taking time to relax, and like sit back and be able to take care of myself …that’s was really emphasized during my gap year because I had a lot of free time.”

This freedom is crucial for students to determine their interest in a specific field. Reason reported a solidified interest in studying Latin American Studies after taking this gap year:

“When I first came to Carleton, I was going to be a Japanese or Asian Studies Major because I was and am still very interested in Asia. After the experience, I found myself very passionate in something very specific within Latin America.”

Gap years teach students to set goals for themselves. Robert Lord, a sophomore with an interest in cognitive science, emphasized: “I think it is important to take college with intention. That’s the most value I got out of my gap year: having…a more concrete reason for how and why [college] fits into your life is like really great to have.”

Gap years not only enrich academic perspective, but also help one value personal relationships. “Another aspect of [gap year experience] was just learning how to develop relationships with people and develop deep, meaningful relationships with them during that year. I still talk to people I met when I was in Brazil,” Reason said.

Through their gap year, students develop an appreciation for their undergraduate experience.

“Because I’ve had some real life experience, I notice things that are here at Carleton that aren’t there in the real world,” Lord explained. “It’s so easy to meet people at Carleton. It’s like so easy to…have people over for dinner. It’s so fantastic! I love it so much! You can constantly be with people. In the real world, everyone’s far apart; it takes so much effort to have friends.”

The work that students engage in during their gap years is greatly varied, from working with NGOs on international service projects, working as an intern at a tech company, or taking extra time to explore their interests outside the classroom setting.

Not all gap years have to be thoroughly prepared or organized to be an amazing experience. Lord explains, “I had no idea…when I told Carleton I was taking a gap year. I had no idea what I was going to do. I just thought, ‘I’ll look for a job. If I can’t get a job, I’ll just travel somewhere random. I had some idea of what I was gonna do but…I had not talked to any potential companies.’”

Despite the lack of detailed planning, Lord successfully ended up working at Tripit, a company that makes travel apps, where he wrote numerous software, developed to be used by various companies.

Students arriving at Carleton after a gap year find a warm welcome from students with similar experiences through a campus organization called Mind the Gap. This group is a community of gap year students who help prospective students interested in taking a gap year, and provide a space to discuss ideas, memories, and experiences from their year.

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