If you’re reading this introduction you’re probably interested in taking a gap year. My recommendation: Take the plunge!
As HMI Gap’s new Admissions Associate my advice is, of course, biased, and it is based on my experience. Living, working and travelling in non-traditional educational settings has shaped the person I am today, and I have seen it change the lives of my colleagues and our students. I am deeply passionate about spreading this impact as far and wide as I can!
I grew up in the tech-oriented Silicon Valley, and discovered my true self during summers away at camp among the coastal redwoods. After high school I attended Boston University where I earned a Bachelors in Science in Film and Television studies, and performed with a co-ed accapella group — the BosTones. College was an exciting time – but academics, alone, did not inspire me in the way I’d expected, so my junior year I decided to shake things up, and I enrolled in the “Semester At Sea” study abroad program. I visited 14 countries in 100 days and circumnavigated the globe. The adult community aboard the ship showed me that there are many ways to be a thoughtful, global citizen, and that the prescribed track I’d always observed growing up in Silicon Valley is not the only path. I felt empowered to take time away from the “track” I’d put myself on–inspired to seek out new possibilities and ask myself bigger questions.
Once I had a degree in hand I decided I needed to design a post-grad “ gap year” of my own in order to pursue a question that had been itching at me since I studied abroad: “what lights my fire?” In search of an answer, I worked for 5 months to save money and then traveled down the west coast of South America and returned in time for a NOLS Semester on The Borders, where I learned to backpack, rock climb, sea kayak and sail.
My post-graduate “gap year” changed the course of my life. Through my experiences I discovered the powerful tool of experiential education and building intentional community. I wish I’d known that such opportunities for exploration and self-discovery existed before college – I don’t know how college would have changed for me, but I know it would have been a different experience. Perhaps I would have been less distracted by that persistent trickle of doubt about “why am I here; and what am I meant to be doing?”
The skills I learned on my gap year gave me the confidence to pursue a career in experiential education. I’ve worked in an underfunded 6th grade classroom with City Year Denver, served as HMI’s Semester 38 Marketing Apprentice, and led international service and cultural exchange Gap Year programming in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Chilean Patagonia, Cuba, Australia and Fiji with Adventures Cross Country Programs.
Of all the incredible intentional communities I’ve been part of (NOLS, City Year, HMI, and ARCC), HMI holds a special place in my heart. I’m not sure what HMI’s secret sauce is–or it could be the altitude–but this is a powerful community of educators who are dedicated to creating experiences that empower each member of the community to grow in self-discovery, humanity, and skills. I feel so fortunate to be back at HMI as Gap Admissions Associate and Faculty Member, empowering students to rise above the prescribed path, to discover new possibilities and to experience an adventure with purpose through HMI Gap!