South seniors to bypass conventional college route with gap year

Addie Lyon & Marley Hambourger, Senior Editors

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Deciding where your steps out of high school will lead is, for many students, a four year-long decision making process. Many choose to take a typical route in selecting a university that suits them best; however, several South seniors have chosen to take a gap year for exploration into many different parts of the world.

Senior Dana Grad is one of these seniors taking this route. According to Grad, she discovered the option through a program called ARCC Gap (Adventures Cross Country), which offered the opportunity for her to do a three month trip in Asia focused on environmental sustainability and service projects. Specifically, she will be traveling through Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and China on this trip.

Grad’s interest in this program was peaked after traveling extensively with her family. Grad claims that her past travels have contributed to her individuality greatly.

“I’ve traveled a lot with my family,” Grad said. “I’ve been to Israel, England twice, and France twice. I’m not really afraid of being away from home for a long time, I’ve kind of embraced that independence, like I did camp for like six weeks, which is not the same necessarily, but I’m comfortable being away from home.”

This independence allows Grad to approach the trip with more excitement than fear overall, Grad shared. Grad plans to attend Denver University in the Fall of 2016. As her peers head straight into their freshman year of college, Grad explained that a break from school is exactly what she needs.

“I’m really excited,” Grad said. “I’m someone who loves adventure and exploring new things and traveling in foreign cities and figuring out their transportation systems. I think it’s going to be good for me to take a year off from school. I think a gap year in between high school and college is the perfect opportunity to travel.”

Grad has high hopes for the trip itself, but also the impact that the trip will have on her as a person.

“Seeing my sister come back after [her gap year], I could see she was a different person, more mature, just more aware of her surroundings,” Grad said. “I think it will mature me and break me out of this bubble. I know that a lot of people think that going to Denver is far away, and I’m sure it will be an adventure on its own, but I crave a bigger picture of the world right now.”

Similarly to Grad, senior Jimmy Friedman will take a gap year to travel through Ecuador and Peru before attending DePaul University. According to Friedman, he will be going to Quito for a few days, then taking a bus to the pueblos in the south, and then venture to various parts of Peru after that. He plans to hike to Machu Picchu and visit many of the cities there. Friedman likewise predicts that the trip will allow him to grow as a person.

“I hope to learn what I want to do with the rest of my life, or maybe just get a better idea,” Friedman said. “I also want to have some experiences that set me apart from the wage-slave crowd.”

According to Friedman, he wanted to take an unconventional route before going to college because he wanted to break the repetitive nature of school.

“I thought I wanted more life and less school,” Friedman said.  “A pattern of school and then summer over and over again was tedious and I think it will be a breath of fresh air to do something on my own accord for myself.”

Senior Madison O’Brien will also be traveling as a part of her gap year before attending McGill University in Montreal, Canada. O’Brien will start in Africa and later will be accompanied by her friend Sam Brewer, a senior at Evanston Township High School, when they go to Patagonia and Peru.

“My friend and I designed our trip completely by ourselves,” O’Brien said. “Planning a year is crazier and harder than you could ever imagine. I can handle the challenge, though, because I know it will all be worth it.”

Traveling around the world is not a foreign concept to O’Brien. She participated on a service trip to Ghana in 2013.

“I spent three weeks in Ghana the summer going into my junior year,” O’Brien said. “I helped build a kindergarten and taught in a primary school. [This year], I will be working with orphanages in Zambia, helping out on organic farms in Patagonia, and doing a jungle conservation project in Peru, so each part of my trip has a bit of service mixed in.”

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