Gap year provides break from demanding school environments

Julia Marriott, staff writer

High school can go by in the blink of an eye, but what happens after that? College? Joining the military? Work? Many students at South leave the school without completely knowing what careers they wish to pursue in the future. As a result, students decide to take a gap year to travel, or to consider their options as they transition further into adulthood.

With the rigorous schedules at South, some students feel stressed and are often praying for time off. According to junior Caroline Scott, taking a gap year between high school and college can be a good break from South’s orderly schedule.

“I have been in school for as long as I can remember, and I think I need a break,” Scott said. “I think I need some time away from the whole scheduled thing. I feel like it is also going to help me appreciate things more.”

Scott explains that Daniel Zapler, social studies teacher, was the first to introduce her and junior Diana Shunnarah to the idea of taking a gap year in between high school and college. 

“We took [Zapler’s] class and the way he teaches is so much different than any other teacher,” Scott shared. “He inspired [us] to be like, ‘Well maybe it doesn’t have to be just high school to college, maybe we can change it up, maybe we can put something in between there.’”

Zapler taught Shunnarah how there are many outside options available to students after high school, and that there is more to life than the pressure of achieving good grades in both high school and college.

“He kind of [shared] the idea that there is more to life than what we have here,” Shunnarah said. “You can find more meaningful things than just high school, college, grades, and a good career. There is more to see, more to experience.”

However, Zapler was not the only person who inspired Scott and Shunnarah to consider taking a gap year. After meeting someone who had previously taken a gap year, Scott was able to decide what she intends to do during her year off.

“I met one girl who went through the Rotary Youth Exchange,” Scott said. “She went and stayed with a family in Ecuador the year after she graduated high school and she just said she loved it. So I thought, I can do that too.”

Scott and Shunnarah are planning on traveling in the US and progressing their way down to South America. According to Shunnarah, they are traveling to experience the diverse societies. Experiencing the different cultures will allow them to grow as people, Shunnarah stated.

“We are just going to try to make our way everywhere and see where that goes,” Scott said. “The plan right now is if we like a place we can stay there a little longer, and if we don’t then we don’t have to.”

Scott still wishes to attend college once she comes back to the US. Similar to Scott’s plan to travel abroad, senior Ingmarie Schultz, also intends to travel during her gap year and return later for college.

“A lot of my family lives in Norway, so I was planning on doing a program in Norway,” Schultz said. “I don’t know Norwegian, but everybody in my family does, so that was why I wanted to do it.”

Schultz is preparing on going to a folk school to learn how to speak Norwegian and study the culture while taking a photography program as well.

“Some of my cousins told me about it and said, ‘You should do it,’ and I asked my parents about it and they were both really on board,” Schultz said.

The program Schultz is interested in is from August to May, and upon her return, she plans on enrolling in college. However, unlike Schultz, who wants to learn about the Norwegian culture and language during her year off, Shunnarah hopes to experience a new change in her life through traveling.

“I think that we have been so secluded in Glenview, that some people are so focused on getting ahead of the game, doing whatever you need to do to be successful and having a ‘good life’ that they forget how this little corner of the world is just that,” Shunnarah said. “There is so much more to see.”