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One Year Ago…

In which Greta reflects on her gap year between high school and college, and encourages you to take one, too!

In which Greta reflects on her gap year between high school and college, and encourages you to take one, too!


In my bio, I promised that I talk way too much about my gap year to anyone who will listen. This week, that’s going to be you! Honestly, you should be proud that I’ve held off this long… But now, get excited to hear about my adventures. Don’t worry, it’ll relate back to Carleton and why you should come here in the end.

Fall

A year ago today, the first big section of my gap year came to a thrilling conclusion: my mother was elected to Vermont’s state Senate! I had spent the summer and the fall campaigning for her and with her. We knocked doors, sent mail, made phone calls, gave speeches, and met hundreds, even thousands, of people in the twenty-five towns she was running to represent. In  the last few weeks before the election, I spent most of my waking hours with a dedicated team of Democratic volunteers and candidates, making sure that everyone we knew and didn’t know went out to vote! And it worked.

two people at the polls holding a campaign sign
My dad and my mom, the new Senator!

I’ll never forget the excitement at the election night party as the results came out, one by one. Just thinking about that day makes me excited for the next election cycle. I’ve already started getting politically involved in college with the CarlDems and by writing an editorial for the Carletonian. As November 2020 draws closer, I plan to do plenty of doorknocks and phonebanks for Democratic state and national candidates. None of them will be my mom — that was an extra-special first political campaign — but the stakes are even higher this year, and that makes the work even more exhilarating.

Winter

Less than a week after Election Day, I hopped on a plane to Peru. Then I took another plane, and a bus, and two boats… all to get to an ecotourism lodge in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. I spent the next 10 weeks there, volunteering for the Tambopata Macaw Project, a scientific research team which studies scarlet macaws. My job was to count birds and measure chicks and climb giant jungle trees. The data I collected will be used to help conservation biologists protect parrots worldwide. It definitely made me fall in love with field science, a passion which I’m sustaining now by taking Intro to Field Geology. Hopefully next term I’ll get back to biology, too!

rainforest with river
A view from the trees
macaws in a nest box
The lovely macaws
people in the jungle
Rainforest friends!

Perhaps just as cool as living in the rainforest was befriending people who do it for a living: scientists, veterinarians, and most of all, journalists. It was over these three months that I realized I want to have their job, to write for the rest of my life. I might not be writing this post right now if I hadn’t.

Spring

After a few months at home, I got on a plane again, this time to Europe. For the next month and a half, I traveled in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Hungary, soaking in the beauty that is spring in Europe. I lived in Germany in fifth grade, so I got to practice my German and visit my friends from that year, most of whom I haven’t seen since I was twelve. I also traveled with a fellow gap-year-taking friend from home who taught me some basic Italian and helped me keep up the Spanish I had learned in Peru. Europe is such a hotspot  for a language-lover like me! Luckily, I get to take languages at Carleton, too. I can also sustain my case of the travel bug in college, thanks to all the Off Campus Studies offerings.

girls on a bridge in Germany
Travel buddies 🙂

Summer

What I did with the summers on either side of all these international exploits was far less glamorous but crucial to my gap year: I worked. With my job at a local pizza restaurant, I earned enough money that I funded my travels almost entirely on my own. It is possible! Being so independent gave me a big self-confidence boost, and I also realized that I love to work. I’m keeping it up here at Carleton working for admissions and communications; like most people on campus, I have campus employment. And when I go home for winter break, I’m excited to pick up shifts at the restaurant. Forming a work community was one of the best unexpected benefits of my gap year. I highly recommend that everyone work in high school and college, even if they don’t take a gap year.

pizza restaurant
Me at work!

Why did I tell you all this?

As you’ve probably noticed, my gap year was one of the defining experiences of my life. It changed the way I see myself and the world and myself in relation to the world. It set the stage for the things I want to do in college and throughout my life: political engagement, science, language, travel, work, and most of all, writing. The experiences I had throughout the year prepared me to dive right in to those pursuits at Carleton, whether it be volunteering on campaigns or writing for various publications (including this blog!). If you are even considering taking a gap year, whether or not you have a concrete plan yet, I highly recommend that you do it. Whatever you use it for, it will change your life.

The great news — and where I was going with this — s that Carleton is super accommodating about gap years. The admissions office here recognizes how awesome they are, so they make it really easy to take one. I applied to Carleton my senior year, like most everyone else. Once I got in, all I had to do was tell admissions that I was deferring my acceptance for a year and give them a rough idea of my plan — but this wasn’t until April, so you have time! If you’d like, you can also apply during your gap year, and then you don’t have to defer.

You can find more information about gap years and the application process on the admissions website. If you still have questions, or just want to talk to someone who took a gap year, you can also email me! I get so excited talking to gappers or potential gappers 🙂 And speaking of which, I’ve met quite a few other students at Carleton who took gap years, including some in my class, so if you come here after a year off, you definitely won’t be the only one.

selfie
Gap year girls!

Greta is a proud Vermonter who must have fallen hard for Carleton if she’s choosing to spend the next four years without mountains to hike. Instead, you’ll probably find her wandering the Arb with a book and a journal and a pen behind her ear, playing piano in Weitz, or telling another unsuspecting soul about her gap year. And eating dark chocolate. She wants to learn everything, but is particularly interested in Sociology/Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and, of course, Creative Writing.