4 Truths About Taking a Gap Year

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Compiled by Project Horseshoe Farm Fellows ‘15-’16 and written by Melissa Luong

Melissa Luong recently graduated from Binghamton University. She is now pursuing a one-year fellowship at Project Horseshoe Farm in Greensboro, Alabama before entering graduate school next fall. 

Fellows at Project Horseshoe Farm pursue a one or two year gap-year fellowship serving vulnerable community members by focusing on education, leadership, and community. As we came together and brainstormed about our experiences, we reflected on the last five months of our gap year. We came up with 4 important things that everyone should consider when pursuing a gap year between college graduation and graduate studies. 

1. You don’t have to go abroad.

This is the ever-popular choice for a gap year, but it isn’t your only option. Traveling and/or doing a year of service is just as accessible in the United States. Regionally, the U.S. has many differences and unique cultures. Only two of the nine fellows are originally from the South. The rest of us are from California, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. We’ve been learning so much about the culture, traditions, and food that the South values. None of the fellows have lived in a rural area before this gap year and we’re learning that cows escape from their pastures more often than you think.

2.  Explore every option.

Don’t keep yourself in a narrow frame of mind. Last year, a current fellow (then a graduating senior) only went to our information session because she was curious. What we imagined for ourselves after graduation while we were in college isn’t exactly what all of us are doing. Many of us never intended to move to a small town in the Deep South. If we were to tell the freshmen versions of ourselves that we’d be moving to a rural community in Alabama, most of us would be pretty shocked. However, we are enjoying our time in a place which is different from what we’ve experienced before. Take a chance on an unconventional opportunity.

3. College doesn’t teach you everything.

Think of your gap year as a transitional year. We are using our gap year to figure out if the professional ambitions we developed in college are truly what we want to pursue. It seems like a better option than pursuing graduate training and then finding out that what we thought we wanted isn’t really what we want anymore.

4. Be open to new experiences and people. 

Consider what you want from your gap-year. You’ve spent a good few years earning your degree in an environment in which you’ve grown accustomed to certain things. Learn to challenge yourself so that you can be receptive and understanding to experiences and people different from you. Our fellows are from all over the United States and are alumni of Ivy League schools, small liberal-art colleges, and state schools. Even more so, we are meeting community members who, at first glance, are so unlike us that it seems a friendship would be difficult. We find that this isn’t the case at all. We’re pushing ourselves to understand and empathize with everyone we meet and we’ve been welcomed very warmly.

Hopefully, these truths that we’ve imparted will help you formulate an idea of if and what kind of gap year is best for you.  Best of luck, class of 2016!

To learn more about Project Horseshoe Farm and this exciting gap year experience for students interested in healthcare, education, or social entrepreneurial leadership, check out their info session at Wasserman on November 9 at 3:30pm.