Jeremy Vandenberg '17


Hometown: Armonk, NY

Major: Biology/Environmental Studies

Gap Year Description

During my gap year, I lived in France for a semester and studied French, volunteered at a nature center, and took a wilderness leadership course.

I lived with a host family in Grenoble, France for about three months through a program called Academic Programs International. Throughout this time, I took intensive French classes in french at the University of Grenoble, while supplementing my cultural experience by exploring the beautiful city and region, occasionally traveling to other regions of France and Europe, and of course meticulously sampling the famous French cuisine. Some other activities included climbing up to the infamous Bastille and a beautiful view of the city, going to the picturesque French countryside with my host family, joining a soccer team with much-better-than-me French students, and taking French cooking lessons!

I returned home for a two month period and volunteered at a local nature center, taking care of rescued animals and teaching children of all ages about them. I helped maintain the animal enclosures and the grounds, fed and watered the animals, and through teaching kids, learned a lot about the animals myself!

Next, I took a wilderness leadership course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) for three months. There were four, three-week long sections of backpacking in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, rock climbing at Cochise Stronghold in New Mexico, sailing in the Strait of Georgia in British Columbia, and sea kayaking in Nootka Sound, also in British Columbia. We learned general wilderness skills such as camping and navigation while learning the skillset that was specific to each section, and learned about wilderness-specific and general leadership skills as well. I was in a small group of nine students and two instructors for the entire time, and along the way, learned a lot about myself, my leadership style, and how I interact with different people.

How did it influence your time at Middlebury?

My gap year has tremendously influenced my time at Middlebury by exposing me to unique and sometimes uncomfortable experiences and forcing me to deal with them myself, helping me to gain a huge measure of cool-headedness, initiative, and independence that I did not have leaving high school. I not only greatly improved my French and gained wilderness skills, but I learned a lot about myself and how I work as an individual in the process, and have been able to use these skills and insights throughout my college experience.


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