Hometown: Owasso, OK
Gap Year Description:
After graduating high school, I decided that I didn’t want to begin college right
away. I was tired of the tunnel vision that accompanied being so focused in high
school; I wanted to experience the world outside of academics.
So, last fall, as all of my friends were heading off to university, I was headed
somewhere entirely different: a monastery in North Dakota.
I spent the entirety of the fall living in a small town in rural North Dakota, taking
care of llamas in the mornings and helping out both outside in the gardens and
inside in the monastery in the afternoons. Nights provided me with plenty of
time to take walks, explore the outdoors, talk with locals or simply read.
When I arrived home in December, I began an internship in my town with a local
judge. I’ve always been interested in law, and interning allowed me to see the
inner-workings of the judicial process.
At the start of the spring, I left for the Dominican Republic. There, I stayed in
two different places- one rural village and one large city. I lived in orphanages
and taught English at an institute during the days. My students were level one
learners- most of them were in the fifth grade. Teaching was an absolutely
incredible experience, and it was perpetually challenging. Constantly searching
for new, creative ways to teach material was one of the most stimulating and,
when it worked, rewarding parts of my experience.
While I loved teaching, the evenings were definitely my favorite part of each
day. There was always free time for talking to and playing with the kids who
lived at the orphanages. A conversation could be aimless- filled with Spanish
grammatical mistakes on my part the majority of the time, I’m sure- but there
was such ease in connecting with both kids and adults. Despite barriers of both
culture and language, little moments of understanding shone through. I will
always remember the beauty of that understanding- the simplicity with which it
came and its lasting glow.
How it influenced your time at Middlebury:
As my first semester is now finishing, it’s hard to imagine what my college
experience would have been like had I not chosen to take a year off school. It
gave me time to explore places and experience things that I would have never
otherwise been exposed to. More than anything, the independence that came
with my year off made me much more self-reliant than I’d ever been before. I
know that I began this year with much more intellectual curiosity than I would
have had last year; having a year to think and explore and read without the
constraints of formalized academics introduced me to new questions whose
answers I can now seek in the structured setting of college. My gap year was a
time of growth, and the things that changed within me during that year will stay
with me through my university experience, but also throughout my life.