Karina Toy '17

 

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Major: International Politics and Economics
Minor: Chinese

Gap Year Description

After graduating high school, I knew I needed some time off. So, I spent 10 months living in Yantai, China. I didn’t know anyone there, but I knew I wanted to study Mandarin, and so I left.

I studied at Yantai University, living in the international students’ dorm, eating my meals at the canteen (Chinese food is sooooo delicious, forget freshman-15, I experienced gap year-20), with four hours of Mandarin a day. It wasn’t an incredibly rigorous program like at Middlebury, so I had a lot of free time. While there I became friends with other international students; Russians, Koreans, a few American teachers, and two girls from Switzerland. I also picked up a couple of English tutoring gigs on the side, and spent four months making enough money to live out of my own pocket and travel the country during winter break (to save heating costs they give students a whole two months off). So, I spent seven weeks backpacking around China. I traveled from -30°C Harbin in the north to 30°C Sanya Island in the south, climbing half a dozen mountains, visiting countless temples, and strolling through dozens of cities on the way. Once I got back, I finished up my gap year with another four months of studying, eating, and enjoying my freedom. 

How did it influence your time at Middlebury?

I can honestly say that I probably wouldn’t have run for Senate, become an International Politics and Economics major, or studied languages if I hadn’t taken a gap year. It sounds cheesy, but the gap year gave me time to reflect on myself, my past experiences, and what I wanted to do in the future. Society puts so much pressure on us to finish K-12 and then rush off to college that I never had a chance to figure out who I am or what I wanted from life. I am so glad I took a gap year, and I would recommend it to anyone who feels the same!

 

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