Liza Wright-Fairbanks '17


Hometown: Westford, MA

Major: Biology

Minor: Environmental Studies

Gap Year Description

To begin my gap year, I spent three months sailing with a program called Seamester. We began in the Mediterranean Sea, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and ended up in the Caribbean. As a crew of 20 students, we were in charge of operating the boat while taking four classes: oceanography, marine biology, student leadership, and seamanship. Sailing across an entire ocean proved to be the hardest and most exhilarating experience I've had so far. I learned more about teamwork, sailing, and the ocean through this hands on experience than I ever expected to. After going home for the holidays, I headed down to the Bahamas to spend two months at the Cape Eleuthera Institute, a research institute that focuses on marine research with an environmental focus. At CEI, I was able to help the Flats Ecology research team as they looked into the effects of climate change on nearshore fish species. I also attended classes focusing on present environmental issues and participated in a multi-day kayak trip and a roadtrip down the entire island of Eleuthera. This experience piqued my interest in scientific research and gave me a taste of what I would like to do as a career.

How did it influence your time at Middlebury?

After spending most of high school worrying about grades, tests, and SAT scores​, I was burnt out. I didn't want to continue tiring myself out for seemingly no reward. My gap year completely changed my approach to my education. It showed me that the things we learn in school aren't just trivial pieces of knowledge - they can be applied to real life situations, and are actually pretty cool. I came into Middlebury with a renewed sense of wonder. I finally wanted to learn, and I wanted to take what I learned out into the world and see how it really worked. I was lucky to have a great experience traveling across the world and living in a foreign country, and I wanted to share those experiences with my new community and see what that community could share with me.

Importantly, my gap year showed me the incredible value in taking a break. It's easy to become overworked as a high-achieving high school student. It's easy to lose sight of the importance of what teachers and books are trying to tell you. It's easy to go through it all without caring. Taking a step back allowed me to rediscover that importance. I let myself recharge, and am now excited to learn. 


Middlebury Admissions
Emma Willard House
131 South Main Street
Middlebury, VT 05753
Phone: 802-443-3000
Fax: 802-443-2056