Ryan McElroy '16


Hometown: Chevy Chase, Maryland

Major: Undeclared

Gap Year Description

After graduation from high school in Washington, DC, I worked for two months as a summer student intern in Dr. Douglas R. Fields' neuroscience research lab at the National Institutes of Health. This was a great opportunity for me to see what science research is like on the professional level. At the end of August, I moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to teach middle school kids about science and teamwork at Echo Hill Outdoor School. I loved this job! Playing outside was such an important part of my growing up, and it felt wonderful sharing that joy with other kids. I then spent the winter months at home doing odd jobs and preparing for a two thousand mile walk. I fulfilled a childhood dream and hiked from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail for the remaining six months of my year. It's nearly impossible to try to describe this trip and give the experience its due justice, but In short, it was incredible. Hiking the AT was the most satisfying decision and accomplishment of my life. I would be happy to talk more at length with anyone about this trip!   

How did it influence your time at Middlebury?

The sense of independence, many lasting friendships, and the pure delight of adventure gained from all these experiences is invaluable. I am grateful to have had this time to rest from school before starting college. It was important to me to learn from peers who were in different stages of life and not necessarily my age. I am not sure what has changed in terms of my thinking or life's direction, but down the road, I wonder if I will come to more realizations and conclusions about my time on the trail. I learned that that being outside is essential to my happiness, people are generally very kind and supportive, and listening to my gut when making decisions cannot be underestimated. I look forward to all the adventures that lie ahead here at Middlebury. 


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