Amani Core '18


Hometown: Cambridge, MA/Lacey, WA

Major: Undecided

Gap Year Description

I first decided to take a gap year during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school while traveling in Jordan and Syria. I absolutely fell in love with travel and the Middle East, and wanted to spend my entire year off in Aleppo. Needless to say, my plans had to change with the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, so I spent my entire gap year in areas of the globe that were entirely new to me.


I divided my gap year into three different legs, returning each time to make money at home in New York.  

I spent my first two months with my high school friends backpacking through Europe, where we visited tons of museums but mostly just ate a lot of food. The second leg of my year took place in Africa, where I spent time in Swaziland, Mozambique, and Tanzania. In Swaziland, I worked at a neighborhood care point teaching English to pre-kindergarteners. In Tanzania, I served as a teaching assistant in a school for orphans while living with the orphanage’s founders. My time in Africa was very difficult and certainly emotionally trying, but I think my experiences there taught me a very important lesson about sustainable development and the negative effects of voluntourism (of which I found myself unfortunately guilty). My final and most successful leg, I believe, was spent in South America, where I spent a month learning Spanish in Buenos Aires, three weeks volunteering on the Galapagos Islands, and two months traveling around Peru.

How did it influence your time at Middlebury?

On a more tangible level, my gap year narrowed my focus in terms of my academic interests before I began college. My time volunteering and traveling, particularly in Peru, first directed me towards my interest in girls’ education and women’s rights. Additionally, I became entirely obsessed with reading the news while I was abroad and have become increasingly interested in journalism since starting Middlebury.

More importantly, though (and this sounds kind of corny), my gap year really helped me reprioritize what matters most to me. I had a really tough senior year of high school and I needed some time to decompress and find my core again. After my year off, I find myself less attached to my academic success and more interested in who I am as a person. At Middlebury, I simply have a better sense of what makes me happy, and I like to believe that I am far more aware of how my actions affect others. Self-awareness has really been the name of the game.


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