ay 1st has come and gone and our class of 2021 has started to take its final shape! Later on this summer, I'll be blogging all about the incoming freshman class. We're really excited about 2021.
14 members of the class of 2021 will be coming to NOLA fresh off a Gap Year. We've seen a growing number of students opting to take a Gap Year before they start at Tulane. We are very supportive of a Gap Year if that is something that interests you. All you need to do is read this info
, send us an additional deposit, and then you're on your way. Members of the class of 2020 are coming back from gap years studying cuisine in Paris, learning Spanish in Honduras while researching in the Mayan Highlands, and some will have spent time interning to save money for college.
I reached out to four former Gap Year students to get their take on it. Let's meet some of our former gappers here. Take it away, guys!
Sarah Cook, Class of 2018
For my Gap Year, I took two 3 month long trips with an organization called Rustic Pathways which focuses on community service in other countries. With Rustic Pathways I visited Thailand, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Tanzania, Morocco, and Ghana. I was with a small group of other students taking Gap Years and every month some people would leave and some would join our group so the number of friends I was traveling with fluctuated. In Thailand I took a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course and am now a certified WFR, which means that I am equipped to help in any emergency situation. Using our newly learned skills, we opened up health clinics in small villages without access to health care and we gave them physicals as well as tested their blood type and sugar levels. We also dedicated a lot of time in Southeast Asia to animal care. We took a crash course in first aid care for cats and dogs, watched a dog undergo surgery to remove a tumor, vaccinated various domestic animals, worked at a night safari in the nursery with baby tigers, and learned how to be a mahout (elephant caretaker) at an elephant conservation camp. I learned so many new skills in Southeast Asia, while exploring some incredible countries with vibrant cultures.
In Africa, we participated in a lot of construction projects, and in Ghana we taught middle schoolers how to use computers. Their national exams require them to have basic computer knowledge and they need to show proficiency in Word, Excel and Powerpoint. However, when we arrived with the laptops, none of the students had ever seen a computer. It was so incredible to be a part of their enthusiasm and happiness at being able to work a computer, and made me realize how many of the electronics at my house I take advantage of. Other than our service projects, we were also able to explore as tourists. I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, scuba dived off the coast of Zanzibar, went on a safari in the Serengeti, and rode camels in the Sahara Desert. Overall, I had an extraordinary time on my Gap Year, and highly recommend that everyone consider taking a Gap Year. The places I visited were beautiful, the service I did was very meaningful, the people I met were AMAZING, and after spending the past 12 years in a classroom learning traditional subjects it was fantastic to make the world my classroom.
People often ask if it was hard for me to jump back into a traditional classroom setting after taking a year off. In terms of academics, I took an online precalculus course over the summer before I came to Tulane to refresh my memory (as I hadn’t taken precalculus in 2 years), but otherwise my academic transition was no different from my friends who did not take a gap years. In fact, I feel like I am no longer burnt out from my 12 years of previous schooling, and being refreshed has definitely improved my transition process. After seeing countries where many people don’t have the opportunity to graduate high school, let alone attend college, I am so much more grateful of all of the I am so much more appreciative that I have the chance to go to college. I am so much more confident now than I was when I graduated high school, and I’ve found that I make the most out of everyday at Tulane.
Tamar Arenson, Class of 2020
My name is Tamar Arenson and I am a freshman, majoring in Political Science and International Relations. When I was a senior in high school, I applied to colleges just like the rest of my friends, but I knew my path would look a little different. I had decided to take a gap year. I had grown up in the Young Judaea community; attending their summer camps, year round programing and travel programs. Young Judaea also offers a gap year in Israel called Year Course. Since I was 10 years old, I knew that before I went to college, I too would go on Year Course.
During my year, I spent the first half working at an elementary school in an inner city as an english teacher. I developed incredible bonds with my students and was able to watch them grow and learn a new language. For the second half of my year, I took classes through my program which ranged from history to art and culture. We also traveled the entire country, exploring different landscapes, communities and religions. Finally, I traveled to Rwanda for 5 weeks where I lived and worked at youth village for orphans in Rwanda that was founded by a Year Course alumna.
Throughout all of these experiences I was also living in an apartment with roommates, ostensibly on my own for the first time. I had to learn to budget my spending, navigate new areas, make new friends and be far away from my parents. I came to college feeling so much more prepared than I would have right out of high school. I had already experienced a transition before, and was excited to do it again! Both my academics and social life soared because I felt so comfortable and excited by my new experience. My gap year not only opened my eyes culturally, through my travels and experiences, but also taught me how to live alone, be in a new place and make the most of every opportunity. I have tried to carry this same mentality through my freshman year of college and can honestly say the two best decisions I ever made in my life were going on Year Course and coming to Tulane.
Kira Farley, class of 2020
Taking a gap year was the best decision I could have made! Get ready for me to sound like I am writing in clichés and coming straight out of a Disney movie, because my experience was a dream. I cannot imagine how my life might have turned out differently had I not spent time outside of the academic world. I spent my gap year living in Paris, France on a CIEE program. My year was chocked full of taking cool classes to learn about the culture of my new home (art history taught INSIDE Le Louvre, anyone??), volunteering in a café where the majority of customers were immigrants (Learning how to make un café crème while simultaneously hearing about someone’s life story was pretty amazing!) and traveling to as many towns, cities and countries as I could! I was only 18 years-old and here I was, traveling to Italy, Spain, London and Germany in one month and the flights cost a total of 50 euros.
I enjoyed high school and was excited for college…who wouldn’t be when you’re going to Tulane! However, I wanted to step outside of the academic setting to learn about myself and the world around me. Did I have apprehensions about being a year behind? Of course, but Tulane made my transition as smooth as butter both academically and socially. I never once felt like an outsider or like I couldn’t handle whatever situation I found myself in. In fact, everyone that I meet tells me that they WISH they had taken a gap year. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my incredible host family, food, friends and experiences in France. I know that taking a gap year helped shape who I want to represent in my years at Tulane and my life beyond. If you find yourself wondering whether or not a gap year is for you, say YES!
Kelsey Williams, class of 2019
Taking a gap year was the best decision I have ever made, and I could not recommend the experience more highly to anyone finishing high school. It allowed me to grow into an independent young adult beyond my refined ability to study for AP exams and write personal statements. Don’t get me wrong – these skills were extremely valuable to me, and are the reason I am able to be studying on a scholarship at a Tulane. However I honestly believe I am a happier, more well-rounded person because I took some time off from school.
I first began thinking about taking a gap year in November of my senior year of high school but finished the college application process. When May rolled around, I accepted my spot at Tulane but requested a deferral of both my admission and scholarship until the following year. I left for 9 months of traveling in late August.
First I went to South Africa and Botswana, for a month each, and completed a course called EcoTraining, which certified me to be a Safari guide. In practice, this was a long, educational camping trip among the lions and elephants. It was a wonderful way to start the year abroad, because it was a fairly structured environment with a small group of people that became close friends. It was also a completely foreign experience with many new challenges, but everyone spoke my language, so it was navigable. I had limited access to technology and connection to home, which helped me build my confidence. I also developed a new passion for the environment, which I will carry for the rest of my life.
In late October, I flew from Johannesburg to Arusha, Tanzania. For three months I lived with a host family, shadowed doctors in a community hospital, and volunteered at a local orphanage. This was the most challenging segment of my year. There were very few other westerners, so I frequently felt culturally and linguistically isolated. It took concerted effort to step outside my comfort zone and make connections with local people. However, these experiences allowed me to grow significantly as a person, helping me check my privilege and develop a broader worldview. Additionally, this experience solidified for me that I want to pursue medicine and public health. I returned to Arusha last summer on a State Department Critical Language Scholarship to learn Swahili, and I hope to continue working in East Africa throughout my career.
The final stop of my gap year was New Zealand, where I arrived in early February. I stayed the first few nights in hostels while I explored the city and found an apartment and job, and then settled into life in Wellington. I worked as a waitress and barista in a small restaurant downtown, and part-time as a caterer for a larger company. Through my jobs and housemates, I made great friends and thoroughly enjoyed spending three months as an independent adult in the city. By the beginning of May, I had saved enough money to quit my jobs, rent a car, and road trip the entirety of the country for 5 weeks. This was the happiest time of my life. Now, as I write this reflection amidst cramming for organic chemistry and physics finals, it keeps me grounded to have learned that fullness of my life depends on more than higher education and my grades.
Kira and crew
Sarah on her Gap Year
Kelsey on he gap year
Tamar on her gap year.