May Oo Khine
How I spent my gap year (and why YOU should take one)!
High school juniors and seniors, as college application season approaches, you probably will have a lot of things on your mind.
Scheduling dates for your standardized tests.
Asking for recommendations.
Mapping out essays.
Making a list of potential universities.
Occupied with all this, you might overlook the option of a gap year. This is where you take a year — or more, depending on what you choose to do — to pursue an interest or a curiosity before you enroll in college.
Quite daunting, isn't it?
At least that was how I found it when I chose to take one after graduation. No one I knew had taken a gap year before. And especially back home in Myanmar, there was some sort of stigma around gap years.
"It's a year wasted."
Not if you're focusing on your mental growth and taking up an interest.
"It's for people who're not ready for college."
You're only 17, 18 years old; it's only natural to feel this way.
I, for one, needed to take a step back and take a good look at what I wanted to do before college. Some family health concerns also surfaced. But for once, there were no rules or restrictions from high school. No due dates, stress over examinations, all-nighters. The whole world seemed to lie in front of me, ready for my taking.
Being the youngest and least-experienced on the team, I was full of jitters. This was the actual real world now! But then, I had to remind myself that I just can't expect myself to avoid making mistakes. Even if I do, I had to learn to take it with a grain of salt and get back up on my feet. This is the kind of realization that really impresses on you beyond the walls of a classroom.
With my team — who became great mentors for me — I travelled around Myanmar to several villages and worked at schools to provide health services for students. Even as a proud Burmese, these were places which I have never heard of and people from ethnicities which I've never known. It was sincerely eye-opening. Living at the monastic school for 2 months, I was inspired by how so many youth in under-developed nations like my own have so much thirst and passion for change.
The lessons I will take away from my gap year extend far beyond learning what 6/18 vision means or how to deal with a classroom of forty 6th graders. Meeting true professionals and working with actual people and problems, I was once again brought out of my own little bubble that I knew was "high school." I questioned who I thought I was and how I worked best outside school. Simply put, I learned to define my value, not just as a student, a health worker or a teacher, but as a human being.
Thinking about taking a gap or service year before coming to Dartmouth? Click here to learn more.