A Road Less Traveled

I’m finding it hard to believe that you’re already embarking on your final weeks on Andover Hill. These next two months are going to be overflowing with excitement, bittersweet moments, adventures, nostalgia, failures and triumphs. As the time winds down and your future plans fall into place, I want you to keep several things in mind and encourage you to look at Senior Spring in a different light.

First of all, I did college a little differently than most Andover kids. I accepted a spot in the Global Citizen Year class in February, before I even knew where I’d gotten into college. I applied to nine distinct schools—from an Ivy to a small liberal arts school, women’s colleges, 1,000 undergrads to 16,000 undergrads. I had decided that I would only apply to a school if I could truly say “if this is the only college I get into, I’ll be thrilled to go.”

Fast forward to the first day of spring term. Two of my best friends got into Stanford, two into Yale. The mailroom was overflowing with seniors who all seemed to be bursting with good news; I had six rejections, a waitlist, and two schools that others had heard from but I hadn’t—two more projected rejections. What killed me, though, was the thought of having to reapply to colleges. I was already into my first choice: taking a gap year.

Turns out, one acceptance got lost in the mail, and the other went to my house. Needless to say, I chose one, deferred, and I am incredibly excited to head off in August. Spending the end of spring break and the first few days of classes feeling defeated by the joyous energy I was left out of and realizing how delicate our futures are gave me a new perspective, which I’ve grown to understand more this past year.

At Andover, we categorize everything. Freshmen year, Lower year, Lower Spring—the last breath of air before Upper year, which has to be horrendous because it’s Upper year—and then Senior Fall will be worse than Upper Spring, Senior Winter will obviously be easier, and then it’s there—the well-deserved, anticipated Senior Spring.

Really, everything before, during and after Andover is just a continuation of life. You can choose where to go to college, you can choose not to go to college. You can choose to help others, or make a lot of money, or both, or travel before going to college, or move to India or London or South America.

I chose to continue my life a little differently, and I have learned more about myself in these last seven months than in my four years at Andover. In a very quick overview, I’m living in northern Ecuador with a host family, working full time with Colombian refugees escaping the drug wars. Global Citizen Year, to me, was never about saving the world, but I did expect to make an impact.

What I have come to discover, though, is that Global Citizen Year was never about saving anyone. This year is about changing myself. It is about remembering and acting upon the idea that everyone I meet has lost someone, is scared of something, has a dream. It is about practicing patience and realizing that loneliness is not a factor of where I am or who I’m with. It is about understanding that we need moments of grief to feel moments of joy, and that failure is required to succeed.

My gap year is about being exposed to the inequality in the world and being touched by people who suffer from our world’s structure. The incredible changes I’ve experienced simply cannot be discovered when going directly to college. My college years will be that much richer, and I will always have this experience to guide me in whatever comes during and after colleges I continue in life.

I would love to say “Everyone should apply for Global Citizen Year!” but it’s not right for everyone. I do, however, believe that a gap year—a year that will enrich your college experience—is right for everyone. Taking a year off puts the numbers and tests and grades and competition into perspective. It forces you to understand there’s more to life than what Andover exposes us to.

Ask any of my friends and they will tell you I always said I couldn’t wait to graduate and that I’d never miss Andover. I don’t ever wish I was back in the 01810, but I am starting to miss it. Whole Foods picnics and late nights in Lower Right, four square, trips to Pomps, Mad Maggie’s runs, Spooning, cluster ultimate… I miss my friends. I miss having all the people I care so deeply about—friends, teachers, advisors—all in the same place. Take advantage of that.

Try to relax and enjoy what may be the first time in your entire life thus far where you won’t feel like you need to compete. This is not going to be the “happiest time of your lives,” as so many say, because there is so much opportunity lying ahead of you. But enjoy in a practical, light way. You want to look back on your last weeks of high school with pride, fondness, and the feeling that it was the beginning of the rest of your life.

This article is part of a series written by the 2010 PACE Seniors. The series is continued on the following page.