Meet the Fellows: Caroline and How to Grow Into Your Authentic Self on a Gap Year
We spoke with Cohort 12 fellow, Caroline, about her experience during her gap year and how it has contributed to the things she is working on now.
YO: What advice do you have for students who are thinking about taking a gap year?
Caroline: Find fearlessness. If it’s a thought, if it’s a scary thought to make a risky choice, allow yourself the space to make the wrong decision and embrace the opportunity to learn how to fail well. I do not believe we will ever regret those times in our lives that we set aside to get to know and grow into our authentic selves and our roles of contribution to the world.
YO: Why did you decide to take a gap year?
Caroline: For me, it wasn’t so much about taking a break as it was making a shift. College was one of those necessary steps in life that nobody in the world I came from cared to question. Education ensured success. And success was money. It was power. It was social status. It was having what you convinced yourself everyone else wanted. And throughout the first semester of my college experience, I bought in. I was simply doing, studying, attempting to achieve in the ways I always had, so that I could be who I convinced myself everyone else was trying to become. It was lonely. It was mindless. It lacked fulfillment. It was the kind of competition that destroys community, and the kind of self-projection that covers a constant feeling of inadequacy. I decided to take a gap year because of the understanding that to change the world, one must exist in it, a desire to be educated in character and culture as a human being, not simply a pre-professional, and my commitment to pursue integrity, authenticity, and intention. To unlearn and redefine.
YO: What’s one thing you learned about the world and about yourself by traveling abroad?
Caroline: The importance of noticing, creating, and holding onto moments of oneness. The group I traveled with to India dealt with, on an individual level, and as a whole, the question of impact. We faced our naivety in initially believing our temporary presence and service would significantly change the constructs of the mental and structural systems that governed the lives of the people we worked with. I think we came to realize that there wasn’t so much to change or impose upon, only to connect with, attempt to understand and appreciate for the beauty of diversity and the value of commonality.
YO: What projects did you work on during your gap year?
Caroline: I did not tangibly create or achieve very much during the year, but that, for me, was the point - to take a step back and dig deep, both into myself and the more fundamental existential questions. The theme of my projects was disruption and that took form in attempting to discover the evolutionary role of kindness and community in the development of different societies, the aspects of established educational systems that lack support for advancing technological influence and need for human understanding, and challenging widely accepted mental and behavioral patterns utilized in forming belief structures.
YO: What are you working on now during your Internship Phase?
Caroline: I did not have any idea what I would be doing when I arrived home from San Francisco. There was a cyclical phase of submitting applications and hearing nothing back, a beautifully painful life lesson that resulted in the understanding that I would have to be patient with the world and, in the meantime, create something for myself. Given the continuation of my diversified interests and confusion, I decided it would be best to survey experiences across the range of my potential paths. I currently work as an administrative assistant for a designer and am learning a lot about organizational operations and client management. I am also an intern at a local non-profit called The Worldview Project, which serves to promote greater cross-cultural awareness, understanding, and appreciation. It has been fascinating to work alongside people whose work is undeniably purpose-focused and cause-related and to observe the dynamics of a workplace that is completely intrinsically motivated. And, to ensure that I don’t allow myself to forget about that dream to end up on a farm, I have found a local farm that I am able to volunteer at a few times a week.