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Thanks for following my journey

By Leah

It’s hard to believe how quickly this year has come to an end! It seems like only yesterday I was completing my application for the gap year program, and suddenly I am preparing to attend university. It would be a lie to say that I am not worried about the fall. With so much uncertainty, it is hard not to be. I have been juggling questions regarding whether or not it is a safe or appropriate time to move towards some form of normalcy. Should I take a risk and attend school on-campus, or play it safe and take classes online? As much as I want to meet everyone in-person, and immerse myself into the Duke community, I remain quite cautious, due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina. It might just be too early to tell. While I have been feeling anxious, due to the uncertainty of our circumstances, I do not let them get the best of me. If my gap year taught me anything, it was how to deal with uncertainty! As our summer progresses, and we move towards the upcoming school year, I encourage everyone to remain positive and keep an open mind. While this year has been quite crazy, I am certain that some amazing things are bound to happen.

While my time with you all has come to an end, I still have a bit more planned before university begins. Starting next week, I will be participating in Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Pre-Professional Virtual Summer Intensive. I am beyond excited! With a full month of learning the company’s works, choreographed by the likes of Crystal Pite and Peter Chu, I cannot wait to see how I grow. Additionally, I will continue working on choreography for a concept video I have been planning for the past month. From formulating a message to creating choreography to learning how to use editing applications, it has been quite a difficult yet rewarding task. I cannot wait to share my message with the world and see how the final product turns out!

As this is my last social media post on this account, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has followed the journeys of the 2019-2020 Duke Gap Year Program cohort. If you have been considering taking a gap year, I hope we inspired your plans! It was quite special sharing my experiences with you all and I cannot wait to see what is in store for this account and the upcoming cohort of gap year students!

A letter from Chloe to next year’s gap year students

To all of the incoming gap year students,

To start this letter, I want to congratulate each an everyone one of you for getting into Duke and deciding to take a gap year. I’m sure that the vast majority of your friends are going straight to college, and the decision to take a year off was probably a tough one. As excited as I was to take my gap year, I went through a lot of the feelings that I’m sure have crossed your mind at least once by now. I had this underlying sense that I was falling behind. That in not going directly to college, I wasn’t going to have the same experiences as my high school friends.

   While I know now that I am in no way “behind,” I was partially right. My first year away from home was vastly different from all of my friends. Although, different does not mean worse. I promise your experiences will not be the same as those of your friends. During my year in Granada, Spain, I traveled solo, met people from over 30 different countries, learned a new language, and found lifetime friends. I had an unforgettable time that sparked a love of travelling that I doubt I’ll ever lose.

The biggest changes I faced weren’t what I expected. I thought the initial language barrier or even the food would be the biggest difference between my life in the US and my life in Spain. First of all, you will be going from total structure to absolute freedom in a matter of months. Coming from high school, you will be used to days jam packed with classes, extracurriculars, and other responsibilities. On your gap year, you will have find your own balance between planning and spontaneity. The other main change in my life were the people I spent my time with. I was used to mainly being around other high schoolers. In Spain, I had friends from everywhere all with unique backgrounds and experiences. Everyone was in completely different stages of their lives. Some days I watched a Spanish reality singing competition with my 15 year-old host sister while on others I got tapas with my friend who starts medical school in the fall. On your gap year, you are going to be around a wide variety of people no matter where you choose to go. I’ve learned that forming relationships with people that don’t have your same life experiences makes you into a great listener. It opens your mind to new points of views you may have never thought of before.

So, to the next cohort of gap year students, I promise you will end the year more self-assured and open-minded. Remember to be patient and flexible, because if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that plans can change suddenly.