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Zak – Two Weeks in NYC

Hello Blue Devils. Welcome back to my blog for the Duke Gap Year Program! This edition will focus on my first two weeks in New York City and the start of my gap year with the New York Times.
I always thought New York City was full of gravelly New Yorkers yelling, “I’m walking here.” You know, stuff like that. After moving here, I’ve actually found New York to be very similar to the Bay Area. Both share the same sense of ambition and self importance that makes people very career focused, busy, and therefore impatient. This is so prevalent in the Bay Area that New Yorkers seem warm and fuzzy in comparison (and they typically are). I think this definitely made my transition to the city a lot easier.
My first night in the city can only be described as tumultuous. Ambulances screamed past my window at ungodly hours and I discovered that even at 4:30am drivers still find something to honk at. Despite the noise, it’s hard not to feel the magic of New York City. The skyline is astonishing, the food incredible and multicultural, and nowhere else can you get on a subway and hear four different languages being spoken at one time.

Recently I started my classes with the School of The New York Times. The journalism based curriculum is definitely exciting, however, I find some assignments somewhat superficial. Still, I’m confident the classes will get better as the semester progresses.

Being on my gap year while Duke started was definitely hard for me. Watching my would be classmates move in and start their lives on campus was difficult and it was hard to not feel left out. At the same time I take comfort in knowing that while the class of 2023 is struggling with their homework and midterms, I can take a 40 minute subway and end up in Flushing (Chinatown), see a man dressed like a tree in Soho, or catch a free concert in Central Park.
I still feel like taking a gap year is a huge risk and I’m not yet 100% sure I’m making the right decision. However, I do definitely feel better about my choice than I did before I left. Stay tuned for more!

Zak – Preparing to Gap

Hello present and future Blue Devils. Welcome to my first ever blog post for the Duke Gap year program! In today’s addition I will be discussing how and why I chose to take a gap year.

For me, taking a gap year was a fairly easy decision. After four grueling years of high school I was pretty burnt out. As incredible as Duke is, the idea of jumping straight into an even more academic environment seemed extremely daunting. I was also fortunate to have several friends who took their own gap years and said it was the best decision of their lives.

Another factor in my gap year decision was that I truly have no idea what I want to study. Last week I was interested in mechanical engineering, this week I’m interested in sports medicine and next week… who knows? Clearly I need to spend some quality time with myself and hopefully get some clarity.

The hardest part about deciding to take a gap year was definitely finding a program that was right for me. After finishing the strenuous college application process, I was certainly not excited to discover that the process for applying for gap year programs was exactly the same! Sure it’s slightly less stressful, but the general experience was very similar. Like applying for college, there were hundreds of fabulous gap year programs that deserve consideration, which I simply did not have the time or brain power to consider. Most programs also require essays which are eerily reminiscent of the never ending personal statements required for colleges. Despite these hurdles, I summoned my inner strength and applied for several programs that seemed interesting.

Almost by accident, I stumbled upon The School of The New York Times where I will spend my fall semester. There I will live in New York and study under some of the Times’ best writers and thinkers. I am extremely excited to start this new adventure and I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!