A Gap Year in the Middle of a Pandemic?

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Fiona Gmeiner, Reporter

The Coronavirus has had significant effects on all students and particularly seniors, as many events of senior year are cancelled. With numerous colleges starting online in the fall, many seniors are rethinking their plans for the future and wondering what life will look like in 2021. But what about gap year students? Graduating Senior Abigail Western shared the impacts of Covid-19 on her upcoming year abroad in Spain.

Western had planned on taking a gap year at the end of high school, and though the Coronavirus may have postponed these plans, she is hoping she will be in Spain for part of 2021 before starting college that fall. Her college plans have not changed thus far; she was accepted and deferred a year to the University of Vermont with a major in Elementary Education in the Honors College, and a possible minor in Spanish. She is still on track to attend in 2021, regardless of the outcome of her gap year. 

She chose to take a gap year to take a break from academics between high school and college: two intense four-year periods of homework, studying, and classes. Additionally, she wanted to refine her Spanish and become fluent through immersing herself in Spanish culture. Western traveled to Spain once with her aunt and decided to return after high school to spend more time in the country. She is set up to be an au pair (a live in nanny) for a family with two little girls about an hour north of Madrid, Spain, as she loves spending time with kids. She was planning on leaving for Spain in early September, but is now shooting for Spring 2021. Both Western and her host family are hopeful she will have at least a few months in Spain before she begins college. 

Western has been keeping up with the news in Spain in order to stay informed on the number of cases of the Coronavirus there. Though she knows traveling to Spain is not an option right now, she is hopeful that the situation will continue to improve. She is on track to be an au pair in Spain as soon as it is safe to do so. 

Western’s sister, Michaela, was an inspiration for Abigail Western’s own gap year. Michaela Western took a gap year after high school to work at a horse ranch in France and loved it. Her success influenced Abigail Western’s decision.

“I saw that it could be a very positive and rewarding experience, and the reasons she chose to take a gap year are similar to mine, so I’m thankful I had her as an example of a worthwhile gap year!” said Western.

For others considering taking a gap year, Western recommends doing a lot of research and keeping an open mind while doing so, as there are many different ways to spend a gap year. In terms of applying for college, she advises checking with the college admissions office at schools to research their policies on deferrals. While many schools will grant deferrals easily, the rules vary between schools.

All of the planning was worth the year for Western, and she was very excited to embark on a new journey.

“I think it’s an opportunity to spend some time developing new hobbies and independence. I was looking forward to living in an entirely different environment and lifestyle for a year, too.” said Western.

Though her gap year may be cut short, Western’s experiences—and those of all seniors this year— will never be forgotten.