Students prepare for gap year abroad

Jared Greenspan and Daniel Han

Most high school seniors don’t have to wonder what they’ll be doing for the next four years after high school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for 70% of high school seniors across the country, the answer is simple: They’ll be going to college.

Yet for others, there exists a less-popular alternative. It was two years ago that WHS seniors Maya Grantz and Alex Spiezio first considered taking a gap year abroad. The idea has since become a reality for the pair who are set to embark on their gap year journeys come fall.

Grantz will be working as an au pair in Australia for a six-month period, starting in September. After that, she will meet up with Spiezio in either Greece or London, and the two will travel Europe through the Eurail system. In the fall of 2020, Grantz will attend the University of Colorado Boulder as a freshman.

Grantz credits her parents for supporting her decision to do the unconventional. “Both my parents traveled during or after college, and they definitely made amazing points about how great the experience was and how it prepared them for adult life,” she said.

Indeed, those who opt to take a gap year mainly do so to become better prepared for life after school. According to a study done by the American Gap Association, 97% of seniors who took gap years admitted to have experienced a growth in maturity. Other benefits include relaxing from academic burnout, getting hands-on work in a potential career area, and gaining cross-cultural understanding.

Spiezio hopes to fill her gap year with a service project in addition to traveling. She has applied for service projects, art residency programs, and internships at national parks, and has “no doubts” about her decision to take a gap year.

“I was really in no rush to go to college, as I already know what I want to do,” said Spiezio, who wants to pursue a career in creative writing. “A lot of people don’t utilize the [gap year] option enough. College is exciting and all that, but I feel like I’m prolonging my [college] experience. I know it’ll be good for me.”

Spiezio wishes that more people would consider taking a gap year and not be afraid to break from the societal norm. “I think there’s a lot of pressure to go straight to college, especially in a town where not a lot of people opt out or do a trade or go to the military,” she said. “I think people feel the pressure that they have to go to college straight away. But I don’t see the rush personally.”

While a gap year isn’t for everyone, Grantz and Spiezio are ready to take advantage of the benefits that come with taking the road less traveled.