After graduation, the Class of 2017 will be heading to different places. And while most seniors are leaving for colleges in the United States, some have decided to study for a semester abroad and travel.
Senior Erika Geisler plans to study in Switzerland through a plan offered by Southern Methodist University. In the fall, she will be attending Franklin University in Lugano for a semester and then return to the United States to start at SMU in the spring.
Geisler will be enjoying her college life while adventuring the streets and corners of Europe.
“I am excited to get to experience a whole new environment and culture,” Geisler said. “I am expecting to learn a lot and see so many amazing places, different food and get to know different people.”
Senior Cher Qin will also be studying in Europe during her freshman year. She will attend a program offered by New York University in its campus in Paris. And while NYU liberal arts students are required to study abroad for at least a year, Qin is planning on studying two years abroad, including her first year in France.
Qin also plans to put her photography skills into action by taking objective photos of Europe, so people, according to her, can see the environment without colorful filters. She hopes that her time in Europe will help her pick her major as well as have a deeper understanding of herself.
“I want to make more friends,” Qin said. “I have a friend, and the presence of him is really touching. I really hope in college I have more friends like that in other countries.”
But Geisler and Qin are not the first Hockaday students to venture into study abroad programs during their freshman year. Like Geisler, Caroline Slaton ‘16 traveled to Switzerland through SMU’s study abroad program during her first year in college. Due to the lighter workload and Lugano’s convenient location near Italy, Slaton was able to travel throughout Europe.
“I really experienced the authentic parts of these cultures, not just the tourist hotspot experiences,” Slaton said.
But although Slaton enjoyed her time in Switzerland, she missed home at times.
“The hardest part for me was when it came around to American holidays that I normally spend with family,” she said. “Thanksgiving was the biggest struggle because I just wanted to be back home and eating turkey dinner; meanwhile in Switzerland nobody celebrated that.”
Some girls instead postpone school and opt for a gap year. Demre Inanoglu ’16, for example, traveled to several countries after she graduated from Hockaday. She worked as an intern at a college counselor’s office and attended classes at Koc University in Turkey, skied in Val D’Aran near the French border and spent Christmas in Barcelona.
“You don’t have major responsibilities and you have nothing to lose,” Inanoglu said. “I don’t see any other time in my life where I’ll be able to freely get to travel the world without having to stress about my future again.”
By travelling and working in different countries, Inanoglu discovered the the local lifestyle instead of simply seeing the tourist attractions. She interacted with the locals and was exposed to other perspectives besides those of the United States. And Inanoglu also got to know herself better.
“I have grown so much, more than I thought I could. I have learned a ton about myself and the world around me and I would do it all over again if I could,” Inanoglu said. “I also learned to appreciate my life a lot.”
Tala Vaughan ‘16 also took some time off before she started studying at the University of Melbourne in Australia. After graduation last summer, she was an au-pair in Finland and later travelled to New Zealand where she volunteered for the Department of Conservation. To Vaughan, volunteering was the most rewarding part of her gap year.
“I learned to accept a bit of uncertainty in my life – and even to embrace it,” Vaughan said. “I learned to take care of myself while travelling and living alone.”
Director of College Counseling Courtney Skerritt believes that a gap year is a great time to study, travel different places and try something new. She believes that it can be a life-changing experience.
“It is a unique time in a person’s life when it is easy to step away and do something new and different,” Skerritt said.
Vaughan believes the break from school allows students to understand their interests, thus opening a new perspective on future paths and careers. She also recommends doing something you truly care about, anything from sports to the arts.
“Living in four different countries in a nine month span was a pretty unique experience that I don’t know that I’ll ever have again,” Vaughan said.
Eugene Seong – Staff Writer