When I received my admission decision for Middlebury, my mouth dropped open in genuine shock. It was my first choice and I did not think I was a worthy enough candidate to get accepted. Upon receiving my admission decision, I saw a line that confused me beyond belief.
“I am delighted to inform you that the Admissions Committee has voted to offer you admission…for the term beginning in February 2018. Welcome to the Class of 2021.5!”
In processing this, I could only think about the negative points of taking a break between high school and college. I would be behind my peers. I would forget everything I learned in high school with seven months of no learning. Eventually, I decided to commit to Middlebury for a few reasons.
Upon arriving at Middlebury for their admitted students days, I was taken aback by the beauty of the town and the campus. While speaking with Midd kids (as students are called), they all appeared happy and generally stress-free.
I also opened my mind to the benefits of taking some time off from my studies. After graduation, I was left with the never-ending question of how I was going to spend the next nine months. I applied for a job at a movie theater and ended up working there anytime I was home. I went to Las Vegas and New Mexico with my family in July, visiting relatives. In August, a few Midd kids I had met and befriended during the admitted students days suggested going to Newburyport, MA for a week.
For the first time, I went on an 11-hour road trip with someone I had only known for a few months. Yet, this trip showed me the freedom of being an independent adult in a way I had not felt at home. In September, feeling extreme withdrawal from all my friends in college, I decided to go on road trips across Virginia to colleges my friends were attending. The first weekend, I went to James Madison University and the University of Virginia, getting a taste of the social culture of college. Throughout the month, I visited William & Mary, Christopher Newport University and finally Virginia Tech.
I realized that I was not going to have such freedom for a good few years, so I began planning a Europe backpacking trip with another Midd kid who was going to start in February (we were, and still are called “Febs”). Due to various reasons, my friend could not join me on my European adventures. Having been in contact with different Febs through social media, I decided to go visit one of them in Madrid in October for a week while she studied Spanish.
Madrid opened my eyes to a culture I had yet to discover. I explored a city I had heard about but never visited, enjoyed amazing Spanish food and culture, and discovered a different type of city life than I was used to. After Madrid, I flew to a town in the southwest of Hungary called Pécs to visit my family. I spent a week exploring a town I had visited as a five-year-old, yet being there as an 18-year-old felt different. My family graciously took me to Vienna, Austria, which was a short four-hour drive, and eventually Budapest.
I flew back home the next day, feeling down about the end of my trip and epic adventures. I realized I could not end my adventures, so I booked flights to Montreal and Toronto for a 10-day trip. I went to Montreal for a weekend to meet friends I had made on social media but had never met during the nine-month span I had known them.
Having lived in Toronto, I was always somewhat close to Montreal, so my family visited the beautiful city once a year. Yet, as an 18-year-old where I was considered an actual adult, it felt like I was visiting a whole different city. While at times I felt surrounded by good company, I felt completely alone because it was my first time in this city without my family. But I was not completely against this feeling. Walking alone in Montreal at 3 a.m. on a Friday after a night of clubbing felt unusually freeing; I felt like an independent adult.
After an adventurous weekend of meeting new people and new experiences, I flew to my old hometown of Toronto. I stayed with relatives, staying out of the house for most of my time there. I revisited my old hometown, often feeling overwhelmed when reflecting upon my life since then. Throughout the rest of my time at home, I got my wisdom teeth removed, was promoted to associate manager at my movie theater job and, most importantly, relaxed at home.
By the last week of January, I was just about ready to leave for college. My trips and job provided me with a sense of freedom and independence I did not experience during my teens. My gap semester was the best beginning to adulthood because it helped me mature in an unexpected and enriching manner. Aside from learning and experiencing new cultures, or rather known cultures as an adult, I prepared myself for a life without dependence on my parents. It was my way of letting go and starting a new chapter of my life.