United Nations Plaza in Brussels
While many high school seniors are eagerly anticipating the start of their college career, Jessica is gearing up for a different kind of adventure. While her classmates celebrate their college acceptance letters, Jessica is celebrating special news of her own. Jessica is a senior, preparing for a Gap Year abroad in Belgium with iE-USA – and she just learned which family will be her hosts for her time abroad!
This article by Alexa Rosenblatt shows why some students, like Jessica, choose to take a Gap Year to travel and mature before starting college. Gap Year travel can often help improve a student’s college application. According to Rosenblatt, “During the admissions process, colleges often recognize valued skills learned during productive gap years, such as the drive to do something different, communication skills and quick adjustment to changing environments.” Blumenthal, a student returning from abroad, said, “My year was cheaper than a year’s worth of education at most schools, and was more of an education any school could have provided.” Jessica agrees with Blumenthal’s comment, “A gap year isn’t sitting on your couch for a year; it should be an opportunity to do something you never could before. It’s a learning experience.” (Blumenthal, in Rosenblatt article).
Jessica will be attending a local high school while discovering her new ‘hometown’ of Ayvaille, near Liege. This city is famous for its rivers, kayaking adventures, and caves. But Jessica is even more excited to hear how her host family’s interests are similar to hers; her host sister is a college student close to her age who lives at home, and her host mom loves to cook cake and pastries, just like her!
iE-USA did an interview with Jessica to see why traveling abroad after high school attracted her more than heading straight to college. She said, “I always wanted to study abroad but was never able to do it with school being so busy. I wanted to do it before college, especially because they say you are better at learning languages when you are younger. So I wanted a year off that wasn’t wasted. Also, my brother is in college and did a semester abroad in Italy, but he didn’t really meet any Italians when he was doing it. I wanted to be immersed in high school life as opposed to just taking college courses abroad and living in an apartment or dorm where you don’t meet as many local people. High school kids seem friendlier.”
We asked her if she thought a gap year was for all students and she said, “You should do a gap year if you have a plan in place; something that will be enriching for you. I know a student who didn’t make good college plans and HAD to take a gap year because of that but she took a job that keeps her at home for the year, which is sad because she could be traveling or learning. If you were able to plan something ahead of time that allows you to do something you have never done before, you should definitely do a gap year.”
So what did Jessica have to say about her new host family and school abroad? “At first, waiting to hear about my host family, I was nervous. I was worried a family wouldn’t understand me, or treat me badly. But now that I found my family, they seem like such a good fit.”
She also said, “I already looked up the website for my school, and you could even see the school lunch menu, which I have to say was a step up from the American lunch of football shaped nuggets and flat patties. Their lunch seems so sophisticated, something you would actually want to eat at school. It’s the little things like that which are making this experience seem less abstract. I’m excited, not nervous now, to meet my host family, and I already started chatting with my host sister, she has Facebook!”
Read more about iE-USA Gap Year here.