Taking a gap year was hands down the best decision I’ve ever made. Senior year was an especially hard one for me for multiple reasons, so when Harvard offered me the opportunity to take a gap year I jumped at the opportunity. (After careful thought, of course) I decided that taking a break from school was probably the best thing I could do for myself- and I was absolutely right. By June after my senior year, I was officially enrolled in Harvard and beginning my gap year.
I spent that summer (summer 2016) trying to figure out what I was going to do. I only knew that I wanted to spend some time traveling and some time interning. As I have an aunt who lives in New York who had a spare bed she was willing to lend to me for a semester, I started by looking for New York internships. In high school I had been the english student extraordinaire, and was convinced that my future would hold something in the realms of books and publishing. However, after reaching out to multiple recruiters at publishing companies and sending my resume in to various internships, I had nothing. It was nearly the beginning of August, my friends starting to leave for college, and I had absolutely no plan.
It was after a dinner with my step-mom when she mentioned that some of her nieces’ friends were taking time off from school to work for Hillary Clinton that it hit me: DUH, it’s fall of 2016- I need to be working on the Presidential campaign! I quickly sent a resume and cover letter to the Hillary For America Campaign, and within a week I was on a plane headed to New York.
To say that my four months in Brooklyn changed my life forever would be an understatement. Before my gap year I was not nearly as interested in politics as I am now, and I learned valuable skills and life lessons during that time that help me today at Harvard. Some of my very best friends today are those I met on the campaign- including my boyfriend who I’ve now been dating for two years. I have absolutely never felt as alive as I did in the fall of 2016.
Upon the end of the campaign I had a choice to make: stay in America and continue to work for Democrats, or go with my original plan and look at some gap year travel programs. With everything that had happened, I felt I had to stay. I decided to take myself and my talents to help Democrats in D.C. I worked for the Democratic National Committee and in the U.S. Senate for the rest for the year. Again- an amazing decision. Without boring you with too much detail, I really fell in love with the city, learned what it means to be truly independent, and continued to explore my newly discovered passions. Between all of this, I did make some time to travel the world and I felt truly fulfilled by the time I ended my gap year- my mother helping a tearful me move out of my Arlington, Virginia apartment.
If anyone has found this website because they’re debating whether or not take a gap year: do it. There is 0% that you will regret it. Taking a gap year has made my experiences at Harvard all the richer, and I will bend your ear off if you let me about all the benefits I got from my gap year. It absolutely changed my life. Do not hesitate to reach out to me if you’re thinking about a gap year!
Author: Eliza Oehmler, Class of 2021