Seniors take a year off to explore other options

Julia Cherner

“The path less traveled” may seem tedious to many, but for some, it is one that will shape the next year of their lives. Seniors Matine Kazemi, Ella Hoberman, and Sam Crolla, as well as other students, will each be diverging to take a slightly less conventional route for a year—they will be taking a gap year.

After years of following the routine academic path, Kazemi will instead spend the next year of her life pursuing her true passion: music.

Senior Matine Kazemi will spend her year pursuing music.
Senior Matine Kazemi will spend her year pursuing music.

“I’ve always been really interested in music and performing so I decided to take a gap year to really focus on that, and to build up my portfolio to apply to music schools the following year,” Kazemi said. “I decided to try and find an internship within the music industry, whether it’s recording or songwriting, just something so I can focus on music.”

Kazemi said her parents always gave her the freedom to choose a gap year if she so desired.

“[A gap year] has always been an idea, even sophomore year when everyone was comparing, ‘Oh I want to go here and here,’ I was thinking, ‘why not take a year off and relax and see what’s out there?’ ” Kazemi said. “It was a natural decision for me, just to not go to school and focus on what I really want to be doing and find a school a year later.”

However, Kazemi said she didn’t make a concrete decision until she started to fill out college applications.

“I was filling out UC applications and I was just thinking, ‘Why am I doing this, I don’t want to go to a UC. I want to be involved in music – I should be applying to music school but I should’ve been preparing my audition last year,’” Kazemi said. “So I talked to my mom and she asked me if I really wanted to do this and I said yes, I feel like it’s the best option for me.”

Kazemi believes that at Redwood some students are so worried about getting into a “good” school that they ignore what might be the best fit for them.

“[At Redwood] people usually are just trying to go to the biggest name college that they can possibly get into and I feel like I’ve always strayed away from that path. I’ve never really cared about what people think about what I’m doing,” Kazemi said.

Kazemi added that though she is confident she made the right choice for next year, she believes that at Redwood there is a negative connotation associated with taking a gap year.  at Redwood.

“I feel like there might be some stigma about taking a gap year, like ‘Oh, you’re just lazy, you’re never going to make it,’ but it’s what felt right, ” Kazemi said.

Hoberman will also be taking a year off of traditional schooling. Instead, she will be starting her second senior year – this time, in Spain.

Senior Ella Hoberman will be spending next year in Spain.
Senior Ella Hoberman will be spending next year in Spain.

Unlike Kazemi, Hoberman has already applied and been accepted to college. However, she deferred her year at Macalester College in Minnesota until the fall of 2016 and will be attending I.E.S. El Alquian High School in the town of Alquian, in Almería, Spain. She will be living with a host family that she connected with through an exchange program called Youth For Understanding.

“I didn’t really want to [go] to college right away. There was a lot of pressure about getting into the right school and following the whole stereotypical college path,” Hoberman said.

As the stress of writing college applications began to get to her, Hoberman decided to explore options for life after high school.

“I kind of always knew I was going to take a year to study abroad. Between my junior and senior year, [my family and I] went to visit my dad’s host brother in Sweden from when he did a gap year. We were talking about all of the experiences they had and it sounded really great,” Hoberman said.

Hoberman applied to the Youth For Understanding gap year program in June of 2014.

She plans to leave in August and return in July of the following year.

“I’ll be taking the courses seniors are required to take. It’s like I’m being transported into the life of a Spanish high school student,” Hoberman said.

Hoberman added that she’s most excited to learn about Spanish culture.

“It’s more of the experience of going away for a year and being immersed in a different culture and traveling with people you’re not related to,” Hoberman said.

Hoberman views taking a gap year as an opportunity for an individual to mature and learn things they otherwise wouldn’t have learned in high school.

“You’re really on your own. It’s not like you have close contact with your parents or maybe go to school with people you know – you’re completely by yourself.” Hoberman said. “Being surrounded by a different culture really forces you to grow up and learn how to handle things on your own. When you come back from a gap year, you’ll be more equipped and ready to take on the real world.”

As Hoberman will be attending school in Spain, she is looking forward to having a break from the stress of college.

“[Taking a gap year] is a good way to wind down after four years of stress and constantly thinking about college,” Hoberman said.

Though Hoberman will be traveling to Spain to attend school, Crolla plans to take a less academically driven path and will travel across Europe for a year.

Senior Sam Crolla has opted to spend a year traveling around Europe.
Senior Sam Crolla has opted to spend a year traveling around Europe.

“England will just be for working and act as a base for me but there are a bunch of different places [I’d like to go to],” Crolla said. “I’d love to get around to Italy, which is one of the main places that I haven’t been to.”

Crolla said that because he is not sure what he wants to do later on, he decided to take a gap year to figure that out.

“I wasn’t feeling like I knew exactly what I wanted to do in college or what I wanted to major in,” Crolla said.

Crolla added that he is not completely sure of his plans for the year but hopes to get an internship while in Europe, where both of his parents grew up.

College and Career Specialist Paula Vantrease said gap years can only be beneficial to a student if they apply themselves to a certain project or activity.

“My concern sometimes is that [students] may choose after that to not continue their education, unless they’ve already applied and been accepted and their college deferred their admission,” Vantrease said. “A lot of times it will also depend on what the student will do during their gap year. To take a gap year and end up not doing anything is not going to help anybody and that’s not what colleges want to see.”

Vantrease added that a gap year can positively impact many high school graduates.

“I think there are a variety of benefits to [taking a gap year],” Vantrease said. “I think it adds to a person’s maturity level, it gives people a different outlook on life, and it also gives them time to reflect and rejuvenate after high school is over.”