Gap Year Offers Students Opportunities to Further Explore Interests

a female student staring at the cityscape below her with her backpack to the camera

After graduating, many students jump into graduate school for master’s degrees and doctorates, and some go straight into the workforce to launch their careers. However, another exciting option can be taking a gap year to gain more experience, volunteer, or learn new hobbies. Just as there is no standard path for graduate school or finding jobs, students who take some time off have the freedom to design a gap year tailored specifically to their interests.

Gap years do not necessarily have to relate to a student’s plans for graduate school. Sarah Bacot ’13 traveled for a year to different countries through the prestigious Watson Fellowship before beginning her studies in public interest law at Harvard Law School. A history major and gender and sexuality studies minor, Bacot traveled across the globe working with queer communities and learning about their annual Pride celebrations. Some of the countries visited included India, Poland, and Argentina, where she worked on a number of campaigns and with nonprofits.

“I applied for the Watson because it sounded too good to be true—and it was,” says Bacot. “It was an amazing year. I attended or marched in Pride Parades on five continents, climbed mountains, watched elephants play, went camping with a group of self-identified gay geeks, ate incredible food, learned to love traveling alone, and met truly wonderful people who welcomed me with kindness and generosity in cities across the world.”

Some students, however, plan to connect the gap year to their plans for graduate school. Gene Lamanilao ’16, a native Memphian who majored in biochemistry and molecular biology while at Rhodes, currently works in local emergency clinics as a medical scribe to obtain clinical experience. “I’ve had the opportunity to view the way medicine is practiced through observing the ER physicians,” says Lamanilao. As he plans to enter medical school this fall, he also utilizes his Rhodes network—often going to Health Professions Advisor Dr. Alan Jaslow with questions. For Lamanilao, his gap year also is a time for leisure and new hobbies such as taking yoga and oil painting classes at the Memphis College of Art.

Anna Singletary ’17 of Baton Rouge, LA, is eagerly awaiting her time off after graduation in May. A former member of the Rhodes College Women’s Swimming and Diving team, she will return home to coach her high school and club swim teams this fall. She also will travel to Cascade, ID, in spring 2018, to assist as a teaching fellow at Alzar School, which offers a semester field school and study abroad experience for high school students. Following coaching and teaching, she plans to pursue a degree in environmental law, which merges her passions for social and environmental issues.

Taking or planning a gap year allows for graduates to both recharge and also hone in on passions they did not get to fully explore while in college. And coming from a service-minded college they usually find ways to help others and get plugged into their surrounding communities.

By Lizzie Choy ’17