Audrey Falk, who came to us from Marion Taylor at Taylor the Gap, is a recent alumni of TBB South America Semester Gap Year Program and Moses Brown School. In this interview she speaks of what led to her high school burnout, discovering herself on her gap year, and gaining a sense of independence and maturity in preparation for college. Audrey will be attending Tufts University in the fall.
What do you think you gained from going on a gap year?
As I embarked on my gap year, I only asked of myself two things: to approach each day without expectation and to experience each moment in honesty, openness, and presence. Because of that, I feel that I have developed as a person more deeply than I could have imagined. I’m so grateful to have had the freedom, space, and experiences to really get to know myself. A lot of that came through learning from not only my TBB peers, but also my friends and host families in South America. I feel grounded and aware of what makes me truly happy and how to live happier in any circumstance. In terms of college preparation, I am eternally grateful to have this experience under my belt before entering a situation that will offer me many choices yet ask a lot of me as well. The trip has bolstered me academically, socially, and personally in vital ways and I feel a hundred percent better going into college.
Why did you decide to take a gap year?
I was first inclined to pursue a gap year purely because of my love of travel and eagerness to explore. I wanted to go out of my comfort zone. I couldn’t predict how the experience would impact me, but I knew it would. As I reflected on this more with my parents, who were open to it, I realized how disengaged and distanced from myself I’d become in my senior year of high school. I’d become a competitor in the game that is college admissions, and a crushing class schedule had literally taken over any normalcy in my life. I was truly exhausted, and so the “burnout” factor became a consideration too. Though I’ve always been very young for my grade, I felt ready and prepared for college, but at the same time could see how much of an advantage a year of worldliness and maturation, not to mention language immersion and firsthand development learning, would be to me as a person and student in utilizing all that university has to offer.
What college will you be going to in the fall?
I will be attending Tufts University in the fall. While I have interests that vary from Classics to Latin American Studies to journalism, I can definitely see myself pursuing international development. It is a reality that I can’t ignore, and an extremely interesting, complex, and all-encompassing one at that. I feel a responsibility to attend to this issue and am fascinated by it.
How did your media project play a significant role in your gap year?
The entire media project process was really important to me. My partner Markita and I ended up with a bilingual podcast called “Ser Mujer”, which explores the experiences of women in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Along the way I met, interviewed, observed, and learned from incredible women with incredible stories, and soon I became intimately engaged with their experiences. Being in the position to put forth those voices was powerful and also a great responsibility. I realized that while we can all find common ground, it is unacceptable to represent those voices with a single story. The experience revealed to me how important gender issues are to me, and this has certainly given me a new lens through which I see myself and the world.
Most students are concerned they will fall behind their peers if they go on a gap year. Do you feel that was true for you?
I personally was not concerned about falling behind my peers by going on a gap year. I have a twin sister who is currently in her freshman year of college, so both sides of the coin are represented in my house. Before departing this fall, I felt a sense of excitement and imminent change. Having returned, I feel like I couldn’t be in a better position. Though my experiences were wildly different from theirs [peers in college] in many cases, they speak to the independence and maturity inherent in the TBB experience. Because of this, I feel on par with my peers but also ahead in many ways.