Jessica H: Lessons Learned from a Gap Semester

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If someone told me two years ago that I would end up taking a gap semester during my college career, I would’ve had my doubts. Then again, if someone had told me that a global pandemic would ensue, I would have laughed it off as a joke.

But now, in my sixth semester of college — after nearly a year of remote classes and stay-at-home orders, followed by a semester-long break from school — I am now back on campus with a new, refreshed mindset.

Flashback to 2020 fall semester: I was living on campus in Boston, taking classes (most of which were virtual) and interacting with people mainly through a screen. I rarely left the safety of my dorm room, and my dreams of studying abroad in London and finding an internship in the spring weren’t looking too great. My time as a college undergrad student was slipping away faster than I could grasp, and I couldn’t help but feel frustrated and lost that the pandemic had stolen a good chunk of my college experience.

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At first, I felt insecure and unsure about my decision to take a break from school. What if I end up falling behind my classmates? Am I just making a lazy excuse to take the easy way out? Would it really be worth it in the end? I pondered these questions for a long time, and it wasn’t until two months into my gap semester that I finally began taking advantage of the situation.

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During my gap, I was able to take a refresher and put things into perspective. First on my to-do list was to embark on an outdoor road trip (with very little cellphone signal) with my family halfway across the country. Yup, you heard me; I completely avoided my responsibilities for about two and a half weeks. But that was all it took for me to reset, recharge, and reevaluate my academic pursuits. Being away from the very things that I constantly stressed about, even for a little bit of time, allowed me to slow down and organize my thoughts. I engaged in meaningful coffee chats with friends, peers, and internship directors to figure out how I wanted to spend my last few semesters in college and discussed my post-graduation plans. I was able to discover new interests and hobbies with my spare time, and the time I spent listening to others even opened avenues for me to explore work opportunities I had never considered in the past.

For the past two remote semesters, I felt as if I had been holding in my breath without realizing it. I was so focused on simply getting through each semester that I had lost track of my personal goals and interests. My gap semester was a breath of fresh air, a pause from the madness. It bought me some of the precious time I thought had been wasted, and I returned with a better idea of what I wanted to get out of my final semesters in college. It bought me time to postpone my study abroad plans for next spring, something I had looked forward to since I applied to BU. But, most importantly, it helped me realize that taking a break doesn’t have to mean wasting time; sometimes, it’s just as important as everything else we do.

 

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