Taking a Semester Off Was the Best Decision I’ve Ever Made, Yale Student Says

  • I was reaching burnout during my junior year at Yale University. 
  • I decided to take a semester off and got an NYC internship and a job in New Haven, Connecticut.
  • During that time, I had a mental reset, traveled, and spent time with family. 

The idea of taking a semester off during college first crossed my mind after a take-home final left me in tears. My computer glitched a minute before the deadline, and the assignment went through four minutes late. When a close friend checked in on me, I broke down. That was the start of what would be a transformative conversation.

The final itself wasn’t the problem; it was that I’d academically checked out. I’d spent the entire day working on it, not because it was particularly difficult but because it felt impossible to fully focus on the assignment. The content was interesting, yet the work felt like a burden.

That was when I decided I needed a break.

I wasn’t quite burned out but was heading there

I told my close friend that I was nearing burnout, and she shared that she’d been feeling the same way. She was considering a gap semester to help. As soon as the topic came up, it felt right.

A gap semester is a semester-long period in which a student takes a break from their studies to pursue personal interests — whether that be an internship, travel, or time at home with family.

In 2020, 23% of Yale students took a semester off — most likely because of the pandemic, but I’ve noticed the trend continue. Over the past three years, several of my friends on campus have taken gap semesters.

Part of what makes gap semesters attractive is that they offer the chance to “pause time.” They give students a chance to reflect without the pressures of postgraduate life. That’s what appealed to me.

Unlike a postgraduate gap year, if I took a gap semester, I would be guaranteed a return to the relative security of student life — rather than unemployment.

I’d never seen myself as the type of person who could take a gap semester — for both personal and financial reasons

There was just no way my Nigerian immigrant family would support me taking time off.

“Why would you take time off when you’re almost done?” I imagined them asking. “Why not just get college over with? You want time to reflect? Reflect now.”

On top of that, the idea came up in mid-December, and I was set to return to campus in January. While I had found an off-campus apartment, I hadn’t yet secured financial support.

Still, I sensed the leap of faith would be worth it. I applied to various internships and emailed countless organizations about opportunities and funding. I also came to terms with the fact that while taking time off was in many ways a luxury, minimizing my college struggles wouldn’t somehow make the world a fairer place. And with that, my mind was made. My family eventually supported me.

I was fortunate to land a part-time internship with a prominent visual artist and his team at his New York City art studio. As a creative myself, seeing firsthand what a professional artistic career could look like was incredible. I also worked at a community music organization and the local magnet school in New Haven, Connecticut, where Yale is.

Though I kept busy to cover my expenses, I had ample space to reflect and recharge

During my gap semester, I mastered a few family recipes, fell in love with “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and rediscovered how disciplined I could be in the right headspace. I spent some much-needed time at home with my mom and siblings. I even visited Marrakech and Tangier in Morocco, London, Toronto, and Los Angeles.

Taking a gap semester isn’t for everyone; I have friends who can’t wait to get out of college and into the real world. But as someone who wants to gain everything I can from college before leaving it behind, taking time off was the best choice.

I’m excited to walk in my graduation ceremony in May and will return the following fall for a final semester alongside my peers who also took semesters off. I’ve just started again at college and haven’t felt this excited to learn in a long time.

Source link: https://www.businessinsider.com/taking-a-semester-off-college-student-yale-burnout-2023-9




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