Gap Year Update from an Alum

By Tanya Calvin (Note: Member of Class of 2015) When Chris Maurice reached out to me about writing something for the Forum I agreed without hesitation. My Gap Year has been amazing thus far, but I still miss having a writing assignment here and there. With that being said, this is perfect timing for me to submit an article considering my schedule has been completely booked for the past two months. In June, I started working as a hostess at a German restaurant located in Logan Square. It’s not the most fun I’ve ever had while getting paid, but I knew part of this year would require financial income. Luckily, though, I was offered an internship position not too long after that. Since September I’ve been a Literacy Intern at a non-profit called Open Books. I had applied for the position on a whim when Ms. LC mentioned the organization to me while I was freaking out in the library one day because I didn’t have a job yet. When I went into the office in West Loop for my interview, I immediately knew I wanted to work there more than any of the other places I had applied to. The bookstore portion of the building (where most of the money is made to fund the organization) is every book-lover’s dream. It’s also housed in the Literacenter, where a number of different organizations that promote literacy around the city share the office spaces. My position at Open Books consists of running a Buddies reading program at a public elementary school and helping out with our other programs. Basically, I get to bring a group of third graders together with volunteers to spend one on one time reading, playing literacy games, and building a meaningful relationship to nourish their experience with books. I used to think that I would never work with kids. My mom owns a home daycare, so I’m always surrounded by children crying and pooping everywhere. Even when I did my service hours at Latin, I looked for opportunities that didn’t have any children involved. I wanted a job as far away from that line of work as possible – I had had enough already. Now, it’s been three months since my Buddies program started. Even though sometimes they don’t listen or run through the hallways every time I pick them up, my students run up to hug me when they know it’s time to line up for Buddies. I had story time with my parents every night when I was little, and maybe you did too, but not every kid does. Providing this kind of support for just a small group of students has given me a sense of purpose I never dreamed of having so early in my life. My original plan for my Gap Year was to rest, write, and save money, but this internship turned it into a revelation about how I want to make a difference. All this being said, my Gap Year isn’t just all work and no play. Two weeks ago I finalized my plans for a two-week trip to learn Italian in Rome next semester. I’ve never been to another continent, and visiting Italy has been a dream of mine ever since my mom showed me photos of the Vatican when I was six. Sure, I could’ve waited to study abroad until I got to Amherst, but I didn’t want to wait – and I don’t have to. I said this in my very last Forum article way back in May, but I’ll say it again – taking a Gap Year is more than just “taking a break” or “putting off college.” It’s a chance to invest yourself in new opportunities that, in turn, will reward you in ways you might have never imagined. My initial reasoning for taking this year was that I was genuinely worn down from the workload at Latin and didn’t feel ready to take on Amherst’s rigorous classes. I’m not resting as much as I thought I would, but I’m getting so much more out of this experience than any college campus could give me. Even if you’ve been waiting to step onto a college campus for what feels like forever now and the idea of waiting even longer seems horrible, take a step back and think about what you could accomplish during a Gap Year. You can do something you’ve always wanted to do before going to college. Why wait to fulfill a dream of yours if you can do it right now?]]>