My Gap Year Experience
Less than 48 hours after graduating high school in 2017, I was on a plane traveling to Austin, Texas to start my gap year. On the first night in my apartment after traveling 1,800 miles from my home, I had to sleep on the couch, as I was too exhausted from the journey to set up the bed. I cried more times than I’d like to admit. The next day, I started a job as a field crew member in the Texas Conservation Corps, in which I would be tasked to work in the state parks doing trail maintenance/building, historical preservation, and invasive species removal. After one week of training, I felt lost. I was in a big city very different from my hometown that was completely new to me, along with the weight of being a responsible adult resting on my shoulders.
View from the boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have regrets of choosing to take a gap year in the first couple months, but after connecting with the rest of the crew and becoming accustomed to the city, I started to see Austin as my new home. Through the TxCC, I was able to do so many amazing things, testing my physical and mental strengths in ways that I never thought were possible. I’m still so grateful for all the experiences that I had while in Texas. By far, my favorite hitch (the term that was used to describe a 10-day project) was the one in the small town of Mount Ida, Arkansas. Camping every night and waking up to see the beautiful sunrise on a chilly morning before the heat kicked in made the trip even better. Despite not having cellular service for the entire ten days, I was able to bond with members of the crew by connecting over our shared music tastes and playing games to make the workday go by quicker.
On top of the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas
I eventually moved on to another job, but I will always remember the hard physical labor I underwent in the dry Texas heat day after day. Living on my own in a city so far away from home brought about many struggles and problems that were definitely more difficult dealing with without the presence of parents. However, even though I rode two hours on the bus to work every day, was living paycheck to paycheck and was on food stamps for the entire year, I would not want my gap year to happen any other way. These hardships made me much stronger and more mature. I loved Austin. I loved the perfect running,walking trails, the lake and the sunsets over it. I loved all the amazing people I met. I loved Austin and I miss it every day. I hope I can visit it again, but for now, I’m just extremely grateful to have had this experience. I highly recommend everyone consider taking a gap year so you too can have a year that will prepare you for the world more than one year of college would.
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