Why I Decided to Take a Gap Year

AT Staff15 Sep, 2020

The Leadership Adventure Semester (Adventure Treks’ first-ever gap semester program) is off to an incredible start. On Friday, two groups departed for their seven-day backpack while group three began their three-day lifeguarding course. After the course ended Sunday, group three headed to Pisgah National Forest yesterday for their backpack trip , and the other two groups will arrive back to campus on Thursday, beginning their lifeguard course Friday. Everyone will be back together on Sunday night, and we anticipate a happy, celebratory mood! Next week, the focus will shift to building specific skills and classes on cooking, auto repair, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, and rock climbing.

Overall, we are extremely pleased with how the semester has started. This is truly an impressive group of young people who are now in the early stages of group development. They’ve demonstrated kindness, inclusivity, enthusiasm, and fun sense of humor. Trying new things and succeeding beyond expectations (which is easy with discipline, perseverance, support from your peers, and helpful instruction) is the most authentic way to build the self-confidence that reduces anxiety in the future.

Now, a few words from our gap students about why they chose to attend Adventure Treks’ gap semester!

By Laura Kephart, LAS student from West Grove, PA

I wasn’t originally planning on taking a gap semester. I was accepted to the University of Pittsburgh, and up until recently, had all intentions on spending my next four years there. Even with the pandemic shutting things down, I was still hopeful for an exciting new start in the city. I was so drawn to the school for its location and the fact that I would constantly be surrounded by things I had never been exposed to. But as the summer continued, and new information was continually released, I became apprehensive about the upcoming year. I was less than thrilled at the prospect of taking online courses and being isolated in a dorm room. So I looked elsewhere. Luckily, I found the Adventure Treks Leadership Adventure Semester.

I immediately knew LAS would be right for me. It would expose me to so many new challenges and activities that I would never be able to experience otherwise. I have never done so many things listed on the itinerary, but I knew that with a supportive program and caring and capable instructors, I would be able to face everything head on.

Already, I have become lifeguard certified, and yesterday, I left with my group on my first-ever backpacking trip (for seven days!). Never would I have imagined accomplishing these feats within a week of each other, but with the LAS, we’ve been given both the confidence and resources to succeed.

And all the people here have come together to form a community like no other. Despite our varying backgrounds, everyone has the same desire to push themselves and encourage others to be their very best. I have also laughed way more in only one week than I did during all of quarantine. I can already tell that between the friendships, lesson,s and adventures, the memories made during LAS will stay with us for a lifetime.

By Max Thurer, LAS student from Rye, NY

On a beautiful and sunny day in the arid hills of Bend, OR, I excitedly hopped on a newly fitted mountain bike. It was summer 2018 on AT’s Ultimate Northwest trip, and as I weaved through the trees, I could feel the dry heat sweep my face and hear the bike chains grind beneath my brittle-boned self. Truly blissful.

However, as I came upon a set of narrowly parted trees, I panicked. My handlebars jerked and I quickly flew over them, falling onto the dusty terrain. Unfortunately, I broke my collarbone.

The physical pain of a broken collarbone was nothing compared to the emotional pain I felt when I was forced to leave Oregon early, leaving my new AT family behind. In the two weeks I was with the group, I had made wonderful friendships with some very special people.

When the Leadership Adventure Semester was announced, I immediately knew I wanted to attend. Knowing the type of adventurous and well-rounded students that AT attracts, as well as the fantastic role model instructors, I could not pass up the opportunity. I wanted to be a part of another AT family.

Our first few days here in the hills of North Carolina have been excellent, and we are well on our way to forming that feeling of family. Through exploring Camp Pinnacle, an enchanting paradise playground for us adventurous types, the solitary walls we all arrived with have rapidly dissolved as we’ve already become a community. I am excited to call this place my home for the next 68 days and to call these fellow 20 AT students family.


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