This column seeks to profile Lawrentians who have decided not to take the typical path of enrolling at college directly after highschool, instead pursuing other interests during a gap year.
Although the picturesque gap year can only be imagined as backpacking across the countryside of Europe, or studying a new language internationally, gap years are more often than not taken to gain financial and emotional stability before going to college. For freshman Brittany Allwine, the latter scenario was exactly why she spent a year refocusing herself before starting at Lawrence this fall.
During her gap year, Allwine worked as a custodian at her local junior high in her home state of Oregon. Along with earning money, Allwine hoped to discover her identity and recalibrate her emotions. “What I wanted was to leave and come here, but before it was really unclear,” she said. “I had some people in my life that made it not as interesting to come out here. I’m grateful now that I took that gap year, so that I could learn more about myself and separate myself from things that I really needed to be away from.”
A year later, Allwine acknowledges the negative stereotype that gap years have the potential to be unproductive, and a setback once in college. “Even I had some nervous thoughts about taking a gap year,” she said. “I came here older than most of the people around me, and that made me nervous, but it also made me realize that I learned a lot of things by taking a gap year. It was well worth it.”
While her gap year allowed for mental relaxation and regrouping, Allwine also used her experiences from one year before to understand the improvement of her life at Lawrence, which began before even arriving. “I found Lawrence, and it felt like home just looking at the website and talking to the people,” she said. “My mom is from Wisconsin, so she got to tell me what the people are like to help me decide that Lawrence is the place that I would like. I connect better with the people here than I do in Oregon, and I feel more at home.” Allwine is now taking the lessons learned about identity and personality and applying them to her new life at college. “At Lawrence, I feel like I can actually be myself, but I still have to learn who that person is,” she said. “I had open-mindedness during my gap year to learn things that I needed to learn, and I’m taking that openness further and learning even more about myself and the people around me.”
It was not only life lessons that Allwine experienced during her gap year; she also explored some of her favorite hobbies, including art. “There were some people in my life that were negative influences, and I had to cut them out,” she said. “If I had not, then it would not have gone well. After that, I focused on myself. I did some artwork and I tried to relax while also focusing on what I needed to do in order to get into college.”
While an important factor of her gap year, Allwine, who intends on majoring in anthropology with possible minors in Japanese and Chinese, emphasizes art is only a relaxing hobby for her. “I could do whatever I wanted with my art,” she said. “I didn’t have to do it to make someone else happy. I could do it to make myself happy, and it wasn’t for a grade.” She continued, “During my last year of high school, art class was not nearly the same as it was before. My teacher let me do whatever I wanted, which was insanely boring, especially when I didn’t have my computer to do my digital art.”
Allwine, who identifies as both a traditional and digital artist, also realized the difference in passion for her lifelong hobby at Lawrence compared to in her hometown. Despite her specialty being digital art, she finds herself staying away from this aspect of art while on campus. “Now, I don’t even want to be near my computer,” she said. “I would rather be around people here and go do things. Since it’s easier and faster to draw on paper, it seems like it’s a better option than going up into my room and drawing on the computer for a couple hours with no social interaction.” Allwine’s nervousness of her gap year, as mentioned before, has taken a completely different direction towards optimism. Looking back on her worries, she has decided the anxiety was unnecessary, as her gap year creates gratitude within herself. “One weird aspect is getting to know sophomores and realizing I could have been in that grade if I went last year,” she said. “But, I can still get along with them now, so either way, I can be friends with those people, and it’s still amazing.”