EMPTY NEST STAGE:
This is that time of year when parent’s of seniors in high school start thinking about how it will be when their child goes off to college in the fall. Being a mom of a senior who is taking a different route, I’m in quite a different boat than most. I’m a gap year mom. I not only have to feel the empty nest stage that we all experience when our kids go off to college, but I have the extra unknown of where, what and how my daughter is doing while traveling the world, on a gap year.
A GAP YEAR: AN ALTERNATIVE TO COLLEGE
We have selected an amazing program through Winterline. This gap year program has the students visit ten different countries and learn 100 new skills. The itinerary of the destinations and planned projects they will be involved in look so well thought out and over-the-top awesome! However, there may be times, due to weak wi-fi, or her being in a remote location, or the time change being so different, that I won’t be able to hear from her on a daily basis, as I’d like to. (kidding, not kidding)
We have talked about her possibly taking a gap year off and on throughout her senior year, but we couldn’t find a program that had what she was looking for. I even wrote an article about this, mainly due to the fact that when we talked about this to others, nobody we knew had done this, and many we knew, had never even heard of such a thing, nor understood it. I wanted to explain what a gap year was and why it offers some genuine benefits for young adults. Australians and Europeans have already embraced opting for a gap year-long ago, and has reaped its many benefits. (Here’s the link: the benefits of taking a Gap Year )
In the fall, we did the traditional college tours and she applied to five schools. She got accepted into many, but not into her top choice. This only made her start looking deeper into researching gap year programs. “Maybe this was a sign and meant to be?”, she thought. She didn’t want to settle for a college and spend all that money on a school she wasn’t completely excited to go to, not to mention, her wanderlust was calling. She wasn’t even sure of what program she wanted to apply? She went from thinking she wanted to do fashion, then considered business and marketing, now she is interested in global business and non-profit work. Who knows what it will be the next week?
For these reasons and more, it seemed like taking a year off to explore the world and learn new skills, might give her the time and self-awareness she needs to make these major life decisions. She just wasn’t ready yet. Some kids know from the time they can talk what they want to do for a job. Some kids, even adults, change their mind constantly. I’m guilty of this myself, but when you really contemplate that a seventeen year old has to decide their lifetime career choice at such a young and complicated age, its pretty crazy to think.
That’s when we found Winterline. She couldn’t stop thinking about world travel and wanting to be able to do it before she has all the responsibilities of a job, bills, a car, an apartment, etc. Adulting is hard! She knew this and knew if she waited, she might not have the time or funds to do this after college. She felt as though this experience would not only benefit her in so many ways, but it would give her a starting point to what kind of impact she wants to make in this world. This was it! After many long discussions, our family all felt it was a perfect plan for her, and knew she would thrive in this unique, alternative experience.
She began the rigorous application process with Winterline. She went through all of the steps; writing essays, Skype interviews, getting recommendations and sending her transcripts, to finally get accepted to this competitive program. She also was awarded scholarships for video and blogging. You can follow her travels on her YouTube channel: Maddie Meets the World
GAP YEAR MOM:
Now that I am officially a Gap Year Mom, I don’t know what I’m feeling? I am so excited for her to be able to have all of these experiences, but also know I will worry, a lot, and will miss her profoundly. How I choose to manage these emotions and feelings is to blog about it. I figure this is way to get things off my chest; the good, the bad, the ugly. In addition, I think this may be a great resource for other moms/dads who are considering letting their child go on a gap year. I wish I had something like this to read right now. Although I did meet a Gap Year Mom whose son just got back in May, that gave me her card and offered for me to call anytime for advice. We are a rare group of parents and need support, lol.
GAP YEAR MOM SERIES:
My plan is to blog about what she is doing, which from the itinerary, looks amazing! For example; she will get scuba certified, Thai massage certified, be building a house, learn to sail a boat, learn to make a Bollywood movie, study mindfulness and meditation for a month, take driving school at BMW, learn robotics, work on a farm and many other unbelievable things. I also will give you feedback of how things feel back at home in her absence and how I cope with it. I plan to interview her dad, her brother, her friends and possibly other gap year moms and dads. Furthermore, I have two potential planned visits with her. The first one being in Costa Rica, during her first semester, which my husband and I already had to re-visit to finish his dental work. (Here’s the link to that story:
The second one will be during her last semester, where I plan to visit her in Spain. I’ve always wanted to go, now, what a better excuse than this? Maybe even one of her friends can join me? That’s not for a while so I’m not sure what will exactly happen, but the plans are in the works.
I hope that my Gap Year Mom series will not only help me, but others too. It also will be a great way to look back on this amazing life-changing journey for my daughter Maddie, but will also be a life-changing journey for me too!
She leaves in September, so watch out for updated posts to follow. If you are interested in her sending you a post card from one of the ten countries she visits, leave a comment with your address or email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pick one randomly per country.