Eamon Ronan’s gap year abroad

NewsWorks reached out to a few graduates of local high schools and asked them to tell us about their experiences in the first year after high school.  Here’s a response from Eamon Ronan, graduate of William Penn Charter School who is taking a gap year before enrolling at Yale University.  Ronan plans to major in International Studies and Spanish. 

How are you spending your time in this gap year before enrolling at Yale?

So far, my year has consisted of a mix of working and traveling. After I graduated from Penn Charter, I flew to Spain and stayed in Barcelona with some of my friends. That trip was the first time that I had ever been to Europe, so I was extremely excited, almost giddy, the entire trip. After returning home, I worked for the rest of the summer (more or less) and for a little bit in the beginning of the fall. My next trip abroad was to Peru, where I volunteered with an organization called “Pisco Sin Fronteras” (Pisco without Borders). In 2007, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated the small city of Pisco, which is about three hours south of Lima by bus. The city received much national and international relief immediately after the earthquake, but funds and resources began to dry up as soon as Pisco disappeared from newspaper headlines. PSF came into existence a year after the earthquake in 2008 as a means to help rebuild the city. The organization has accomplished so much in a relatively short amount of time, but so much work still remains. While in Pisco, I lived in a volunteer house with about 80 other people from around the world. Daily projects ranged from building modular homes for individual families to helping a local teacher in one of the ‘Ludotecas’ teach and watch after children. Unfortunately, I fell very ill and had to cut my trip in Peru short. When I returned home, I recuperated for a couple of weeks and then went back to work in the restaurant where I worked this summer. I am going to continue working after the New Year with the goal of leaving for Spain towards the end of February. In Spain, I will be living with a family in Madrid, working as an English tutor. I plan on staying in Europe for three months.

What was your biggest surprise about this time after college?

The change in the pace of my life has really surprised me. In high school, I used to be on the go all the time. Time flew by, and I never really had the opportunity to slow down and just observe what was happening. Not having so many commitments has really allowed me to relax and enjoy the everyday occurrence of life a bit more.

Did your high school prepare you for what you are doing now?

My high school prepared me for my gap year as best as it could. I think that it’s difficult for a school that has to work so hard to prepare kids for college also to set time aside for kids who aren’t necessarily ready for college and prepare them for whatever they are planning to do on their gap years. It’s much easier to prepare a student for the college experience than it is to prepare a student for a gap year because a gap year could entail, well, anything really. That said, my teachers and counselors were always available and more than willing to offer their help and support. A gap year really is about exploring and learning about the world outside of formal education, so maybe it’s best not to be completely prepared for what lies ahead.

Is your social life: about what you expected; less than you hoped; or more than you imagined? Explain.

My social life isn’t any worse or any better than it was in high school; it’s just different. When I was in Peru, the social scene was completely unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I was living with 80 other people aged about 18-40. Obviously, when you have that many people living that closely together, you’re going to have a lot of social interaction. In that sense, it was a bit overwhelming because you scarcely had time where you could just be alone. On the other hand, it was amazing to be around so many people who had seen so much of the world… I got to experience a lot of what I call “second-hand” traveling through listening to others talk about their adventures.

When I’m living at home and working, it’s a bit different. All of my friends are off at college, so, once again, my social life differs from what it was in high school. That said, I’ve made a lot of new friends through working and through meeting friends of friends who go to college close to where I live. Overall, I think that I prefer the social scene abroad, so I’m definitely excited to go to Spain.

What has been the best experience in your time after high school?

A tie: Spain and Peru, hands down. Seeing these two countries has made me aware of how much I enjoy traveling and experiencing other parts of the world.

What was the worst?

Again, a tie: Getting sick in Peru and having to work on Thanksgiving. Being sick in Peru was miserable and a bit scary. Working on Thanksgiving at the restaurant where I work was just plain miserable. My mom and I ate dinner around 10:30 that night.

If you could define your transition from high school to now in one word, what would it be?

Thrilling.

How often a week do you contact your parents? What’s your favorite way to stay in touch with them (phone calls, texting, Facebook, Skype etc)?

When I was in Peru, we talked a few times a week via Facebook and Gmail. We never talked over the phone because I did not own a cell phone/ I am technologically inept. Now that I am home, we talk all the time.

What song or movie title best sums up the start of your college career?

“13 Going on 30” No, seriously…

What are you most looking forward to in your first semester?

I guess I’m just excited to get back to formal education. I’d never thought that I would miss sitting in a classroom or reading a textbook or writing an essay, but, oddly enough, I do.

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