I would like to formally thank the readers that took the time to absorb my first article and appreciate their comments. As several great questions were raised in such comments, I would like to demonstrate my appreciation by taking this opportunity to respond to their thoughtfully posed inquiries.
On how I got my internships: A couple of my internships were found through responding to online postings that hiring firms submit. FreeFashionInternships.Com specifically, was where I found an internship in marketing for fashion designers in New York City, but similar sites exist for almost every industry.
The process was time demanding and daunting. To give you a taste of what it took to get a single internship, my trials went something like this: every morning at around 5:30 a.m. I would get up and research available internships that really intrigued me. Then, I would contact the name listed, create a specific cover sheet for each firm, attach my resume, and run to get to work by 8 a.m. Usually, one reply a day was all I could find time for with my evening Chinese classes and 40-hour work week. For each internship I was offered, approximately 15 were contacted, eight replied, four offered me an interview, two of which I would have to take multiple interviews for, and finally that one internship was offered.
What made the search harder was that the plethora of firms that weren’t interested clearly articulated it to me;”You’re 18. No.” Or “I don’t care if you’re moving to New York. Don’t contact me until you’re here.” My personal favorite was from the editor of a well-known magazine who took the time to write me a small paragraph on why I “should never put another individual through the pain of reading my 11 page resume again” like he had to.
I collected all of these responses and incorporated them into my future appeals. I cut down my resume, and fought harder to get top firms to recognize that my age and current location were not hindrances. I repeated the above many, many times until I had enough internships to fill my year.
On how I am paying for my gap year: In short: completely on my own. In detail: Through a combination of paid internships, my own savings, business sponsorships, and scholarships, I am able to finance it. I will be using the savings I began compiling when I was five, in fact. These funds augmented from working as a supervisor at the local recreation center every Friday night during my junior year, spending the majority of my sophomore weekends on the turf working as a lacrosse coach and referee, and doing homework far past curfew freshman year so that I could babysit and maintain my 4.7 grade point average. My gap year will actually cost me less than what attending my local state school would.
Those that are currently considering a gap year should look into foundations that offer travel scholarships or local businesses that would be willing to sponsor you. Offering a deliverable to your sponsors (such as compiling a photography exhibit or something for their office upon your return) is a great incentive as well.
Three months ago, as I stood at the crossroads of “gap year” and “back up school”, I had a dozen “puzzle pieces” in my mind. These pieces were little tidbits of things I knew (or expected) I liked–learning Chinese, traveling, writing, public relations, communications, and fashion. At that time, I concluded that my four years on a well-manicured lawn and myriads of theoretical classes would be enough to compile all of these puzzle pieces into the fresco that would be the most fulfilling life for me. When I took the time to consider that assumption, I realized, “How can I ever get a true understanding of the things I like if I don’t experience them in real time?” How can I say I like Chinese if I’ve never spoken it with locals in their own culture? What ability do I have to say I love fashion if I’ve never worked side-by-side with a professional designer? The questions go on and on.
Taking a gap year was not a second choice. In fact, by April 2nd, this gap year was the best choice in my mind. It would not only allow me to pursue what I believe I have a passion for, but the flexibility to include time for spiritual and personal discovery that I could not accommodate if I were in school. My ten day Vipassana Meditation Retreat (where I will not speak, use gadgets, read, write, or exercise) is an example of taking risks and exploring things I previously never made time for in the academic world.
With my plans and background better clarified, I hope you will join me on this year of pushing myself to do what I never would, questioning who I am, and figuring out what I want the fresco of my life to look like.
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