Gap Year – Final Thoughts

I can’t believe that my gap year is already over.  I’m sitting at my desk in Shanghai, like I did so many times in highschool, on my laptop, trying to sort out my thoughts in a comprehensible manner.  I’m writing this on a gigantic yellow sticky that covers the entirety of my monitor, trying to sum up the “surprise bonus level,” I guess you could call it, that was my gap year in a comprehensible, concise manner.  I don’t know if I’m succeeding.

I’d say that it seems like only yesterday that I was crossing border control at Charles-de-Gaulle Terminal 2, hoping to God that the immigration officer wouldn’t say anything to me other than a polite “Bonjour” and “Merci” as he checked my documents and let me into France, but honestly, it doesn’t.

Not even a little bit.  In fact, it’s been a long year.  A really, really, long year.  Here’s a brief round-up of what I’ve done the past year:

July-October: CAVILAM Vichy 

October-November: Escapades Paris

November-December: Internship at French Travel Partners in Paris

January-June: Le Cordon Bleu Basic and Intermediate Cuisine in Paris

Which, once you write it out, doesn’t seem like all that much.  Take that list again, though, and add some extra details, and it seems like a bit more.  Here’s the same list with some of the more influential people that I met there.

July-October: CAVILAM Vichy 

Anne-Sophie, Vitor, Oliver, Betty, Hoony, Veronique, JungIm, Esther.

October-November: Escapades Paris

Manuel, Alice, Pascal

November-December: Internship at French Travel Partners in Paris

Cécile, Béatrice, Clara, Eva

January-June: Le Cordon Bleu Basic and Intermediate Cuisine in Paris

Chef Ju, Amine, Davide, Yat, Abi, Houston, Eva, Veronica, Luthfi, Isabel, Carol, Mariajosé, Joe, Michael, Scarlette, Michel

Which all of a sudden amounts to a whole lot more.  But still, not a lot.  Here’s that same list, but with some important lesson(s) that I learned during each time period.

July-October: CAVILAM Vichy 

Anne-Sophie, Vitor, Oliver, Betty, Hoony, Veronique, JungIm, Esther.

  1. As different as everyone’s background is, people can always find things in common.  We were a a teacher, an architect, a master’s student, a lawyer-to-be, and a interpreter to be, but somehow we became friends.
  2. You have to make an effort to meet new people and try new things.  It took me 2, almost 3 miserable, lonely weeks before I learned the first; it took leaving Vichy, living in Paris for 2 months, and realizing how much stuff I could have done there, to learn the second.

October-November: Escapades Paris

Manuel, Alice, Pascal

  1. Proper time management is essential to a productive life– I was sleeping most of my time away, not working on college apps, and playing video games instead of getting to know Paris.

November-December: Internship at French Travel Partners in Paris

Cécile, Béatrice, Clara, Eva

  1. You have to enjoy what you do.  I hated this internship (sorry!), and dreaded going to work every day.  The only things that made it better were two other people that worked there, and the fact that since I had nothing to do, I could spend my time learning HTML/CSS, so I wasn’t wasting all of my time.

January-June: Le Cordon Bleu Basic and Intermediate Cuisine in Paris

Chef Ju, Amine, Davide, Yat, Abi, Houston, Liza, Eva, Veronica, Luthfi, Isabel, Carol, Joe, Michael, Mariajosé, Scarlette, Michel.

  1. Age is just a number.  This is kind of similar to what I learned in Vichy, but it really hit me at LCB Paris.  Almost all of my friends were 5+ years older than I was (all of them were older than I was), but we still got along just fine.  In fact, my best friend in Paris was 13 years older than I am, and my main group of friends were all 25+ years old.
  2. How every city has something beautiful about it – it’s just up to you do find it.  While I went to LCB I decided to start my “Paris Adventures” Series on this blog, which really was just a way to motivate myself to get to know the city that I was spending a gap year in.  I learned not only about the history of the country that I was living in, but also a lot about artwork in general and how the artwork of each period reflected what was happening in the country at the time.  It really makes me wonder how much I’ve missed out on in the cities that I’ve lived in before (HK, Taipei, Shanghai).  I probably know Paris best, out of the cities that I’ve lived in so far.
  3. It’s a tiny world.  It’s been said and said before, but with the internet, the world is smaller than ever before.  I met a girl who graduated from Brown, where I’m headed next year, in 2008, and apparently there’s another girl who’s here and attending the Brown-RISD program next year!  I know someone who went to Brent (many years ago), which is in the same division as SAS, and who knows some of the students that I played sports against.
  4. Goodbyes suck, but they’re not really forever – if you try hard enough you’ll find each other again.  Especially with the internet and planes and trains and cars.

There’s a lot more to the last year – obviously I learned how to speak French fluently, to do a bit of programming, and learned the basics of cooking (a much more complicated than one would think, really) – but I think what I’ve written above does a pretty good job of covering the basics.  Most importantly, though, I think I’ve learned a lot about my flaws (and there are a lot of them).  The main one is that I lack self-discipline, and am therefore inherently lazy.  Sometimes I’m content to just go to the gym in the morning, then stay at home all day and do nothing.  The best way to remedy this, I’ve found, is to create schedules for myself to follow, covering every 15-30 minutes of my day up to a certain point.  The downside of this, though, is that I have to know how long each thing will take, and the success of my scheduling depends on that.  What I’ll probably do is what I did in high school, which is write a to do list on a whiteboard, in order of what to do first/last, and cross stuff out as I go along.

A couple of “thank you”s are in order, too.  To all of the friends I made that made in France over the gap year, for making the last year the amazing experience that it was  (full “thank you” note on my fb profile somewhere).  To the Brown admissions office for deciding to take me after waitlisting me the first (to Panetha especially, for keeping in touch!).  To my true friends, with whom I don’t really even talk to as much as I should, but still flipped sh*ts when they found out I got into Imperial and later, Brown.  To the SAS faculty – Alden, Steele, McElroy, Ida – for writing recs, keeping in contact and being supportive from 2 different continents, and for replying to my emails so quickly (and giving advice!).  To my family.  My mother, for keeping me on track (or at least, trying to), always wanting to know that I was safe, and for all of the visits (some of which, let’s be honest, weren’t all that necessary, but the gesture is much appreciated).  To my dad, for making sure that money wasn’t a problem on the gap year – I know it cost a lot – so that I could really enjoy my time in France without having to worry too much, and also for suddenly inspired speeches and advice.  To my brother, also for giving me good advice for life in general, for yelling at me when I needed it the most, and finding interesting stuff for me to do/look at all the time.

Am I ready for college?  I have no idea.  I’m scared to death that I’ll start school and just be struggling, with no idea how to manage my own time.  I think I’ll be fine, but I have to completely change the mindset I’ve had for the past 12 months.  I’m working on it.  Getting a summer job should help.

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