story | Charlie Colasurdo, Prospective Student

photo | Tanya Olander, Guest Photographer

 

Coming off of just a few short days in Singapore for the Experience Yale-NUS Weekend (EYW), there’s little doubt in my mind about where I want to spend my four years of undergraduate education. Yale-NUS College provides the perfect mix of academic intensity, diversity, and experiential learning, a combination that will undoubtedly enable me to reach new heights in my growth as a student, expatriate, and simply as a human being.

But there’s one piece of the college puzzle all of us prospective students have yet to place: When should we start college?

Prior to getting on the 23-hour flight to Singapore, I was pretty secure in my decision to take a gap year before starting college. You see, four years of public high school have left me (and many of my fellow high school seniors) feeling burnt out and mentally depleted from the rat race of striving for near-perfect grades, scoring top American College Testing scores, and juggling multiple Advanced Placement classes.

That is why I have decided to hit a pause button and take a gap year. I was fortunate to land a long-term internship with a lifestyle startup called Vietcetera in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where I will be able to simultaneously immerse myself in a fast-paced, modernizing society and gain valuable working experience at a culturally relevant online magazine—all prior to my first year at Yale-NUS.

With this option, I can defer college enrollment to work, learn, and live abroad (in Vietnam) for one year, allowing myself the opportunity to step off the linear educational path and switch gears. I can also take a much needed breather to allow for some time to reflect on where I’m going and what I really want out of college (and life).

I was feeling pretty smart about my decision to take a gap year until I attended EYW last week. The more time I spent with my fellow admitted students, many of whom I now consider friends, the more I began to feel the pangs of apprehension about the gap year putting me a year behind my own cohort. After establishing exciting connections with a great group of fellow admitted students this EYW, the idea of leaving them for a year shook my confidence about the gap year. “Was I making the right decision?” “Should I just start with my classmates in July?”

But over the past few days of EYW, I was able to learn that many of my classmates would be starting their college experiences at different ages as well. For instance, as any Singaporean male would begrudgingly tell you, they must defer two years of college for mandatory military service. In fact, with so many different students deferring their enrollment into college for various reasons, the ages of the students in my cohort entering Yale-NUS will range from 17 to 22.

Now back in the United States and after a good long sleep, I have been able to gain a clearer perspective on my original plan to take a gap year. All of my initial reasons for hitting “pause” still hold: As someone who’s been fortunate enough to embark on a variety of short experiences abroad, I know that my time for experimental stints is numbered. So, before settling into yet another educational routine and gearing up for the academic rigors that lie in wait, I am looking forward to a year of work, travel, and exploration in Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia.

At 18, I have much to see and do, and so I will happily defer my enrollment to become a member of the Yale-NUS Class of 2023. At the end of the day, most of my new Yale-NUS friends will be on campus when I arrive in July of 2019, and I will arrive with a fresher, more global perspective, all due to my decision to allow myself a gap year.

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