I hope to gain some insight and some clarity on what I want to do with my life career-wise, and perhaps more importantly, how I ultimately want to contribute to the global community. I’ve been a relatively diligent student my whole life, and obviously I’ve learned pretty much everything I know through traditional classroom settings.
I’m eager to see what sorts of things I’m going to learn through the ample experiential learning that Winterline provides. Not to get into too much philosophy, but I do believe that learning through experience is more enriching and more valuable than merely absorbing predetermined ideologies. I’m hoping that the abundant exposure to other cultures and communities around the world will broaden my horizons and just generally make me a more aware person.
Also, practically, I want to be able to target my time at college really well. It’s no secret that attending most universities in this country comes with an astronomical price tag, so I want to make sure that I really know what my interests and passions are before I arrive, so I don’t waste any precious time or oversee any opportunities.
I’m also hopeful that I’ll meet some really cool, like-minded people at Winterline that will be life-long friends.
What are you most excited for during your Winterline travels?
I’m most excited to go to parts of the world that I’ve never been, and to learn skills that are tangibly relevant. Money-managing, for example. I think the fact that I’ll actually be able to immediately apply the skills I learn will keep me really inspired.
Why did you decide to go on a gap year and why did you choose Winterline?
I chose to go on a gap year for numerous reasons. Generally, I think it’s a really really good move for people my age. Like I said, I want to get a better idea of what I want to do with my life before I attend an institution that is meant to equip me with life skills and knowledge. Just as logical as it sounds. My brother did a gap year, and something else that I noticed is that after a full year abroad, he was ready, eager even, to go back to school and to be in a classroom doing busy work again.
I think I speak on behalf of most seniors fresh out of highschool when I say that I have absolutely had it with strenuous school work for awhile. High Schoolers work so hard for four whole years, so much so that many grow bitter and resentful in their final months (the time period otherwise known as “senior spring”, or ”senior slide”).
It’s nonsensical to me that the apparent status quo is to rush right into four more years of even more challenging academics. People are so apprehensive when it comes to being nonconformists, so a lot of kids go into their freshman year of college with lingering exhaustion and lack of motivation from highschool. Simply put, you just need a break sometimes. If I went straight to college in September, I definitely would not have a ton of thirst for knowledge or natural ambition to push myself, just cause I feel exhausted from the last four years at a challenging highschool.
I want to get this thirst and curiosity and excitement for learning back before I go to college. Not to mention, when else in life is there such a perfectly allotted chunk of time to go do something and discover yourself? Some might say after college, but I want to get my life started by then and maintain that momentum. Gap years are truly once in a lifetime opportunities.
Speaking of which, Winterline happens to be everything I want in a gap year packaged into a structured program. During my time off, I want as much world exposure as possible, and I want to learn through more unconventional methods and platforms. Winterline serves both of these functions and more.
Have you traveled in the past? Where have you traveled and what has been your favorite destination?
I’m quite lucky in that I’ve been able to do a lot of traveling in my life. My parents hold traveling and immersing oneself in different cultures in high regard, so I’ve been able to do that an extraordinary amount.
I’ve been to many countries in Europe, including all over Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Austria and Iceland. I’ve also been to Costa Rica for a Spanish immersion trip, as well as the Bahamas. I also spent two weeks in South Africa. I’ve been to Mexico and Canada, and I’ve also been to New Zealand. Not to mention pretty much all over the United States!
My favorite location has definitely been New Zealand, with South Africa at a close second. I traveled there by myself when I was just 14 years old during winter break of my freshman year of highschool. I had a scary experience when my flight back to the States was delayed until the next morning and I was all alone in Auckland with no cell phone and all of my Kiwi contacts a full plane ride away, but other than that it was nothing short of magical. I went bungee jumping on the AJ Hackett bridge in Queenstown on this trip (where bungee jumping was invented!).
One last thing to speak to my love of traveling and other cultures: I’ll be attending Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley next fall, which is a 6.5 hour plane ride away from everything I know and love in my hometown of Boston. This distance and unfamiliarity may be unbearable or off putting to some. For me, it’s an adventure!
What experience do you think will be the most challenging?
I’m human after all, so the most challenging thing will probably be being away from my family for extended periods of time. I have two brothers (my two best friends), and I’m close with my parents. I have confidence that I’ll be able to adjust easily, but it’s still a long time away from people I hold dear.
I also think that some of the skills are simply not my strong suits based on what I know right now. For example, I’m not so much a STEM person; the humanities have always come much more easily to me. So I’m not sure how the robotics unit or the hard finance tidbits will go, but I’m eager to improve upon the few skills that I do have in those areas.
And I’m sure my weaknesses will be another student's’ strengths, just as my strengths in language, for example, may be someone else's’ weaknesses. I’m looking forward to taking on the things that challenge me, and helping my peers in things that they find challenging.
What do you see yourself doing in the next 5-10 years?
I’m an aspiring entrepreneur, so I hope to be in the process of building my own company. I intentionally don’t say “I hope to be the CEO of a prosperous ten million dollar company”, because I know that the startup world doesn’t exactly work that way unless you’re a prodigy with incredible luck.
So I’m hoping to be working on my own company with a detailed growth plan and a promising future in sight. Naturally, I hope to be passionate about the company’s mission, and I hope that it will in some way serve the greater community.
What is the most interesting thing that you have done in the past four years?
I’ve participated in a bunch of entrepreneurship programs, which has been pretty cool. The first program was called Girls Summer Entrepreneurship program, which was a ten day residential program at my school. My team and I were developing products for Coca Cola’s Ekocyle campaign, and we came up with a device that harnesses the kinetic energy created while riding a bike and charges your phone.
The next program I did is called YouthCities March to May Bootcamp, and that was a once weekly class at Cambridge Innovation Center from March to May. I developed a product that was personal to my interests and passions. It was called Globalink- and it’s a social-media style website that encourages authentic collaboration between aspiring linguists around the world. The problem I spotted was that so many people are outliving the prime age neurologically speaking to learn a language. And since social media is something that is so familiar to our generation, why not utilize it to encourage language-learning early on.
When I tell people German is my first language, the most common reaction I get is “damn, I wish I knew another language” or “that will be so valuable to you later on in the workforce” or even “I wish I had raised my kids that way”. So I made an attempt to serve this purpose: to encourage early language learning and foster authentic interaction between young students through a platform with which they are more than familiar.
I am still working on this venture (missing some coding skills- another thing I’m excited to learn!). The final pitching competition was at the Microsoft Nerd Center, which was really cool.
The most recent program I did was called Catapult, and it was a four month business incubator hosted by Harvard iLab. I worked with a group of four other students from around the country on a venture, and once a month for three days we all got together and worked out of Harvard iLabs (I am so lucky I live in walking distance from Harvard- some of my teammates were flying cross-country every month).
The business was called Fantasy Sports for Life, and it was the first ever fantasy sports non-profit where all funds go to charity. Our vision was getting millennials excited about donating to charity through an activity they already partake in. We pitched at Google headquarters in Kendall Square. I ended up leaving this venture due to all the negative attention the Fantasy Sports Industry was and still is getting. Now I am working at LabCentral, a biotech business accelerator that works with startups all the time.
I’ve had a lot of exposure to some great entrepreneurship and startup innovation, and it’s something I’m really passionate about.
- German is my first language- my parents raised my brothers and I in a traditional German household, and I go back nearly every summer!
- Unpopular opinion: I hate popcorn, pretzels, baby carrots and chocolate cake