Vienna and I

Jordan Williams is a senior, majoring in Advertising and PR, and one of the members of Pioneer 6 who will present an IMC plan, promoting tourism to the Lake Ohrid region, to the communities of Ohrid and Struga on July 26 at the Hotel Inex Gorica

As we boarded the train in Salzburg (May 22), excitement and anticipation grew knowing we were on our way to one of the most famous European cities in the world, Vienna, Austria.

We rented an apartment in Vienna and by the time that we arrived, our hostess, Rebecca Sabou, arranged our rooms with a unique touch. The tradition for guests of the apartment is to receive a complimentary bottle of famous Austrian beer upon check-in.  With a nice beer in our bellies and a couple of new friends, we explored the surrounding area in order to get to know the area. Our apartment was centrally located (Margaretengürtel) which made it easy to reach the city via one of many trains. Our first stop was Riesenradplatz where we visited the famous Wiener Riesenrad Ferris Wheel. Lieutenant Walter Basset constructed the Wheel (1897) to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I. I have a fear of heights and Ferris wheels don’t give me the best feeling, but I put those fears aside and boarded the century-old wheel.

The contraption creaked and moaned with age as the doors closed behind me. I ran to the edge of the cart by the window to make sure I got the best view. The wheel slowly began to move, and we were on our way.   Eager to snap a few photos, I took out my phone and placed it on the window’s ledge. Slowly the wheel turned providing the passengers a wonderful view of the park; I captured as many photos as I could in that time. I appreciated this moment the most because I wasn’t only riding a Ferris wheel, I was indulging in a piece of history. Soon our cart arrived at the top where we enjoyed a view of the entire city.

My fear of heights was nowhere to be found as I took in the breathtaking view of row houses and old churches with mountains on the horizon. I saw this as the perfect time to take the most photos from every angle possible. Zoë suggested a group photo and we gathered in the corner with the view of the town as a backdrop when an idea popped in my head: why not make a more permanent memory on the Ferris wheel? Looking around, I noticed thousands of names either drawn or carved into the walls of the cart, so I decided to take the pen out of my pocket and make a long-lasting impression on Ferris wheel. I subtly wrote my name, the date, and my location in the upper hand left corner of the cart 7. I wanted my impression to last as long as the Ferris wheel in Vienna.

When we were back on solid ground, we decided to spend some time in the park before heading back to the apartment for a nap to get ready for the evening when some of our flatmates showed us the fun side of Vienna.

The following day, we wanted to learn more about the history of the city and (among others) went to Schonbrun (where the infamous Marie Antoinette grew up!) The castle is mustard yellow with hundreds of acres of land with ivy-covered walkways and impressive statues symbolizing the power of the once mighty Austria-Hungarian Empire . We spent the entire day soaking up the history and gaining a better understanding of the country we were visiting.

I was said when the time came to say goodbye to Vienna. It has always been on the top of my list of cities to visit. Vienna is beautiful and was everything I could ask for.

 

Salzburg 2013

Rob Wilhoit is a senior (majoring in Advertising and Public Relations) and one of the members of the Pioneer 6 group who spent two months of summer 2013 in Ohrid, Macedonia where they prepared an IMC program to promote tourism to the Ohrid Lake area.

When I first learned of the opportunity to visit Europe I was thrilled. Not only was I going to spend two months in a place where I have never been before, I was going to travel with other students two weeks prior through Europe. When arriving in Europe I was nervous being in a place so different from home, but when I got to Salzburg that feeling disappeared as the town made me feel less scared and welcome. This set the tone for the rest of the trip.

Salzburg is a city rich in history, incredible scenery, with a unique culture and fascinating architecture. Although I was aware of the rich history of Salzburg, I didn’t know much about it, other that it was the birthplace of Mozart.

My first visit to Old Town, where many of the buildings date back to the 14th century, made me realize just how “young” my country is. I’ve only seen pictures of places this old and I was in heaven when I could actually experience such old buildings.

The view from the castle was to die for (the incline was not operational and I had to climb all the way to the top!) Once on top, I found what was behind the walls as impressive as Old Town. It was so big you may as well call it a community of its own. Behind the walls one finds houses, bakeries, churches, blacksmiths and armories. I was fascinated with the blacksmith as it still had all of the original tools used centuries ago. An anvil, hammer and even some swords of days gone by, were found inside. Sadly I wasn’t able to enter the blacksmith but it was very as I have never experienced anything like this before.

The weather was something that surprised us all the time.  On our second day we were having a picnic when the weather turned on us and as we headed back to our hostel, the skies opened. Not with rain, but giant sized hailstones! I have never experienced anything like this. We were fortunate enough to find shelter underneath an archway in Old Town – however, we were not alone as we were kept company by six other people, a car, a bike guided tour and others.  It was an interesting experience that I will not forget.

The food of Salzburg was interesting as it was representative of many other cuisines, especially Italian. I also “dined” on sausages and pretzels that I purchased from a street vendor; I hate to say this, but this may be one of the meals of the trip! Once again the weather got the better of me, but I did not care. Although the food was soaked in no time, it was so good that the “water condiment” did nothing to the great taste of it.

An interesting aspect of Austria is its respect for bikers. Unlike Pittsburgh, bike paths can be found EVERYWHERE. We decided to take advantage of this and explore the city on bike. We rented bikes from our hostel and after exploring the city we headed for the mountains via back roads. The sights were to die for!

Riding up a steep hill, a passing car “kicked up” a stick that went straight into my spokes! Although scary, I did not sustain any injuries. After pedaling for about 45 minutes to an hour we were in the mountains. Picture perfect, exceeding our expectations. I found the perfect spot with the mountains as a backdrop, started shooting pics when my fellow travelers started singing: “The hills are alive!” Yes, indeed a true Sound of Music moment. Not only was this a great experience; fun was had by all.

After being in Salzburg I know I will be back. There is simply too much to enjoy and I am sure, too much that I (may) have missed (accidentally).

Skopje, capital of Macedonia

Jamie Borzik is a recent graduate with a degree in IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications) and one of the members of Pioneer 6 whose task it is to create an IMC program to promote tourism to the Ohrid/Struga area in Macedonia. What follows is her impressions of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia

Beyond the slightly rough, graffiti-covered exterior, Skopje is a vibrantly young, loving city with a rich and complex history. At first glance it can be intimidating, but within an hour and upon greeting a local, the warmth of the people is evident.

Arriving in Skopje a couple days before the rest of the group, I was greeted by Ljupco, the owner of Hostel Atlantika. He and his wife showed me a kindness and accommodation only received at a high quality hotel. They take pride in the hospitality of their city and even more in the cleanliness of their hostel.  The “hostel,” a term I use lightly, is impeccable and festively decorated, but is more like an apartment than a hostel.  We drank Turkish coffee every morning, and Ljupco would provide me with various pastries common for a Macedonian breakfast before trekking into center city.  He recommended several sites to visit and traditional cuisine to try. I am eternally grateful for his suggestion of “kebap,” a mixture of minced meat pressed into a sausage like serving, at the restaurant Destan located just inside Skopje Old Bazaar.

Besides the amazing food, there is much to see and tour in Skopje. While cabs and buses are plentiful and inexpensive, my preferred mode of transportation was by foot. I spent four days exploring and took only one bus, which was from the top of Mt. Vodno where the Millennium Cross over looks the city.  If time permits, take time to hike Mt. Vodno for a scenic ten-mile tour in the Balkan Mountains.  Here there are several scenic views, winding paths, and unexpected treasures.  At the top, one has a bird’s-eye view of Skopje, Matka, and the Balkans. As a lover of the outdoors I was tempted to spend all of my time in the forest; however, center Skopje has much to offer in sites, history, and entertainment.

There are statues throughout the entire city, with the largest located in the center plaza, Macedonia Square.  Alexander the Great is perched at the top of the fountain, and the massive statue is decorated with lions and soldiers.   The plaza connects modern Skopje to the Old Bazarre, via Stone Bridge- a stone arch bridge built between 1451 and 1469.  At night, all of the statues and fountains are lit with colorful lights, with the largest of them having a coordinated light and water show to music, and the city is alive with its residents.   While the statue of Alexander the Great is impressive, my favorite statue is of a woman with a child at various stages during the child’s life.  As a country rich in history, Macedonia has much to offer travelers, but unfortunately the tourism is low.  In an effort to increase tourist attraction, the Macedonian government is funding the Skopje 2014 project.  This project includes the construction of monuments and buildings, depicting historical figures from the region.  A total of approximately 20 buildings and 40 monuments are in plans to be constructed as part of the project.

Skopje is a mixture of old and new. The Old Bazaar makes you feel as though you are in another time, even as it is lined with new shops. The historical architecture is standing strong, but the city is being redefined with new buildings.  The history is deep, but the atmosphere is young. It is a great place to walk, eat, and experience a mix of cultures where you feel safe and warmth unlike any other.

 

Summer 2011: Week One

Other than traveling through Switzerland and spending a night in a very “un-like Swiss town” a few years ago, I have not visited this beautiful, yet expensive, country before. Imagine my surprise when I found a very affordable ticket (only $681) to Zurich. Having spent much time on trying to find an affordable ticket, I did not hesitate when this basement bargain popped up. However, that was the start of the challenge to survive in EXPENSIVE Zurich. I gave up after a very short try, as the cheapest accommodation I could find, was $57/night in the Hosteling International hostel. Incredible place, but expensive. It was here that I met two guys from Canada when I heard their bemoaning of how expensive Zurich was!

Zurich is gorgeous and CLEAN but very EXPENSIVE! I simply do not get it how travelers on a budget manage to include Switzerland. Like the guy I met in Barcelona last year and who had just come from Switzerland and could not talk enough about the sheer beauty of this calendar perfect country. Zurich is low on sights, like so many other cities, but it is worth it. The people are friendly and the children, those “*%$%*” whom I hate so much, are well mannered and do NOT yell at the top of their voices!

From Zurich I took the train to Salz-burg. I KNOW my way around the Burg without the “h” and I knew I was in trouble when I got off the station. I had never seen so many tourists in Salzburg at that time of the year. As everyone knew, I went to Europe to do a lot of work and intended to stay in the Burg for a month. I was confident that I would find affordable accommodation and made my way to the Sebastian. When I got there, the Frau recognized me and said: “You have no reservations?” to which I responded that I NEVER make reservations (except for the first and last nights). She told me that she was full and could not accommodate me for a month but that I should stop by the nest day at other place she was managing. Sure, she had a room for me (without a view!) but at a heck of a price!

I had three wonderful days in Salzburg with Oscar, a German dentist who sold everything and became a pilgrim who had been walking through Europe for the past 15 months and he had three months to go before going home (or when his last 4,000 euros were gone when he would be bankrupt!) I said that if I could not find a place in Salzburg, I was going to go to Olomouc or Mostar. Guess what? Like all my travel plans, I did not end up in either place, instead, I opted to go to Ljubljana where I stayed in the Alibi. It was on my way to Ljubljana that I “discovered” Piran on the Adriatic sea and when I realized that Alibi had three hostels in Piran, I made a deal with them and set off to Piran after two days in Ljubljana.

I had a great time in Ljub (as I refer to call this place with the impossible-to-spell name). Light on sights, the architecture is incredible and WARRANTS a visit. The people are great, the prices of whatever, very affordable). I met Jelena, a doctoral student studying in Vienna and the two guys from Zurich were in the same hostel. I had a ball.

I left for Piran one week after I landed in Zurich. I will be staying in Piran for 29 days and started working the day after my arrival and you will hear a lot about this town on the Adriatic.

My favorite European places (2010)

Not wanting to sound like Julie Andrews, but it’s a year later, and time to update my list of favorite places. Yes, there have been changes and I will discuss the “newcomers” in depth; however, visit Top European Places (2009) for a more detailed description of places which have made it back onto the list.

1.  Mostar

The jewel of my 2010 trip that jumped straight into the #1 spot. There is a lot one can say about this town that is/was ravaged by war. But, one simply has to include reference to the bridge. The Old Bridge, the Stari Most, was built in the 16th century during the Ottoman era and connected two parts of the city. The bridge stood for 427 years until it was destroyed in 1993 during the “War.” Reconstruction started in 1997 and it took 7 years to complete before it was reopened in July 2004. The new bridge is an exact replica of the Old Bridge and the following year UNESCO added it to its World Heritage list, despite the newness (I learned all this the next day during a conversation that I sought out). The bridge footpath and the approaching roads are paved with cobblestones and stone steps enable pedestrians to ascent to the bridge from either side.

One cannot help but feel sad when walking through Mostar. Remnants of the war are everywhere and made me wonder: Why, why, why?

P6230595P6230606It was while I was in Mostar that I had a hilarious experience. I stayed at Kiki’s place where I had a kitchenette at my disposal. Seeing that I had been gone for nearly two months and desperately wanted home cooked food, I planned a hearty breakfast for the next morning. Two doors from Kiki’s place was a supermarket, where I found everything I needed, except the most important ingredient: EGGS! And there was no ways I was going to have breakfast without eggs. It was a small, cozy place. I asked the cashier in English about eggs and, yes you guessed it, she could not speak English and I do not speak Bosnian!

I was determined to have my eggs. I placed my hands under my armpits and made the gestures and sounds like when we call someone a chicken. Everyone in the store burst out (yes, I did ask the other customers if there was anyone speaking English, but to no avail) in laughter and the cashier returned with a chicken! I looked at her, shook my head and said no, while motioning with my hand away from my butt and pointing to the ground … like a hen laying an egg. By this time everyone in the store was hysterical, but I got my eggs!! Mostar has about 170,000 inhabitants. Mostar has two universities. Mostar made such an impression on me, I am going back next year. Thus far, Mostar is the most beautiful place I have been privileged to visit.

P52702472.  Croatia

Remember my rule? If there are more than two places from one country, I have to include the entire country. After all the places that I visited in Croatia during the summer of 2010, I had to do this. I have been to several places in Croatia and am gaga about all of them, with the exception of Split. There is something about that town that simply does not appeal to me.

I visited Zagreb in 2009 and it was love at first sight. Maybe a bit light on sights, but a great place that is hustling and bustling, great food, great people. The Hobo Bear Hostel has been voted one of the top hostels in Europe. I also visited Dubrovnik in 2009. Words cannot describe the emotions I experienced when I saw this pearl for the first time and I knew I would be back. Villa Micika in Lapad is a wonderful place to stay. Away from all the craziness and madness, near the promenade with its great restaurants and bars.

In 2010 I started in Rijeka and thoroughly enjoyed this port city. A bus ride took me to incredible Rovinj … a MUST! On to Pula I went where I stayed in an incredible hostel, Hostelling International with its own private beach. I flew toZadar and really liked this town.

P5300276P6040399It was from here that Zoran took me, and others, to the Plitvice Lakes … a sight I will NEVER forget. I took the bus to Trogir, yet another outstanding place, from where I took daytrips to Primosten (OMG!) and Kastella. At Split, I caught the ferry to Hvar island (Hvar City), ferry to Korcula and then the bus to Dubrovnik. If I had to choose one thing that stands out in Croatia, it is the coastline. It does not matter where one travels in this country which I consider to be the most beautiful in the world, the coastline is very long and gorgeous everywhere.

3.  Cesky Krumlov will always remain a favorite place of mine and am thinking of revisiting, although I do not believe it will be in 2011.

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4.  Cinque Terre … what an area. If I continue with my plans for next year, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be more than two great areas/places in Italy and I will have to include the entire country (remember my rule?)

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5.  Austria is the country that I would move to in a heartbeat … what, not Croatia? No, I consider Croatia to be the most beautiful in the world, but Austria with all its class and style is the country where I would live (if they would have me). And please do not get me wrong, Austria is no slouch in the beauty department. Those magnificent Alps ….

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6.  Rome

Plan to revisit my favorite city in 2011. An incredible place, incredible sights, commands several visits.

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7.  England.  It has been a long time since I have been to UK and in particular England. Don’t know when I am going to go back, as there is so much to do/see and so little time left.

8.  Amsterdam is another one of my favorite cities. One that I have visited several times and because of that, I do not foresee a visit in the near future.amsterdam

VltavaRiverAtPrague9.  Prague. I love this place. Had a 15-hour overnight layover in October 2010 on my way back home after presenting a paper in Krakow. You guessed it, I did NOT spend the time at the airport … got downtown so fast and enjoyed every moment I had before catching the last train and bus back to the airport!

 

Where do they go to?

Below you’ll find the world rankings of the top ten European countries (# of visitors in parentheses). Italy may be the third most popular country in Europe, but on the world list, it occupies the 5th spot (incidentally, the US is in 3rd and China in 4th). For what it’s worth, my beloved Croatia is in 24th spot with 9.3 million visitors (only one spot ahead of South Africa with 9.1 million visitors) and holds the highest spot of former Yugoslavian countries; in fact, no other former Yugoslavian country made the top 60 list!

1   France (81.9 m);  2   Spain (59.2 m);  5   Italy (43.7 m);  6   UK (30.7 m);  7   Germany (24.4 m);  8   Ukraine  (23.1 m);  9   Turkey (22.2 m);  12  Austria (20.8 m);  13  Russia (20.5 m);  14  Greece (18.2 m)

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Krakow: A different perspective

During October 26 and 28, 2010, I attended the 4th Annual Global Communication Association Conference conference in Krakow, Poland. Now let me be very honest, I have not cared for conferences in the past and always considered them to be “necessary evils” … something one has to do in the world of academia. So, when the call for papers for the conference in Krakow reached my desk, I thought: “Why not go to a conference in a city that you like”? (I was in Krakow two years ago and had a wonderful time. Stayed at the AAE Mosquito, one of the top hostels in the world). My paper was accepted and I presented it at the Pontifical University of John Paul II. Unlike the previous visit when I stayed very close to the town square, this time I stayed at the Hotel Lorenzo, a 7-minute walk from the university. Unlike other conferences which I have loathed, I was crazy about this one. Never have I met such incredible people, have I learned so much.

It started when David, a student picked me up from the airport. By the time we arrived at the Lorenzo, I realized that I was terribly mistaken during my previous visit when I thought that Krakow was a village … it is huge with nearly one million inhabitants! It was at the Lorenzo where I met the first attendees. A professor and her daughter from Iran. Someone whom I immediately, much to the delight of other attendees, dubbed “Mother” (the lady is younger than I am!) I met Ali, also from Iran at the hotel. Attendees stayed at the Lorenzo or a hotel in downtown Krakow.

Transportation was arranged to wherever we went. There was a dinner every night and we enjoyed Polish, French and Italian cuisine. One night we were treated to Polish folk dances and music, another night students sang for us. We attended a concert in a church, we were taken on a “Krakow by Night” walking tour, and we had a choice between going to Auswitch and a salt mine. I opted for the latter and it was indeed an experience of a life time!

We were kept busy, it was “conferencing” the whole day long, followed by social events in the evenings. Too soon the week was over and so was all the wonderful events with all the wonderful people from all over the world. I had the time of my life … I know I was not the only one. To the organizers: Thank you so much for a memorable event! Simply look at the pics below. Pics never lie!

attendees3cloth hallsaltmine2dinner1dinner2dinner3dinner4dinner5students1students2students3wawelgate

Buenos Aires is in Europe?

Yeah right! You know better, I know better. So why is there a piece (and videos) on Buenos Aires? Simple: it is about the travels and studying abroad of one of our students here at Point Park University. A student whom I have never met, but will, trust me. A certain ms Leticia Henry. Read her letter below to you guys. Follow her advice. Enjoy her videos. And just do it!

Dear Readers and Viewers,

A couple of days before I left for Buenos Aires (Argentina), I was listening to a talk show on the radio. The station conducted a poll about the regrets of young Americans ages 21-30. The results found that theBA roomBA womanbiggest regret among this age group was not having traveled the world.

For six months, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Argentina.  It was such a rewarding experience for me because in addition to learning about another culture, it also was an adventure in self- discovery. Within each of the videos I tried to show some of the highlights of Argentina, as well as the great fun I had. I hope that you will enjoy them. Perhaps they will inspire you to brave the great unknown and do a little traveling yourself!

Sincerely,

Leticia Henry

The Adriatic Sea

The first time I encountered the Croatian coastline, and therefore the Adriatic Sea, was on a bus ride from Dubrovnik to Split. I was mesmerized. I could not believe the sheer beauty. The magnetism. And, this coming from a man who has witnessed and experienced the majesty of the Garden Route (South Africa) many, many times. Sorry South Africa, the Garden Route is great, but the Croatian coastline has one up on you guys! It was during this 4-hour or so bus ride that I KNEW I was going to come back. I did. The summer of 2010. And I realized I had to come back again. And again. And again. And again.

TremityAdriaticMakarskaThe Adriatic Sea separates Italy from Croatia (or if you wish to be more precise, the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan Peninsula – where the latter includes the countries of Slovenia (47 km), Croatia (5,835 km), Bosnia and Herzegovina (26 km, the Neum corridor), Montenegro and Albania (the figures reflect the length of the coast line for those countries). Thus, the western coast of the Adriatic would be Italy, while the eastern coast includes the countries referred to above. Along with many other major rivers, the beautiful Neretva that flows through Mostar, says her “goodbyes” when she joins the Adriatic.

The Adriatic is about 480 miles long with an average width of 100 miles (maximum 140 miles). The average depth is about 800 feet (which makes it one of the shallowest parts of the Med) and the deepest italian adiraticmasseria-san-domenicoCroatia.the-adriatic-seaspot (4,034 feet) is midway between Bari (Italy) and the coast of Montenegro. The area is approximately 51,000 square miles; slightly less than the area of Lakes Superior and Michigan combined.

Notable cities on the Italian coast include: Trieste, Ravenna, Rimini, Ancona, Pescara, Bari and Brindisi. Major cities on the eastern coast, are: Koper, Izola and Piran for Slovenia; Umag, Porec, Rovinj, Pula, Opatija, Rijeka, Seni, Zadar, Biograd, Sibenik, Trogir, Split, Makarska, Ploce and Dubrovnik for Croatia; Neum for Bosnia & Herzegovina; Herceg Novi, Kotor, Tivat, Bar, Budva and Ulcini for Montenegro and Lezhe Durres and Vlore for Albania.

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The boat of Miodrag Kostic Cole, nearly 160 ft long, cost nearly $38 MILLION!

Apparently there is a vast difference between the Italian and Croatian coasts with the Croatian coast and beaches many times clearer, cleaner and bluer than the Italian coast. Something I intend to find out. With water, come yachts of all shapes and sizes. Something that I can attest to after my last trip. The most expensive LUXURIOUS yachts on the Adriatic belong to the people listed below:

  1. Miodrag Kostic Cole (48m/28 m euros)
  2. Dubravko Grgic  (44m/20m euros)
  3. Sinisa Mihaljovic (41m/20 m euros)
  4. Pavo Zubak (37m/15 m euros)
  5. Luka Rajic (34m/10m euros)

I was pondering where to go next year, and of course, the Adriatic came up. Which means going back to Croatia! I also know myself. Once in Croatia, I won’t leave (look what happened this past summer!) And then the light bulb went off: go to both sides of the Adriatic! Thus the plan, at this stage (y’all know how easily my travel plans change) is: Fly into Munich, train to Salzburg (has been too long since I have been there), train to Ljubljana, Trieste, Ravenna, Rimini, Ancona, Pescara, Brindisi and Bari from where I will take the ferry to Dubrovnik. At this stage I do not know whether the ferry will run when I need to get to Dubrovnik, so I may have to find my way to Rome (before I get to Bari) and fly from there (EasyJet) to Dubrovnik where I will meet South African friends. The plan is to spend a week with them (Dubrovnik/Mostar/Hvar) and then I will return via Makarska (have to go there) to Dubrovnik from where I will wait until I can get onto a ferry to Bari.

From Bari (after 2 days, or so) I will move onto Sorrento where I will stay for up to 10 days and do day trips to those wonderful villages on the Amalfi Coast, Capri and the name of another place of which the name escapes me (my Italian friends will kill me if I don’t go, so I will find out from them) and then finally Rome. The eternal city where I will spend a minimum of 4 days before I fly back to Pittsburgh.

But hey, that is the plan today, towards the end of September. Lets see what they are when I hit the plane on May 10 2011 (DV)!

The Gap Year

For so long I have preached about high school students having to take a year off once they have graduated from high school and before enrolling in college. No one has ever followed my advice. I mean, even my own kid would not do it, but mainly because her mother was against it. And this week, there’s an article in Time Magazine, about the year off, also known as the “gap year.”

Time Magazine reports on how American high school students have caught up to their British and Australian counterparts where gap years are quite P5300321P5260235common. “No one tracks the number of U.S. students who decide to take gap years, but many high school guidance counselors and college admissions officers say the option is becoming more popular. Harvard, which has long encouraged its incoming first-years to defer matriculation, has seen a 33% jump in the past decade in the number of students taking gap years. MIT’s deferments have doubled in the past year.”  Add to this the fact that Princeton has formalized this in 2009 when they introduced an annual funding of these adventures for 20 incoming freshmen!

What exactly is a gap year? You take a year off between high school and college. That’ it. So what do you? Anything you want, as long as it is NOT done in your country! Go and see Europe. Work in India and help the poor. Explore Africa. Do missionary work. Anything you want, as long as you get off your butt and start traveling, meet people, IM000259IM000320talk to them (other than via texting or emails!) Why is this important? It is my opinion that the MAJORITY of students, WORLDWIDE, is not ready for college; thus, they need the year to grow up. Remember how many times your Mom yelled at you when you behaved like a baby or a spoilt brat, to “grow up?” This is your opportunity. Call it your “growing up” year or the year that “you became of age.”

IM000198IM000298No excuses. “I would not want to study again after I have taken a year off.” You wanna bet? You want to tell me that you will not work at full speed after you have witnessed poverty in India? Or in any other developing country. Trust me honey bun, you will be the valedictorian  of your class! Apparently, a bunch of students are attracted to the gap year concept in order to avoid burnout. BS! Burnout of what? At the ripe age of 18/19, experiencing burnout? Yeah right … what are you going to experience when you are 25? A midlife crisis? From the article in Time Magazine, “The hope is that after a year out of the classroom, students will enter college more energized, focused and mature.” Trust me that WILL be the case.

IM000238IM000328Now a “colleague” at John Hopkins states that a year off does not guarantee success. Neither do I. All I am saying it will allow students to mature as 99.99% of students are not matured enough to enter college after high school. I am also saying that the gap year is not only for those who have just graduated college, it is also for those freshmen who are frustrated during their first year and who are not sure of what to do/make with their lives. Take the gap year. A delayed one, if you wish. Just get off your butts and do it. Nike style!

So, when are you starting to travel?