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Capstone Recaps: Emily and Discovering Your Inner Self During a Gap Year

"If I could show you a picture of what it will look like when you get there, you'd have no concerns about trying. But I can't, so you'll just have to trust me: it's going to be worth it."

That’s what Emily Szeto’s parents told her when she graduated from high school. She thought the “there” they were talking about was a physical place: maybe a college campus or the office of her first job. When she revisited the quote at the end of her UnCollege gap year, however, she had a different interpretation. Maybe her parents were telling her to find a place within herself, where she could be happy.

Over her gap year, Emily had indeed embarked on a journey deep into herself. She’d always known that she was a happy, bubbly person, but had never truly understood why her personality was so naturally upbeat. “I didn’t really know what made up who I am,” Emily remembered, so she started to reflect on what exactly made her her, an important process everyone should undertake as they grow up. During her year of exploring her inner self, Emily started to discover what was most important to her. But she didn’t just passively accept these insights — instead, she used her newfound self-knowledge to develop a lifestyle that lets her give the most back to herself and the world.  

The first thing Emily discovered about herself is that she has to let out her inner child and “be more curious, ask more questions, and dance so much more.” When she started letting loose more, she found that she said yes to more invitations, explored and accomplished more, and was open to more opportunities for growth.

Emily also realized that she needed to stop comparing herself to other people. After her gap year, she now knows that “I’m on my own time, I’m on my own journey, and so is everyone else!” Now that she’s comfortable “just doing me,” she feels as though a huge weight has been lifted off her shoulders and has the confidence to forge her own path throughout the next stage of her life.

Another of Emily’s insights into herself was that she loves to create. In 20 weeks of her gap year, for example, she made 20 one minute videos and a few others capturing her favorite moments from her journey. She’d never done anything with filming or editing video before, but she now has a new creative outlet that she’ll take with her into the future. Emily also learned how to use Adobe InDesign, a graphic design software, and made two designs that she ended up printing onto 20 notebooks that she then sold to other UnCollege fellows. She not only found ways for herself to be more expressive, but picked up skills that will serve her well throughout her career.

Emily’s still trying to figure out what’s inside her and how she wants to impact the world. But she’s excited to continue the journey into herself that she began with her UnCollege gap year. Now, she has the tools to really reflect on herself and knows that “everything that is me is already in me. I just have to take time to discover it.”

Want to get to know yourself better? Learn more about how a gap year can help you reflect on your life before you begin the next stage of it.

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