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The UnCollege Blog

Drishti Narang: Focusing On The Big Picture During Gap Year

Drishti Narang is not done with her gap year just yet, but she’s learned some pretty insightful things during her short time in the UnCollege program.

We caught up with Drishti to talk about why she decided to take a gap year in the first place and what her experience has been like with UnCollege so far.

UnCollege: How did you find UnCollege and what made you want to take a gap year in the first place?

Drishti: “I found UnCollege stumbling through fellowship websites. I found Dale and I was like, “Whoa!” Okay, so he shares this program, the gap year program. I’m kind of hunting for some alternative stuff. I was a senior in high school and was not necessarily happy with the choices that I had and/or wanted. I was like, “I deserve more than this.” So I stumbled upon UnCollege through the fellowship stuff. What made me decide to take a gap year? Well, the program itself was unique because it’s not just a gap year of traveling all year. It’s not just one big thing. Most of the gap years that I had encountered I had dismissed because they were just traveling or being abroad for a whole year and I was just like, “That’s just not me. I want to spend a lot more time on my own and reading and learning and whatever else.” This gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted and to travel and it was appealing because I got to do everything.”

Where did you travel for Voyage? What was your experience like there?

Indonesia. Bali. I had a great time generally mostly because I wasn’t there to do some kind of adventure sport or whatever. I was there because I needed space away from everyone else and everything else to be able to just isolate and read and do a lot of stuff that I wanted to do my last year of high school and the summers but never got time to prioritize. I got through a lot of my reading list. I got through a lot of self-reflection. I got through a lot of inspirational things and life decisions, so that’s why it worked out for me.

What was your experience like in San Francisco during the Launch Phase of the program?

San Francisco was both the best three months of my life and the hardest three months of my life. Launch Phase is a concentrated, potent time of increasing awareness and exposure. At some point when you start the ten weeks you’re very blatantly aware of the fact that you only have ten weeks there but ten weeks seems like a long time. Then week after week you realize all of these other things that you want to be doing, that you want to add to your roster, and then the ten weeks shrinks very, very, very quickly. For me, it was a very potent, job-concentrated period of time where you want to fit every little piece or event or thing that you want to do socially or networking-wise in but you feel like you don’t always have enough time for it. Some of the best and hardest three months of my life, I guess that’s the best way to say it.

Where did you do your Internship? How did that experience impact you as an employee and an individual? What did you learn?

I’m not done with my internship. I’m still going with a month and a half strong. I found my internship myself and I’m interning with a nonprofit in Portland called Wayfinding Academy. There’s a woman, her name is Michelle Jones. She was pretty dissatisfied with the higher education system and she’s starting her own college from scratch. A lot of the pieces that she wants to incorporate into her new college (our first cohort is happening this fall) were similar to [UnCollege’s] self-directed education and the coaching and so she wanted to have my insight and to have somebody in the inside to bounce ideas off of to see if it was really going to be beneficial for all of us because most of the team that is working on this is past thirty. So I’m in Portland doing a 35-hour a week internship. Also, throughout the whole year I’ve been working part time for a small company in California that’s owned by some family friends and that I am training to take over in a little while. It’s those two things.

Who was your coach and how did he guide you through your gap year?

Technically Gabe is my coach but the minute that I decided that I wanted to apply I kind of started engaging with all of the coaches because I wanted have a more rounded experience. I was talking to Jon a couple of months before I started the program. Gabe has a very minimalist approach to feedback and reinforcement. I’m used to someone giving me the opposite, like a lot of it. To sit there and listen and listen and listen. So it was helpful to have a person helping me through these sorts of things because he forces you to think through your own process. He forces you to understand exactly what it is you want to communicate better because he has this whole, “I’m gonna use the sparsest amount of words I can to give you feedback.” It’s interesting. It’s a very interesting method that I didn’t entirely appreciate the first couple months but once I started seeing how much it changed the way that I thought and communicated, I realized that it’s pretty valuable. Gabe is the kind of guy that when he does say something it’s super insightful but he doesn’t say a lot and he doesn’t say it often.

In the end, what is the most important thing you’ve taken away from your gap year experience? How did this period in your life change you?

Hmm. I guess personally, super personally for me, something that everybody else might not have entirely learned: I have a real inner drive to need control of things and to constantly see tangible progress because that fulfills my need to have control and see things tangibly. The gap year has taught me that it’s better to have control over a bigger picture than the details and if you don’t know all the details, that’s fine. Instead of focusing on what job you want, or what job you think you want, or what income you think you want, or whatever, focus on collecting skills and focus on the bigger picture. It’s not that important to have control and understanding of all the little details because it’s just not going to work out the way you expect it to. It never is. So the biggest thing and the best thing you can do at our age is to focus on skill collection and skill development and let that guide you into wherever you end up. Instead of trying to work backwards, there’s a little bit of faith involved.

Who would you recommend a gap year, and specifically UnCollege, to?

I think there’s two types of people that I would recommend UnCollege to. One: the type of person who knows what they want to focus on and prioritize for a little while and believes that school would be a difficult second priority to have or that going to college would not be necessary if that focus pans out. So someone who, say, wants to start a business or wants to learn trade. Someone who has this drive and priority and this natural inclination towards something that they want to do and have already gotten experience with it. Not someone who is like, “Okay, I think I want to do this and I really love it” but they’ve never had experience with it. I’m thinking of a boy in our cohort. He has been working in the culinary world for quite a while. He has the skills and he knows that that’s what he wants to do and college would just be a problem in that path or something that isn’t necessary and would be an inconvenience. So people like that, who know what they want to do, want some experience with it, and just want to go ham. The other kind is people who have not figured it out at all. You should not want to go to college because it’s a very expensive way to find yourself. Do something like UnCollege because it’s such a varied set of experiences. There’s the self-reflection and the artistic side that comes with traveling and the kind of learning and self-development that’s not as tangible that comes with the first phase. Then there’s the kind of learning that’s very tangible if you make it work when you’re doing the launch phase. That will help you discover what you want to do or at least get started on a path or experiment. So those are the kind of people I would recommend UnCollege to. A gap year overall I would literally recommend it to seventy five percent of youth and people our age out there because it’s a tradition in other countries, it’s a tradition in a lot of other cultures, because they know that you can’t expect an eighteen or nineteen year old to have their shit figured out. So it’s something that we in America are lacking behind on and the expectations that we have of people getting out of high school are not reasonable or not setting them up for success.