Although incoming Cohort 12 fellow Angie loved school, she got to experience the harsh side of the system. Having struggled with both chronic and mental illness since fourth grade, she only received constant backlash from the school faculty for her low attendance. When she finally got a grip on her health, she decided it was time to go to university and pursue arts. However, the difficulty and the cost of finding a good art school drove her to consider alternative education - a move that led her to UnCollege. This week in our #MeetCohort12 series, we feature her story. Angie will begin her gap year in October with the largest UnCollege cohort to date.UnCollege: What were you like growing up? What was your town like?
Angie: I grew up in a town that uncomfortably teeters between "small town" and "city"--not small or close-knit enough for that small town charm, but not big enough for there to be much of anything to do. It hasn't been very fun to grow up in, especially being one of the few non-white kids in not-quite-backwoods Appalachia. I've always been pretty restless here, and eager to set out on my own.
What’s your stance on school or what are your favorite and least favorite parts about school?
School is a beautiful thing that frequently falls to poor execution. Having a place dedicated to learning is great, as are the social opportunities that come with it, but with strict curricula and impersonal systems, too many kids fall through the cracks.
What do you like to do during your free time?
I spend a good chunk of my time reading, writing, and drawing. I play video games too, but I tend to go months without bothering until one catches my eye and I binge-play it until it's finished. (Persona 5 and Final Fantasy XV would be the most recent examples of this.)
What do you like reading? Favorite books or authors?
I like to read a little bit of everything, really. I do a lot of genre-hopping - fantasy, science fiction, nonfiction... Just at my desk, I have Shakespeare, Les Miserables, a book about criminology, and a stack of poetry. If we're picking favorites, I'd say that His Dark Materials, The 5th Wave trilogy, and Harry Potter are the ones that really stick with me. Philip Pullman and Rick Yancey (authors of the first two series, respectively) are both pretty fantastic, as is Neil Gaiman.
What led you to take a gap year?
I was always a good student academically speaking, but I was also one of the aforementioned "kids who fell through the cracks." I loved learning with others, and I honestly enjoyed school, but my dissatisfaction with the curriculum and early struggles with both chronic and mental illness prevented me from enjoying it to the fullest. Apparently school faculty doesn't really know what to do with a severely anxious fourth grader other than rag on them for their low attendance.
After I got a better handle on my health, I considered going to university to return to that learning environment I always loved, but I was worried that I'd only find the same dissatisfaction and anxiety as before. Also money. I was very worried about money. I'm a liberal arts kid, after all, and finding a good art school is neither easy nor cheap.
In a fit of frustration and indigence, I did some research on possible alternatives (because that's what you do when you get indignant, right? Do lengthy research?) and found an article that mentioned UnCollege. Then came a whole lot of excitement and babbling about it to my dad, and here we are.
How did your parents respond?
They were a little worried about the traveling abroad bit at first, but overall, they're just glad I found something that suits me so well. Plus my dad is probably relieved that I'm less likely to be drowning in student debt.
What played a major role in convincing your parents that this was a good path seeing that they did not support the idea at first?
Probably the way I talked about it, if that makes any sense. I think that once they saw how little anxiety I had about it and how confident I was that it was a good idea, they trusted my judgement on the matter.
What are you most excited about going into UnCollege? (phase, element, etc?)
I'm super pumped to be in a group of like-minded individuals, all working toward their own goals and self-discovery--not to mention finally getting out of my hometown.
What are your goals for the gap year?
Goal number one: get at least somewhat settled on who I want to be and what I want to do. Goal number two: work toward the results of goal number one. Goal number three: make some friends? That'd be cool.
What’s your biggest fear going into the program?
Not really fears, per se, but I'm a little nervous about my health issues acting up, specifically my chronic pain and anxiety. (I'm anxious about my anxiety. It's a vicious circle.) Even if it does, though, I'll still manage.
What is your favorite quote?
I have several favorites, but here's a good one: "If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little." -George Carlin
What’s your six-word story?
Life is rough, but oh well.
Complete this sentence - In 5 years, you will find me...
In 5 years, you will find me having a good time, I hope.