After completing her freshman year, Caroline Edwards realized that she needed to take time off to appropriately value her education. After convincing her parents to support the idea, she started her search for an ideal program which led her to UnCollege. In our #MeetCohort12 series, we catch up with her to find out more about her background and her decision to take a gap year. Caroline 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?
Caroline: I was a version of myself with a much greater sense of identity and purpose and less concern for finding the answers to all of my questions. But generally very introverted, seeming to find my way through participating in sports and being on teams, where I felt like I could contribute meaningfully but subtly. I am absolutely spoiled and privileged to have been raised in San Diego, California, around great people, an appreciation and drive for creativity and progress, and a whole lot of sunshine.
What’s your stance on school or what are your favorite and least favorite parts about school?
I have always highly valued and prioritized school, but I think my rationale and understanding of its purpose has evolved over the years. I used to believe more in the importance of the content of classes - that those were the subjects that contained all the information that would eventually contribute to my ability to function in society. I have now come to be grateful for school in terms of the education on people and processes. There is nothing I dislike more than when it becomes less about the education and more about a name and a reputation, but also nothing I appreciate more than the education outside of the curriculum as it pertains to learning the very necessary and often forgotten about soft skills.
What do you like to do during your free time?
I am a creature of structure, so most free time is an attempt to recreate it. I love to spend time with my family and pets, get outdoors and explore new hiking trails, sit down with a good book, and attempt to practice hygge (lots of fuzzy socks, good friends and food, and scented candles).
What led you to take a gap year?
When it came to thinking about college towards the end of high school, I knew it was the logical and expected next step, but I also wasn't interested in playing the game. I wanted a different experience for myself, but also didn't think there was an acceptable alternative route to college along the pretty little path to promised success. I got accepted to The University of St. Andrews over in Scotland and was immediately sold on the prospect of being able to have a college experience that went beyond college. After a relatively unpleasant Freshman year, it became clear to me that I had not found the right fit, but beyond that, that maybe college wasn't such a great fit. I had a moment with myself where I realized I had no reason for being there other than it was what I was supposed to be doing, and that just didn't seem like enough of a reason to stick around. I felt that I was going through the motions and had no real intention behind my actions, so I came to the conclusion that it would be best to take a pause and figure out who it is I want to be, what it is that lights a spark in me, and how I can help myself return to school fully charged and able to appropriately value my education.
How did your parents respond?
I am lucky to have such incredibly open-minded and supportive parents. With that being said, the idea of a gap year was foreign to us all, so it took some convincing to prove that I wasn't actively throwing my life away, but instead finding a way to create a path that catered to my needs in working to achieve self-fulfillment.
What are you most excited about going into UnCollege? (phase, element, etc?)
I am excited by the opportunities to travel, reflect, and grow, of course, but I think more than anything just to be around and get to foster connections with a group of people that I believe have had similar struggles, that I think are asking similar questions, and that I know I will learn so much from.
What are your goals for the gap year?
To emerge with a clarity of direction and purpose, confidence in my abilities, valuable experience, a new perspective, and maybe even some new friends, too.
What’s your biggest fear going into the program?
Every single thing about it, which is the only way I know it's exactly what I need to be doing.
What is your favorite quote?
I have journal upon journal filled with the quotes and wisdom of everyone that has it to provide. I continue to be fascinated by our ability to find commonality even in experiencing the world in a way that can never be fully understood by another being, but I digress. I guess if there were a few that I keep with me on a daily basis it would be, "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference," as well as Henry David Thoreau's, "I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
What’s your six-word story?
Patience. Presence. Practice. Perseverance. Passion. Wonder.
Complete this sentence: In 5 years you will find me....
In 5 years you will find me where I am - still learning about myself, the world, and myself within the world and working towards becoming the person I aspire to be and living the life I desire to lead. I consciously fight the urge to forecast and keep in mind Steve Job's quote, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever."