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The UnCollege Blog

Gap Year Profile: Yzzy Swearingen - Defying Societal Expectations

Untitled design (7)-3.pngLike many high school graduates, Yzzy felt that she was obligated to go to college so as not to disappoint her family and friends. As a result, she enrolled as a freshman even though she had shared her thoughts on taking a gap year with her parents. A semester into college, she decided it was time to take a break - not because she had a negative college experience but because she was simply not happy. This week for our #MeetCohort12 series, we had a chance to catch up with her to find out what triggered her decision to pick UnCollege over college this time around and what her expectations are going into the program. Yzzy 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?

13925735_1242331312445867_8677690442940820025_o.jpgYzzy: Growing up, I’ve always been an easygoing person. I get along with everybody I meet, and I believe the main reason for this is because I do what I can to avoid any conflict. My friends have always joked around saying I have no feelings because I never get angry or hold any grudges against people, but I’ve just learned while growing up that things are much easier if you don’t take things too personally. I’ve lived in the same house all my life in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, which I’m very grateful for. My town is nothing special, but I love it because of the people. My friends and family are the ones who make me love where I live.

What’s your stance on school? What are your favorite and least favorite parts about school?

I’m great at school. I’ve always gotten good grades and put in 100%. I genuinely enjoyed my time throughout high school and had a great experience with it. Once I graduated and went to the University of Colorado Boulder for a semester, I realized that I really just needed a break from the traditional school setting and give myself time to step back and re-evaluate what learning means to me. At this point in my life, college isn’t something that I feel will help me find what I’m looking for.

What do you like to do during your free time?

The past year, I’ve really focused on spending quality time with my family and close friends. I’ve gotten a lot more introverted lately, causing me to also spend a lot more time with myself. I like to read, listen to music, play cards, play with my dog, workout… mostly things that help me take care of myself.

What led you to take a gap year?

After I graduated high school, I talked through the idea of a gap year with my parents before ending up going to Colorado for college for a semester. I felt too rushed into the whole process, so I decided to do what everybody was doing and go straight to school. I didn’t have a bad experience in school… I had a great roommate, always went to my classes and got good grades, but I just wasn’t happy or excited to be there anymore. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, and I felt as if I was wasting my time and money at college and taking classes that I had zero interest in. After talking through it with my counselor, friends, and family, I decided I needed to come back to Chicago and give myself a much needed mental break from everything. After spending a semester home from school, I researched different options for me that didn’t include going back to college, and that’s how I came across UnCollege. UnCollege is exactly what I was looking for and makes me excited for a different type of learning experience that I’m not able to get from a traditional college.

What made you pick college over a gap year when you first thought of the idea right after high school?

I felt very rushed to make a decision on what I was going to do the next year. I always had a feeling deep down that I didn't want to go to college right away but was nervous to act on this feeling as it wasn't "the norm" and I wouldn't be doing what all of my friends and family expected of me. I researched a little bit about taking a gap year but ultimately decided that I didn't have enough time to thoroughly go over it with my parents or figure out how I would spend that time off, so I just went to college.

How did your parents respond?

My parents are truly amazing. They are and always have been 100% supportive of my decisions. I really wouldn’t be doing this without all the help and support they’ve given me. I’m so grateful to not only my parents but all of my family. I’m really lucky.

What are you most excited about going into UnCollege?  (phase, element, etc?)

Although I’m excited about every single phase, I have to say I’m most excited about the Voyage phase. I used to spend hours reading through travel blogs, wishing I could have the chance to live in a different country, and now it’s finally happening. I can’t even put into words how excited I am to be traveling to India for 10 weeks and having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.

What's on your bucket list for India and what are you not so excited about?

Hiking in the Himalayas is definitely on my bucket list while in India. I loved hiking while in Colorado, so I'm super excited to be able to hike somewhere new! One thing I'm not so excited about is getting used to the time difference. Even if there's only a time difference of 2 hours, it affects me pretty greatly, so I expect it to be a pretty big challenge getting used to this. Also, because of the time difference, it'll be more difficult to find times to catch up with my family back home, but I know that we'll work around it!

What are your goals for the gap year?

One of my biggest goals is being able to take charge of my own learning and doing things that interest me. Doing this isn’t really an option in high school or college, at least in my experience. I’ve jumped around a lot with ideas of what I want to have a career in, and another one of my big goals is to have an idea of what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I have a good feeling UnCollege is going to help me with this.

What’s your biggest fear going into the program?

My biggest fear is really putting myself out there. We’re all going to be living in an unfamiliar place for 10 weeks, and although it’s exciting to think about it, it also scares me a little. Even after the Voyage phase, I know that in the Launch phase, we’re going to continue pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. Things are going to change a lot for me, which intimidates me, but I know that change is good and this change is going to be a great one.

What is your favorite quote?

"When you are born in a world you don’t fit in; it’s because you were born to help create a new one.”

What’s your six-word story?

Learning through the ups and downs.

Complete this sentence: In 5 years, you will find me ...

In 5 years, you will find me spending my days doing what makes me happy while making a positive difference in this world.

 

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