The two seniors who won the Michael Brownstein ’99 Memorial Gap Year Fellowship plan to travel to Korea, Canada, India and Costa Rica before they enter college in the fall of 2014.
David Lim ’13 and Greg Zatzkis ’13 were each awarded a stipend by the Brownstein Selection Committee.
The fellowship was established in honor of Brownstein to allow students to cultivate a global humanitarian perspective. Applicants went through a series of interviews and submitted detailed proposals including itinerary, budget and objectives.
After feeling “very burnt out” around midterms, Zatzkis talked to friends who suggested he think about a gap year.
“It almost seemed too obvious,” he said. “I’ve heard it’s a great way to get your focus back.”
Zatzkis will spend the fall of 2013 in Asia with a cultural immersion program lasting two to three months. In the winter, he hopes to volunteer with sled dogs in Canada.
“I’ve always loved dogs and I’ve never really been in much of a cold environment, so it’s definitely going to be different,” he said. Zatzkis will also volunteer with orphans and child care centers, perhaps in Nepal, tutoring and helping children develop basic skills.
Zatzkis will teach conversational English and participating in an organic farming program in Hokkaido, Japan, during the spring.
“[Working in Japan] definitely is the [program] where I’m most on my own, which I’m excited for,” he said. “I’ll be in small rural communities and I feel like that will give me a more intimate relationship with the Japanese culture and its people.”
Zatzkis is excited to represent the school abroad and “be an advocate for gap years,” as he wants to promote the unconventional choice to take a year to work and travel between high school and college. He wants to apply the skills he has learned in the classroom to the real world.
The biggest reason for his choice to take a gap year was a desire for self-discovery before he attends Tufts University in the fall of 2014.
“When you’re in high school and you’ve been in school for at least a good dozen years, it’s hard to really grasp your place in the world,” Zatzkis said. “Even though we all feel like we know who we are, it never hurts to continue to explore your identity.”
Lim was inspired to take a gap year after his Junior Fellowship trip to Italy last summer, where he visited Roman ruins and explored ancient culture to supplement his studies of classics.
“My Junior Fellowship has proven this to me firsthand, that travel does not merely educate but can powerfully change your perspectives about what you think you know about the world and encourage you to expand your horizons,” Lim said.
Lim will spend a month of his first summer in Korea in a language program while also working in a respiratory lab.
“I will be living with family and getting to know a culture that I have not really connected to at all,” he said. He will then stay in a Buddhist temple for a week to spend time meditating and learning how to live simply.
During the fall, Lim will go to Thailand with only the clothes on his back and five other items as part of a Rustic Pathways program.
“The program appeals perfectly to a personal philosophical experiment to figure out how much you can simplify your life and a more practical outlet for service in a new environment,” he said.
In February 2014, he will study medicine and healthcare in developing countries with the Projects Abroad Medicine program in India. Lim hopes to join Doctors Without Borders in the future and sees this segment of his gap year as a “trial run” for that experience.
Throughout the year, Lim will tutor children both in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad and in Los Angeles public schools with the 826LA Volunteer Writing Tutoring program.
“I’d have the opportunity to teach, one of my great interests, and head to Central America, where I’ve never been,” he said.
Lim, who will attend Stanford University, says he has had little time for himself in high school, so he will use his gap year to learn new things about himself and the world rather than focus solely on academia.
“I’d like to enter college a more mature, balanced person who has caught up on at least some of the things on the to-do list and has a broader understanding of the world,” Lim said. “With years of work and school ahead of me, I’m not sure I’d ever let myself have time for such great personal development.”