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'Gap Year' gaining popularity with Vt. students - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

'Gap Year' gaining popularity with Vt. students

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Have you ever dreamed of heading for places like India, Thailand or Fiji? South Burlington High School junior Jackson Hall has.

"The particular course I want to do is in Fiji, Australia and New Zealand," he said.

Hall is considering packing his bags and taking on an ocean adventure before he heads off to college as part of a "Gap Year."

"Most of my cousins are from the UK and they have all done gap years and they've shared their experiences with me," he said.

Hall's guidance counselor, Nikki St. Mary, says the idea taking a gap year is gaining traction with students. Last year, five of her seniors signed up for the option and more than 200 others turned out to explore the idea at a recent school fair.

"I think it is just starting to become part of a real option for students here," St. Mary said.

Hall says gap year experiences vary, but that many programs focus on learning world languages, community service, and medical training. They aim to expose kids to future career and college opportunities while emphasizing personal growth.

"I think it makes a huge difference for kids that start college with a lot of information about themselves, what's important to them and just that whole worldliness piece," St. Mary said.

The programs can be quite costly, ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $25,000 and some students are choosing less expensive, shorter options. This year, St. Mary has three students taking on similar programs during the school year and senior Sharon Schuppe opted for a summer program in Morocco instead.

"I am interested in studying international studies and stuff like that in university, so it was kind of like seeing if that really is what I want to do," Schuppe said.

Schuppe used her experience to improve her Arabic.

"Regardless of what happens or where you go, you learn a lot about yourself and you gain a lot of skills that you wouldn't get staying in a regular classroom or staying around here," she said.

Hall says he still has college in his sights, but hopes the seas could be part of a future classroom before he heads back to a setting similar to this once he graduates from high school.

"I just want to take a break from high school and just take a break from school work and academic work and just see what direction I want to go in in life," Hall said.

Those students who are spending time abroad during the school year are either doing so for credit or are taking additional courses while here at home to make up the difference.

St. Mary admits many of the programs are very expensive, but she says many will offer scholarships to students in need. She also says some students will opt to spend a gap year with community service programs that may provide stipends and money for future education.

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