After graduating from college, I took what some might call a “gap year.” Although I initially planned to go straight from undergrad to graduate study, taking a year to gain some life experience and professional experience helped to prepare me to graduate school. I returned to the classroom fresh and with a better understanding of why I want to be here. Before beginning my graduate study, I had three very different experiences in three different countries.
In the fall of 2010, I moved back home to Rochester after graduating from Swarthmore College and worked on various projects. I began looking at and applying to graduate schools, sitting in on research meetings at the university, volunteering with Dr. Martin Lynch on research at the Warner School, and working part-time in an office to save up for my springtime adventures.
On New Year’s Eve, I crossed the pond and moved to Birmingham, England. I spent three months in Dr. Nikos Ntoumanis’ lab in the Sport and Exercise Science department at the University of Birmingham, working on a study on motivation, goal-setting and well-being in the exercise context. I may not have had a salary, but I did have an office and a full set of responsibilities in the lab.
In April, I crossed a much smaller pond and moved from England to Northern Ireland. On a cliff edge at the north coast of the island, I lived and worked at Corrymeela, a retreat center for peace and reconciliation. Groups would come in and stay for a few days at a time, and as a volunteer at the center I did everything from helping to cook and clean to running group discussions and activities. The groups that came in included family groups, refugee groups, bereavement groups, school groups and cross-community groups (building relations across the religious dividing line). I was able to work with so many different populations, and the energy and excitement I felt working with people assured me that I am making the right choice in starting a degree in counseling.
I returned home with a new confidence from my experiences and an excitement to get to work on my degree, in my own country.