HMI Gap: Alumni Profiles

May 3, 2018

Who are the students that choose to do an HMI Gap Semester? Becca Schild, Co-Director of HMI Gap, sat down with two of our fall 2017 alumni to hear about their interests, college plans, and gap year experiences.

Nora Fried, Alumni of the Climbing and Conservation Semester 

Why did you take a gap year?

My senior year of high school left me feeling burned out and unsatisfied. I decided to take a gap year in an attempt to find a renewed sense of self-direction before heading off to college. My gap year has given me the opportunity to embrace a more worldly perspective and has encouraged me to challenge myself physically and emotionally. This experience has allowed me to explore the areas I hope to study as I’ve been able to set aside time to think about what I would like to gain from my academic experience and how I can make this happen. This year has given me practice adapting to new environments and respecting cultures very different from me. I have made lifelong friends, visited amazing places, and grown into myself as a person.

Why did you choose to do HMI Gap?

I chose HMI Gap because I had a previous connection to the school. As a junior in high school, I attended the HMI Semester Program and had a life changing experience. When deciding on a gap year program, I already knew that the fundamental core values of HMI resonated very strongly with my personal values, so making the choice to enroll in HMI Gap was an easy one.

What was the most memorable experience during HMI Gap?

There were many memorable experiences over the course of the semester – laughing together during break out dance parties, trudging through deep Colorado snows, arriving in Chile after many plane, boat, and bus rides. But the most significant experience for me was one of the final days of the semester, in Piedra Parada, Argentina. Students had been working on climbing skills for almost three months and it was here that I could see all of the work had paid off. It was amazing to watch my friends push themselves on the walls and rock climb like pros. I will never forget leading my first few climbs with my best friends doing the same all around me.

What would you say to a prospective student considering HMI Gap?

You should do it! I know that as a prospective student you must have reservations but taking a gap year has changed my life in so many valuable ways. My experiences taking a gap year and my semester with HMI have encouraged me to become the person I have always hoped to be and have prepared me for success in college and beyond.

What are you doing for the rest of your gap year? 

I spent the winter Maple Sugaring at Journey’s End, a small organic farm in Sterling Pennsylvania, and spent 6 weeks of the Spring working “lambing season” on an Icelandic Sheep farm in northern Iceland.

What are your personal interests?

I am very interested in environmental reform and sustainability – I hope to study environmental science in college. Additionally, I love to spend time outside, backpacking, rock climbing, and exploring the natural world. More recently I have become increasingly aware and committed to the local and sustainable food movements and am interested in continuing to work on farms building a stronger connection to the food that we consume.

What are your career goals and ambitions?

I will be attending Macalester College in the fall of 2018. I plan to study Environmental Science and Geology  and hope to pursue a career in sustainability. I can imagine myself sharing my love of the natural world with those around me as I continue to grow more knowledgeable and strengthen my connection to natural spaces.

Leo Polk, Alumni of the Wilderness and Conservation Semester

Why did you take a gap year?

I took a gap year for a lot of reasons. The primary reason was that I wasn’t happy with the colleges I’d gotten into, so a gap year was a logical step to give me the time to apply or reapply to more schools. What pushed me to go through with my gap year was the prospect of spending a year doing only things that I wanted to. All throughout high school, I was faced with high expectations and a clearly predetermined path. A gap year would allow me to step back, take a breath, and do only things I truly wanted to do. This plan worked out, and I found out that I was accepted to Whitman College, my first choice, the last day of the HMI Gap Semester!

Why did you choose to do HMI Gap?

I had always wanted to do an outdoor-oriented course during high school, but something would always get in the way. Originally, I was enrolled in the NOLS Patagonia course. I was having doubts about this course because the average age of the group was 26 and my outdoor experience was quite limited. In late spring I got an email from my Aunt, whose son was enrolled in the HMI fall semester; she sent me a link to HMI Gap. I liked that HMI spent time in the American West as well as Patagonia because I could see even more of the world. I also had heard great things from the family and friends that had participated in the HMI Semester. So I un-enrolled from NOLS and applied to Gap.

What was the most memorable experience during HMI Gap?

I think the most memorable part of GAP for me was my birthday. My birthday happened to fall on the last night of our Colorado expedition. Alex and Emily, our instructors, spent 3 hours preparing a cake out of our limited resources. Alex also prepared an LNT fire. I don’t remember exactly the circle question we had that evening, but I remember Alex telling a story about the stars, which were insanely bright that night. The cake was red velvet, which happened to be my favorite. It was by far the best birthday I’ve ever had.

What would you say to a prospective student considering HMI Gap?

I would tell them to keep an open mind. My expectations were so different from my experiences. However, I really am happy that things weren’t as I expected because every day was a surprise and more of an adventure than I ever could have dreamed.

What are you doing for the rest of your gap year? 

I am working at a rock gym back in Boston. I broke up the spring with little climbing trips, cross-country road trips, and traveling. HMI really taught me how to seek out new experiences and adventures.

What are your personal interests?

I love being outside, ultimate frisbee, beatboxing, music in general, and climbing

What are your career goals and ambitions?

I’m planning to attend Whitman College in the fall of 2018. I would love to find something where I could be outside as much as possible. Whether that’s in outdoor education or geology, I hope to find that career in my time in college.