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What did I do this year?

With 20 days left, I’m taking 20 minutes to look back.

My gap year “officially” started on September 1, 2011, when I took a few weeks to read, relax, and record music as I searched for an internship in the D.C. area. By the grace of God and one of Papa’s colleagues, I found Sasha Bruce Youthwork, an organization which provides housing, counseling, and so much more to homeless youth in Washington. I started working there daily and would continue until December. I learned the art of competency-based counseling, and spent my time shadowing various staff members, each with a different and inspiring life story. I also helped members of the administration with SBY’s annual report and a number of re-licensure applications.

I took a few days off during this period at Sasha Bruce to go on an eye-opening tour of Brasil, hitting 5 cities in 12 days. Highlights included a night spent in the Amazon Rainforest and the warm hearts I met throughout the world’s most beautiful country.

Now back in the States, I shifted my focus from the city to the suburbs, volunteering at my high school, Flint Hill. My main task while there was to help the Clay Club prepare for this year’s Empty Bowls fundraiser, churning out literally hundreds of ceramic bowls within a few weeks. Also during this time, I gave guest lectures to the school’s Advanced Placement U.S. History class and helped the Classics Club plan events and train for competitions.

In early January, I took off for the homeland to spend 3 months in India, the longest time I would have spent there since I was three years old. On my way there, I spent 2 days in London with my best friend. My time in India started with 2 months spent with family in Punjab -- in Chandigarh, Ludhiana, and at our farm in Abohar. During this time, I observed classes at Gyaan Ghar, my school in Ludhiana, and brainstormed improvements that could be made to the learning center on this trip and in the future. I left Punjab for a month in Mumbai, during which I shadowed Ratnakar Gaikwad, the Chief Secretary of the state of Maharashtra, gaining invaluable insights into every development issue under the sun. I also gained an incredible insight into myself by participating in a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in Gorai before returning to Punjab. Back at my school, I enjoyed Gyaan Ghar’s annual awards event and a meeting with the members of the board before returning to the States.

Having returned home, I started a one-month internship with the Classics department at Flint Hill, learning the arts of lesson planning, classroom instruction, and assessment development from Howard Chang before diving into the Latin classroom as a teacher myself.

With final exams given and graded, I flew to Colombia, where I would spend 5 weeks interning with The Nature Conservancy on conservation of the Magdalena River, taking Spanish lessons, exploring the country, and meeting the most unforgettable people.

Again back in the U.S., I spent a week training with Virginia’s competitive Latin teams before accompanying them to this year’s National Junior Classical League Convention in our neighboring state of North Carolina.

After a year of adventure, I now prepare to move to Harvard in the fall.

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