A Word of Advice

By: Elizabeth McDonald

A word of advice from someone who has done the Gap Semester and semi-successfully made the transition onto the Elon campus.

You will feel almost every human emotion possible. During NOLS, you’ll experience all these emotions in one day. You’ll wake up to one of the most beautiful sunrises you’ve ever seen and be grateful you get an opportunity like this. You’ll get the news about the challenge of the hike that day and already feel defeated; a failure with the weight of the pack getting heavier with each step you take. Somewhere along the way, you’ll think of your family back home and get incredibly homesick, trying to hold back the tears unsuccessfully. You’ll probably feel some sort of elation, either pride or excitement, relief maybe, when the hike (or a certain portion of the hike) is over. Maybe it’ll rain or hail or snow that night and you’ll feel absolutely helpless and want to quit. But you won’t. And the next morning you’ll wake up to another beautiful sunrise, feeling blessed to be out there with those people.

For me, the NOLS portion was the toughest, physically, mentally and emotionally. That is not to say that service and Costa Rica weren’t hard but I felt I could face those obstacles because I was a stronger person because of NOLS. Being on campus has allowed me a lot of time to reflect about the Semester and about myself. At Elon, I feel the days are so much longer so similar to NOLS, I can experience such a broad range of emotions in one day. I’ll “wake up” to my alarm and feel the soreness of the workout yesterday kick in. I say “wake up” since my roommate’s been awake for half an hour and bustling around. I’ll feel disgusted as I take a shower and there’s a wad of someone else’s hair by the drain but I’ll still be able to get clean nonetheless. The bitter cold will nip at my face and the homesickness will kick in as I pass stranger’s faces on my way to class. I’ll get to class and feel invigorated by what we’re learning, wanting to absorb everything. I’ll feel relaxed as I make my way to lunch, ready to talk, discuss, debate, argue with some Gap friends. The food will make me long for a home-cooked meal but the company will keep a smile on my face. My afternoon will be filled with homework, a trip to the gym, possibly a journey to the mailroom and soon enough, dinner then bed. The days will begin to fill up with more people and more things to do. Days and weeks will pass and somewhere along the way, despite all the ups and downs, adjustments and changes, I realized I’m right where I bELONg (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Starting Kindergarten All Over Again

By: Marta Djalleta

The last time that I was forced to learn a large amount of people’s names would probably have to be kindergarten. In my elementary school there were four classrooms with about twenty kids in each. Putting names to faces was a challenge for me but from that year on it became easier. My circles grew in middle school and high school but already having that basis of 80 names in my head helped me expand from there. At the time of my graduation from high school, out of a class of 357 students, there were maybe only twenty that I did not know. I took pride in knowing my surroundings and being able to say hi in the hallway to the girl who I haven’t talked to since second grade. Knowing my surroundings gave me comfort and confidence and made me feel apart of a community.

Finally stepping on to campus, I realized I have missed a whole semester of name learning. Meeting a minimum of five new faces a day, it has been a challenge keeping it all straight in my head. Not to mention, having to deal with getting acquainted with every other small detail on campus.

With all the new things that I knew I’d be learning, I expected names to come easy to me, just as it had in my prior life. However, what I had failed to realize is that my community has changed. My circle of familiar faces is in another place now. What is here with me now is entirely new. Learning new names has not come with a large basis to build off of. This name confusion has made the first couple weeks, pretty difficult and filled with hesitant “hey …?.”

What has made this transition somewhat easier is having a good ol’ gapper just a wall away from me. Between the two of us we have been able to figure out the names of the people we had just been introduced to for the fifth time.

While it may be a challenge, learning names is a part of joining and embracing a new community. While the Elon community has been the largest I have faced thus far, I am ready for the ride. I am ready for a fresh start and a new community. I am ready to learn new names. I am ready for kindergarten part two.

 

Oh, yeah and welcome to Elon!

By: Krisandra Provencher

Coming onto campus as a Gap student has triggered an unhindered flow of questions. There are the students who know someone, who knows someone who, who knows someone who did Gap, there are the faculty that somewhat knew of the program’s existence, but not really, and there are the folks who have never heard of the Gap Program at all. So there are always questions, there is always a need for clarification and there is constant explaining.

You did what? Where? Wait…why weren’t you here, again? Oh, that’s right, I forgot that was a thing. Did you like it? Was it fun? Did you do some cool stuff? How did you, like, eat and stuff? Oh, so it was, like, a breeze? No work?! I bet that was nice. I’ve been to St. Louis before. You must like the outdoors and all that jazz, huh? You really missed out. Would you do it again? What did you do? Were the people nice? Y’all must be so close. I wish I did that. Oh, yeah and welcome to Elon!

How does one respond? How does someone, who four months ago was struggling to tell her host-family that she had a dog, explain how she got to Elon, and why she got here so late? For me it hasn’t been starting classes or finding my way to a cafeteria with edible food that has been challenging, but explaining what I did during the fall semester. At this point, I’m not sure that I have even be able to fully process all that I did, the things that I saw or what I experienced. I just know that I did it, that I met the most amazing people and that I miss it every day. So I respond that yes, it was fun, that my friends are the greatest and that I’m super excited to be here. I say that the food was flavorful, the experiences intense and “the stuff” was really cool. That I learned a lot and would recommend that if they ever get the chance to do something similar, that they take it.

Although my transition was abnormal, there is a simplicity to life at Elon. I have a schedule that won’t change for four months, I get to sleep in the same bed for more than a few days and I speak the language. But life as a Gap student was exciting and adventuresome. It’s so hard to process its finality. My new friends are great, my classes are intriguing and the weather is bearable, but it’s no Gap. Gap was like no other, and sitting at a desk for five hours a day seems mind-numbing after such an experience, but I’m so thrilled to be on campus. To get to open people’s eyes to what’s out there, to hold my own in conversations about controversial topics, and to utilize my experiences to challenge myself to aim higher. The Gap has helped me learn to expect more from myself, to question and to be curious, and for that I am forever grateful. Elon has already changed perspective on life in four months without even being on campus, so I’m super excited to see what the next three years bring!

 

Comfortable and Content

By: Marin Williams

It has been almost 6 weeks since I have arrived, and it is hard to believe how fast I have integrated into campus. I am continually amazed how comfortable and content I am with life on campus. During the first semester, I was slightly concerned that I would not be able to fit in to campus, but I was very wrong. Elon has such a variety of organizations you can join and participate apart of that I am kicking myself for signing up for so many things at the organization fair. Since arriving to campus, I have already signed up for Elon Volunteers, the LEAD program, yoga club, a summer study abroad program, interviewed for a New Student Orientation Leader, and I plan to apply for Periclean Scholars, tryout for the club volleyball team, and rush a Christian sorority! Like the eager Freshman I am, I am trying so many new things and meeting incredible people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. My transition to campus has not been without some stumbling blocks, but I am becoming happier by the day with my busy schedule and challenging classes. I am excited to see how I will change and grow as the semester continues.

Outdoor to the Indoor Classroom

By: Andrew Novinski

Transitioning from the Gap Semester has been not as bad as I thought it would be. I was actually really excited to get to campus after the christmas break. Winter term was a nice way to ease us into college life and gave me lots of time to myself to explore Elon. The first thing I did was go to the basketball gym and make some new friends. I now go whenever I have free time or just need some time to clear my head. My social life compared to high school has essentially sky-rocketed and I have found out that I can be a really fun guy to be around. I also thought I would see/ hangout with more people in our cohort, but I have found that it has been nice to get some space that way when I do see them I can catch up with them. I feel very comfortable that I can still easily count on anyone in our cohort for advice or even if it’s just getting lunch or dinner.

While it has been fun, it has been difficult at times. Not being familiar with campus was definitely one of the things I had to get used to asking help with. My roommates have been very welcoming and helpful in that regard so I am thankful for that. I think living in Danieley coming right back from Gap is the best way to do it because you are guaranteed to meet at least 7 new people.

As far as spring semester goes, it has been pretty busy. I have enjoyed the classes I am taking so far and the classroom setting itself has been pretty easy. I have no problem raising my hand in class for my opinion any more and I guess that is just a raise in my confidence. I am looking forward to getting more involved on campus and perhaps joining some clubs and maybe Catholic Campus Ministry. Also I think in the next week it is about to get super busy and I am interested to see how that goes and if I can fight some of my bad study habits from high school.

Why Rush Into Things?

By: Jill Salvucci

When it comes to the social scene at Elon there is a very common misconception that many Elon students, and prospective students believe: If you are not in Greek Life then you will have no social life.

I am going to be honest, there was a time when I believed this to be true. Almost 70% of girls at Elon are part of a sorority.  I thought to myself, if there are 9 sororities and 70% of Elon girls are in Greek Life then there has to be a place for me.

I decided to go through sorority recruitment (aka rush). Now I am not a person to talk about myself, in fact I really dislike talking about myself. That should have been my first red flag because rush is all about talking about yourself! Girls in the sororities want to know all about you so they can see if you will fit well into their organization. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it just was not my cup of tea.

The second red flag for me was the third day. You could be invited back to a max of 6 houses and I was invited back to 6. Most girls would be beyond excited for this; however, the thought of having to talk about myself for 6 more hours was not appealing to me. But, I picked my head up, put on a smile, and made my way through the day.

It came down to preference day. I was invited back to 2 wonderful organizations. Although, something was missing for me, excitement. I wasn’t getting the feeling that everyone talked about when they walked into their favorite house. That is when I really took a second to think about what I was feeling. I had ignored my true feelings till that moment. I realized I was forcing myself to enjoy the week and act as though I was happy because I thought it was the only way for me to have a social life.

On bid day I withdrew myself out of rush. After I felt this sense of relief, I felt happier, I felt like I had made the best decision for me personally.

Dropping out of rush was a really great decision for me personally. Now I have time to do things I love like play soccer and volunteer. It also gave me the time to apply for a job on campus that I desperately wanted to have.

The lesson to be learned here is do what is best for you and only you. Do not let stereotypes get in the way of your happiness. Greek Life is not the only way to be social at Elon, do not believe that for a second if someone tries to tell you that. However, if that’s what you want to do it can be a great way to get involved if you find a frat or sorority that you love!

Elon has hundreds of organizations, sports, volunteer opportunities, etc. so get involved in something you are interested in, not what your friends are interested in, not what the general population is interested in, but you.

Brick by Brick

By: Nathan Hunnicutt

Bricks laid down by masons who lived before my time.

Luscious lawns of green grass planted long ago.

Giants tower over me, naked, missing their leaves.

Paths intertwine at every step,

giving way to old acquaintances and new friends.

Waves of students flood the bricks and recede from them with the passing of each hour.

 

Some walk, some cruise, and others snooze,

determining the shape their own brick path –

Brick by brick,

Brick by brick,

Brick by brick,

Then why do I not fit.

So Far, So Good

By: Eliza Upton

When I was first deciding to apply for the Gap Semester, I was a little thrown off that it would be first semester freshman year. I had the intimidating idea that coming to school in January would be extremely awkward and that while we were off traveling around the U.S. and Costa Rica, we would be missing out on critical freshman year happenings.

However, all that intimidation has been quickly shattered. Now, I laugh at the fact that I was worried about missing out on things on campus, when I can easily participate in them with the three more Falls I have here. And on the flip side, I may never again have the chance to live in the Wyoming wilderness for a month, have Dean Waters tour us around Yellowstone, see the U.S. through the eyes of a critical yet careless college student, and study abroad in Costa Rica. Now every time I see a NOLS instagram, get an email from Re-member, talk to the Costa Rican owner of Irazu Coffee, or text my host mom, I feel like I’m missing out on things that are going on in all the places that touched us first semester. The tables have turned and it’s a bit odd to feel so sentimental so soon.

All FOMO feelings aside, the transition to being at Elon has surprised me with the lack of intense awkwardness that I was expecting. While there have been plenty of awkward moments, like my second day on campus when I had to listen in on a prospective student tour to figure out where to study in the library, overall I feel welcome in my new home. With a lucky floor and roommate placement, I quickly found a friend group to add on to, and with the friendly faces of past Gap students all around campus, I feel like I am returning to a familiar place and not starting a new adventure. And even though the 2015 cohort consists of only fifteen, I find us to be a mighty presence here on campus as I seldom have a meal in one of the dining halls without running into a beloved Gap friend.

Now starting my seventh full week on campus—a time period that has felt like a few months—I am comfortable with the life I’ve made in this new home away from home. And while I have a lot of moments missing Gap, I confess that it is nice to be living out of dorm room and not a suitcase, and to know that I won’t have to pack up and leave in a few weeks.

A List of Unexpectedly Difficult Things About College

By: Laurie Heggedal

  1. Being social with Elon students other than the ones with whom I spent the entirety of the past four months with on the Gap Semester Experience.
  1. Getting sick and not having my parents (or Elizabeth Coder) to bring me food, medication, and disinfecting wipes.
  1. Attempting to gain the motivation needed to finally wash my bed sheets.
    1. Then, putting those freshly washed sheets back on my unstable, lofted bed that is five feet above the ground, because it literally takes half-an-hour of sweaty determination.
  1. Paying attention in my Public Speaking class, while my professor’s guide dog – an adorable, five-year-old black Labrador named Cocoa – meanders around the students’ desks during lectures in hope of getting belly rubs and treats.
  1. Understanding that North Carolina is not as equipped to handle snow and ice as North Dakota, so when winter weather comes (which it has twice in the past month), classes are canceled and the campus is shut down for conditions that North Dakotans would find amusing.
  1. Having enough time for all of the activities that I am a part of, and hope to be a part of, on Elon’s campus, including: Elon Volunteers! Linking Generations Program, Student Government Association, and the service fraternity called Alpha Phi Omega.

 

 

“Real College”

By: Gabe Thornton

Hey Gap Blog. It’s been a while. Last time I wrote for you it was 70 degrees and breezy and I was about to catch a plane back to the states. That feels like ages ago honestly. But here I am, sitting in Belk Library on campus. Actually in college. Writing on my very own laptop. In real college. Not in the mountains on a piece of scrap paper. But let’s discuss that statement, “real college”.

I say “real” college playfully of course because, in all fairness, I think the Gap Program was real college. College should be a time of experience and growth. These years are prime for development as a young adult. Or so my topical approach to lifespan development teacher tells me.  As I sit in a sea of psych majors typing away notes vigorously at their mac-books, pondering how inexplicable it is that the past 3 months of my life happened “attending” the very same school I now find myself. How can that experience be labeled teasingly by all my friends back home as fake college? Shouldn’t college be the name associated with the most educational and life changing sequence of events given my two experiences so far?

I’ll allow that I’m still new to campus, and maybe the shift in scenery and comfort has brought about my pessimistic side, but I can’t help not wonder how truly worthwhile what I’m doing her is in comparison to what I did last fall. If only every semester was so invaluable to my education.

That’s where I stand. To reference Plato it’s as if I left the cave and saw a glimpse of light. Now I feel I’m back inside and wondering how best to get out again. But hope is not lost. Dear blog reader don’t you worry about me. If this is a transition blog, then let it be a transition to the rest of my life. Maybe I feel boxed in to a degree, but it is important to note this university is a springboard to what I will truly enjoy. I’m not sad that I’m here nor am I despairing at the prospect of 3 more years. Instead I’m looking forward to feeling how I felt on Gap again. I’m looking forward to adventure and inspiration as a young adult. Until then I can only make sure I’m as best equipped as possible with my resources and friends to make that happen. Because to limit my growth through experience to the standard of the Gap program would be to limit my life in its entirety. So here’s to finding new adventures, even if they aren’t in the middle of the mountains again just yet.

Nine Observations…

By: Jack Kapes

They don’t turn the fountains off down here, it was snowing last night with temperatures in the low 20s and the fountains were still on.

When you meet someone here there’s a 95% chance that they’re from the North East.

To combat loud neighbors here, people just turn their speakers up

Vests are not replacements for jackets in the winter

You can see what it’s like outside without even getting out of bed by watching the Elon live stream from the Alamance building.

Expect fire drills at all hour of the day

Whenever it snows everyone thinks there’s going to be a snow day and all schools around here close, except for Elon.

Everyone has an American flag hanging on their wall

Justin Bieber’s cool now