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).