Ariana Olson wrapping everything up

Hi everyone! I can't believe that this is my last blog post as a gappie... Time has really flown!

So much has happened since the last time I posted, in February. One major thing is that I participated in a speech competition! By taking Public Speaking at MCC (my local community college) I was eligible to compete in The Otis Young Motivational Speak-Off. My fellow contestants and I auditioned for a spot in a 6 week honors course to prepare us for the competition. During class, my fellow contestants and I wrote, rewrote (and rewrote again) our speeches, rehearsed, and received feedback from our professor, past contestants, and each other. It was hard work and extremely frustrating at times, but by the time the competition date came along, we were more than ready, and we had become a little family instead of competitors. It was so cool to see how far we had all come from the first class to competition day!

My sister and me right after the speeches

My speech was about... you guessed it: my gap year! I spoke about my uncertainty at the beginning of my gap year on whether or not I was good enough to go to Olin (I don't have much of an engineering background, which worried me at first) to knowing that Olin was where I belonged. I had never spoken on stage in front of an audience before the competition (I'm usually content to be backstage). I never thought that I would actually enjoy it! It was an incredible feeling to step off the stage knowing that 6 weeks of hard work paid off. I am so proud of everyone who told their story that day. All of the speeches are online here if you are curious :)

Otis Young Motivational Speak-Off competitors, contest master, and head judge

Now that my classes are over I am planning what to do next to wrap up my gap year. I am still working and volunteering, but I have a couple new projects I am starting as well. I recently aquired a Raspberry Pi, so I am in the process of learning how to code and make some interesting projects with it. I am also continuing to volunteer at my local Red Cross blood donation center as well as with their Emergency Preparedness team (small world: one of the Americorps members I work with in Preparedness also did the Otis Young competition a few years ago!) to help educate the public about what to do before, during, and after an emergency. Finally, I am planning a trip to Europe this summer with my aunts!

the early phases of setting up my Raspberry Pi in the basement

A year ago, I barely knew what I was going to be doing with my gap year. I could not have imagined how much I would gain from taking a year off from school. I think I needed a gap year to figure out who I was outside of high school. This year, I have gained new perspectives, learned new skills, made new friends, spent extra time with loved ones, increased my self-confidence, and gone on some adventures along the way!

I know that the idea of not following the typical path of finishing high school and going straight to college can be scary for both students and parents. I was unsure at first too. I would encourage everyone to take a gap year. Don't worry if you don't have a big plan for how to spend your year. Start with small goals such as saving some money or trying something new and build from there. I promise, you will be amazed at how much you will learn along the way!

Ariana Olson

Posted in: Gap Year Blogs