CAS '23 Sophie Meinen

Bolivia, Peru, Australia, Italy, Germany, England, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, Singapore, Thailand, Bhutan, Japan

Ask me about...

  • Learning a foreign language abroad
  • Adjusting your plans when things go wrong
  • Solo travel 
  • Living in a homestay 
  • Living without a phone for three months 
  • Learning how to actually pack well
  • Working abroad 
  • Doing week long treks when you've never hiked in your life
  • Readjusting to college after a gap year 

My gap year experience:

For starters, I found taking a gap year to be incredibly beneficial for my academic experience because it allowed me to take a break from traditional learning and recover from some of the burnout I was feeling by the end of high school. While I was initially worried about readjusting back into taking actual classes, I found that when the time came to go back to school I was genuinely excited to start taking classes again. 

I also enjoyed taking the time to really consider what I was interested in because I was deeply conflicted about what major to choose. What I ultimately discovered was that my first instinct to apply to college as a history major was correct. Learning about the histories and experiences of other countries in much more depth than I had ever explored in high school made me realize that this is what I'm truly passionate about. Even some of the more niche topics such as the history of coca, an indigenous Bolivian plant, did in fact give me a lot of my base knowledge for one of my history classes at Penn, a seminar on the history of coca and cocaine.

My time abroad also made me much more passionate about politics, particularly those on a global stage. I'm excited to take Political Science and International Relations classes this year at Penn. Additionally, the opportunity to vastly improve my Spanish abroad was incredibly helpful because I was struggling with whether or not to take Spanish or Japanese in college. While I hope to take at least one class in Spanish some time in the future, my current speaking abilities have made me much more comfortable choosing to instead work on my Japanese at Penn. 

Highlights from my gap year:

  • Doing an eight day trek to Machu Picchu 
  • Attending the snow festival in Sapporo 
  • Backpacking through Italy and Switzerland with my best friend 
  • Working at an art auction for charity in Sydney
  • Trekking in Bhutan with my dad
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