Gap Year and Abroad

Raphael Barbier: international dual-degree program
Raphael Barbier: international dual-degree program

To explore his passion for the social sciences, Raphael Barbier has enrolled in Columbia University’s dual-degree study-abroad program with Sciences Po, a political-science university in France. For two years, he will study at Sciences Po’s campus
in Reims, France, where he plans to earn a degree in economy and society. Then, he will return to Columbia, where he will receive a second degree in economics and math.

Barbier chose this program to experience living in a different place. He believes the locations of both universities — Reims and New York City — provide the ideal opportunity to immerse himself in a rich political and cultural environment.

“France is full of European culture, and New York is the ‘Western capital of the world,’” he said. “I’m able to study what I love, which is the social sciences in an international setting, and at two great universities in two great locations.”

This program will not be Barbier’s frst time living in a new country, having stayed with his grandparents in France.

“I feel like I’m relatively adaptable when it comes to living in a new country,” he said. “That being said, it’s going to be a huge culture shock because the language is different, and I’m going to be in an apartment alone because it’s not dorms. So it’s a lot of independent life in a country that I am not very familiar with.”

Barbier looks forward to seeing the differences between French and American society frsthand.

“France is more of a socialist culture, whereas the U.S. is a lot more capitalist,” he said. “It’s going to be very interesting, especially when I come back to New York, (because) I’ll be able to compare the two.”

French universities also have a different style of education, with more rigid class schedules. Barbier hopes to further explore the intersection between social science and math through this program.

“I’m excited to explore how those two felds that are seemingly really different overlap, and how I can use (that) knowledge and apply it to the real world.”

Callum Budas: returning to roots in Glasgow, Scotland
Callum Budas: returning to roots in Glasgow, Scotland

In the fall, Callum Budas will attend the University of Glasgow, in Glasgow, Scotland, pursuing a major in molecular and cell biology with a possible minor in biotechnology. Driven by his love for and familial
roots in Scottish culture, his return to Scotland brings him full circle.

Budas’ family emigrated from Scotland to California when he was 8 months old.

“I have a lot of family in Scotland, and I was originally born there, so I’ve always been extremely proud to be Scottish,” he said. “Ever since I was young, I’ve always wanted to go back.”

Since the beginning of high school, Budas has been set on attending a Scottish university. Experiencing life in Scotland frsthand for the next four years will help him determine whether he wants to settle down there. Having made frequent visits to family in the country, Budas is already familiar with much of its culture and traditions.

“I really like the music scene over in Scotland,” he said. “It’s much more open to new indie music. In Glasgow, there’s a huge music culture and there’s constantly smaller bands playing in bars. When I visited, I really liked that aspect.”

Academically, Scottish university curricula diverge from those in the U.S.: Students immediately begin taking courses and electives in their intended major rather than going through general education. Scottish grading systems also differ.

“You only take two tests throughout the year — one near the end of frst semester, and then you take the fnal at the end of the second semester,” Budas said.

“Then you have a couple more essays, and that’s your entire grade.“

Although Budas made the decision to attend a Scottish university on his own, his parents have fully supported his choice. He draws inspiration from their accomplishments, as well as their experiences at the University of Dundee.

“Seeing where my parents are right now, seeing the growth that they’ve had, it gives me the confidence to know that Scottish schools are really good,” he said.

Daniel van Schewick: banking in Berlin, Germany
Daniel van Schewick: banking in Berlin, Germany

Next January, Daniel van Schewick will travel to Berlin, Germany, for a monthslong government economics internship. He will also travel to Washington, D.C., to work at the World Bank and U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Van Schewick decided to embark on a gap year last summer, when he stared down a daunting senior year and realized he needed something different. The choice was diffcult, given that many of his classmates were going on to four-year colleges.

“But as I spent more time thinking about it, I got more and more excited over the different things that I could still do during my gap year,” he said.

While gap years are often seen as a respite from the chaos of college admissions, van Schewick’s journey was far from easy. Instead of joining a restrictive gap-year program, he planned his gap year himself.

“I’m the one who has to plan it, which means I have to fnd an internship,” he said. “I need to fnd a place to stay. I need to fnd a way to pay, a lot of which is through my own savings.”

At his Berlin internship, van Schewick will be looking into company and regulation case studies and providing policy recommendations at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection.

“What’s cool is, I’m German, I speak German fuently, and I can go abroad and be with my family and also get this completely different opportunity,” he said.

Van Schewick’s plans in Washington, D.C., took signifcant time and countless cold emails to materialize.

“I sent a ton out to different (companies) all over the place, from startup accelerators to AI companies, just anything I could think of that was offering an internship,” he said. “Most of them don’t answer for whatever reason, and that’s why you just cast a huge net and you will defnitely catch a few.”

After his gap year, van Schewick plans to attend a four-year college.

“(Doing a gap year) was more a ‘How do I get to the place I want to be?’ and then fnding a windy path to end up there,” he said.

Quinn Sarrazin: game development in Istanbul, Turkey

From the magnifcent Hagia Sophia to bustling Taksim Square, Istanbul — the culturally diverse city resting on the border of Europe and Asia — is full of life.

It’s also where Quinn Sarrazin will be this fall. There, they will be using their game-designing knowledge working for game-development startup Good Job Games.

Sarrazin decided on taking a gap year in sophomore year and originally planned to travel to Japan. However, during a visit to Istanbul last fall, their mom’s client offered them a position they couldn’t turn down.

According to Sarrazin, Good Job Games first produced hypercasual games — easy, free-to-play games — but is currently looking to branch out. That’s where Sarrazin comes in.

“I’ve played over 300 games in my lifetime, and my mom teaches game design at Stanford, so I’ve been attending her classes and lectures for a long time,” they said. “I have a database in my mind of all these different games and mechanics.”

In Istanbul, Sarrazin is eager to learn valuable life skills like self-suffciency and independence. The city’s proximity to large European cities also allows Sarrazin to easily explore different nations and visit relatives.

After deferring their enrollment to Sarah Lawrence College, Sarrazin is open-minded to potential adjustments in their future college plans.

“(The job is) not necessarily tying into what I’m planning on majoring in but more (about) trying to experience many things and to discover myself,” they said. “I’m excited to learn more about me, and then bring that to college as well.”

Beyond gaining valuable skills in a workplace setting, Sarrazin hopes to explore Turkish culture in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey to deepen their understanding of the world.

“I’ve lived here in Palo Alto my entire life, and I think settling down in a foreign country for a whole year will really give me a different perspective on life in a different area of the world,” they said. “I think that’s a really important skill (as) our society is globalizing more and more.”

Julia Hilding: following family footsteps to Sweden
Julia Hilding: following family footsteps to Sweden

Next year, Julia Hilding will either be studying engineering or computer science at Lund University in Lund, Sweden, or splitting her time between working and traveling. Either way, she has her heart set on Sweden.

Her entire family is from Sweden, according to Hilding, and every ancestor of hers has gone to college in Sweden. Family members’ experiences drew Hilding to pursue education in Sweden.

“My older brother, Max, got rejected from all of the schools he applied to in the U.S., so he was a little bit forced to go to Sweden, but ended up really liking it,” she said. “Before that, I hadn’t thought about going to school there, but now it seems very appealing.”

Hilding grew up speaking Swedish at home and visiting her family in Sweden frequently. A recent visit also infuenced her decision to go abroad.

“I hadn’t really thought about taking a gap year until I was visiting my extended family in Sweden, and I learned that it’s super common,” she said. “Hearing about their experiences defnitely persuaded me — it sounds really cool.”

Still, Hilding had some reservations about this decision.

“None of my other friends are taking a gap year, so it does make it more diffcult to make that decision,” she said. “It’s hard to do what everyone else isn’t doing.”

Hilding is currently deciding between immediately diving into studies at Lund University — tuition-free for her because she is a Swedish citizen — or opting for a more adventurous route of traveling through Europe and working in Stockholm for half a year each.

Eager to break out of the Palo Alto bubble, Hilding looks forward to embracing new experiences, whether that entails joining the workforce, exploring Europe or studying at Lund.

“After 13 years of school in the same town, I defnitely recommend not doing school for a bit or moving to a different country in order to go see new things,” she said.

Reed Flinchbaugh: working jobs up the eastern coast of Australia
Reed Flinchbaugh: working jobs up the eastern coast of Australia

Next year, Reed Flinchbaugh will be going Down Under, traveling, living and working in Australia.

Based on visa stipulations, Flinchbaugh will be able to maintain paid work in Australia, though for no longer than six months for one given employer. Thus, he plans to split his year into two: He will spend the frst half-year practicing and teaching scuba diving off the country’s northern coast, and the second bartending in Sydney.

Australia, home to the Great Barrier Reef, makes for an idyllic scuba destination. Flinchbaugh hopes to work on a scuba boat to get his dive master certifcation and take others on diving tours and lessons.

Although the certifcation requirements can vary, they normally include logging extensive diving hours, which Flinchbaugh says he will certainly be able to complete with the ample time provided.

Flinchbaugh’s aspirations for the second half of his gap year are on dry land. He hopes to become a licensed and practicing bartender, serving drinks and meeting new faces.

“It’s something I’ve just wanted to do,” Flinchbaugh said. “I like socializing with new people, so I think bartending is a cool opportunity to meet people my age, make new friends and collect interesting stories along the way.”

In addition to its unique diving opportunities, Flinchbaugh chose Australia because of its laws around alcohol, which, unlike the U.S.’, would allow him to bartend as an 18-year-old — provided he obtain proper licensing.

Flinchbaugh isn’t modeling his plans after those of a friend, nor is he participating in an organized program.

“I want to see where (the gap year) takes me,” he said. “I want to live on my own, have that independence … experience life in a totally different way.”

Flinchbaugh is choosing to tackle an entirely new place relatively on his own. However, he says his experience living in Kenya over the past summer — a much more rural and logistically complicated destination than Sydney and the Australian coast — will make his transition much easier.

“I want to make a lot of memories,” he said. “I want to come back more relaxed, and with stories and experiences to share.”

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Chinyoung Shao
Chinyoung Shao, Photo Editor, Graphics Artist
Chinyoung Shao is a photos editor and graphics artist who has been on staff since freshman year. Outside of The Oracle, she enjoys doodling, debate and trying to keep plants alive.
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