Students Prepare to Participate in Gap Year Programs Through Rotary Club


Mimi Beringer

Seniors Laura Schroeder (left), Masha Feldman (middle), and Maggie Hogan (right) will be spending the next year in Brazil, Australia, and Belgium, respectively.

Ellery Mahlum, print copy editor

Ever wanted to go abroad? The Edina Rotary Club sends students abroad for year-long “gap years” in foreign countries. During the upcoming 2018-2019 school year, three current Edina High School seniors will be going abroad. These three are among 70 students throughout the Midwest that were accepted into the Rotary Club’s program.

This fall, Maggie Hogan was looking at programs that offered gap years, and heard about the Rotary Club through friends. She plans to leave at the end of August for Belgium and hopes to become fluent in French and Dutch during her year abroad. She is also looking forward to taking trips on the weekends and exploring other parts of Europe. Hogan will attend college after her year abroad. She is already admitted at a few colleges but is still planning to apply to more.

Laura Schroeder will be going to Brazil for her gap year. She has wanted to take a gap year since her sophomore year when she met a senior who was accepted into the Rotary program and had a great experience. Schroeder is most excited for “the idea of living somewhere completely different for a whole year. Also learning a new language because I’ve always loved language classes.” She will learn Portuguese for her year abroad and will start studying the language before her departure. As a result, Schroeder will be deferring her acceptance at Cornell University until 2019.

Senior Masha Feldman is going abroad to Australia next year. She heard about the Rotary Club through her mom, who is a country officer for the Rotary Club, and she knows many  students who have gone abroad through the program. Feldman does not have to learn a new language, but will attend orientation sessions that will help prepare her for the upcoming trip. “I’m really excited to meet a bunch of new people and learn about a new culture,” Feldman said. After her gap year, Feldman is planning on attending college but is currently waiting to hear back from schools.

To be accepted into the program, each student has to go through an application process that involves both the student and their parents. The process starts with a general application form, and then the student and parents both have to write letters that will later be sent to their host families. A teacher recommendation is also required. The applicants then meet with a sponsor, who is an alumni of the program. Students and their parents have an interview with the sponsor, who helps prepare the student for their formal interview which takes place with adults that are a part of the Rotary Club. Finally there is a country fair, where students who are here from other countries set up tables so prospective students can learn more about each country and decide their top choices. “They tell you about all of the different countries you can go to and you can ask questions and rank which ones you would want to go to,” Hogan said.

During the year abroad, students attend a local high school where they take classes on a pass/fail system. They live with a host family, but are able to hang out with other Rotary Club students who are in the same country or go on planned weekend excursions. “It is really common in Europe to go to different places for the weekend…I could go to Germany, Luxemburg or Paris or something like that,” Hogan said. Throughout the year abroad, visitors are discouraged for the first six months while students are still adjusting to their new lives. Sometimes at the end of the year parents will come visit and then come home with their child. “It’s hard to get your family on board with this sort of thing because they need to be okay with sending their kid abroad for a whole year,” Schroeder said.

The Rotary Club is a great, more affordable way to have a gap year experience. These three students have much to look forward to in the coming year.