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Old 12-03-2004, 12:30 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Taking a semester off, what to do?

I am currently a college freshman, and for certain reasons will most likely not be returning to the school I am currently at for the spring semester. The school that I wish to go to recommends that I apply for the Fall semester of next year as a sophmore (credits will be no problem). However, where I currently go is simply to expensive to remain for the duration of the year, especially if I feel that I am not getting all that I could be, or should be, getting out of it. At present I am evaluating what to do from now until then, and was looking for some insight. While my parents may expect me to work at my old summer job for the whole time, but I see this as an opportunity to get out and experience something about the world that I wouldn't otherwise be able to. I feel like my life is already charted, that I will go to school, I will get my degree, I will possibly go to grad school, and then I will work/teach/research. I've lived a sheltered suburban life - everything has been planned for me, and will be for the forseeable future. My advisor has told me to get involved in a research group starting after my freshman year. The just isn't the life I want to live, but I feel like there is no way to escape it. So now I have this chance, time to explore, live, while I'm still young. This is the time to assert myself, to direct my future, decide what I want for a change. I have to do something with it, I can't just do nothing - I have to account for my time when I apply to transfer, and I'd rather make it more interesting than simply "I worked."

I'm restless.

So what do I do? I don't see how you can just pick up and go. Whatever I do I have to either make money or somehow break even after I come back (and not run out of money along the way). Perhaps it would help to know a little about me. I am studying the Chinese language, am interested in Chinese culture, Asian art, and Eastern Religion. I will probably be a Math/Physics major, but hopefully will be able to get a degree in either English or Art History. I've never been outside of North America (Canada for hockey, Mexico on a cruise). I would love to go to China, but I can't enter a study abroad program for the Spring semester. What can one do in China for several months? I have read Buddhist teaching with great interest and respect, and would like to spend several months at a monastery working, studying, reflecting, living. How do I just go somewhere, and live? When I was studying computer science I ran across Jos Claerbout. His life has since been an inspiration to me, reminding me to think for myself, live as myself.

I think I left a lot of things out above, but I want to be as brief as possible. My question is: what can I do, where can I go, how can I live, for 8 months as a 19 year old. Maybe I'm just being stupid, and in the end I'll just work for 8 months, save money. But that's not what I want. That's not the life I want. So what do i do?
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Old 12-03-2004, 09:07 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Hmmm, it's hard to go anywhere without much money. Central/South America is good because plane tickets are cheaper, but then you should probably know Spanish, and then there's not much to do, compared to here in the States.

I went ot Nicaragua for a month, and it was THE best thing I have ever done in my life. I learned so much about myself and some more about the world. I also learned that I have a huge wanderlust, and I think it ruined me

If you think China is too risky, go to Europe and try to find a flat and a job. Buy a plane ticket there, book a hotel and go into every shop you see and ask for a job. If you run low on money, book a plane ticket home. Only problem is that tickets across either ocean are hella expensive. That's why I recommend Central/South America. Then again, it is a lot more dangerous down there compared to Europe.
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Old 12-03-2004, 04:09 PM   #3 (permalink)
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My dad has traveled extensively in Central/South America and has told me the dangers - don't think I would risk that, especially not speaking the language. At least with China I would be able to communicate from the beginning. I'm going to send some e-mails first
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Old 12-03-2004, 04:37 PM   #4 (permalink)
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You could work for say, half the time and save up some money then do a tour of North America in your car? Albeit gas is pretty expensive and all that driving can be borring, it might be a not-horrendously expensive option, especially if you don't mind sleeping in your car
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Old 12-03-2004, 06:21 PM   #5 (permalink)
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All I have to say is get to know the people near to where you'll be going to school. Keep working and save up your money like crazy. Even though that's not 'interesting', it will get you farther than not having anything to your name.
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Old 12-04-2004, 07:24 AM   #6 (permalink)
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If you speak/read/write Chinese well enough, maybe you can get a job as a teacher in China?
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Old 12-04-2004, 08:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Take a much needed break and venture out of the country. You can find cheap airfare to many places one the internet now. Get online and search around for deals. If you find one, charge it if you don't have the money. You are in school so count it is as college loans or debt to be paid off later. If this is too extreme, do like la petite moi says and stick around close to home and just relax and hang out with friends. Not sure where you live but I am sure there are many places that you haven't been that you can simply drive to for a while. I think VitaminH had this idea too.
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Old 12-04-2004, 09:44 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I don't suggest it. I took a semester off once and never recovered from it. I never graduated College either. But that's just me. If you're burnt, take less classes. But don't loose the momentum.
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Old 12-04-2004, 10:14 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carn
Only problem is that tickets across either ocean are hella expensive. That's why I recommend Central/South America.
Depends on where you live... You can go from New York to London for about 200 dollars...

What about something like AFS, which is a student exchange - -that also accepts adults 18+, since you live with a host family, expenses would be a minimum.

or Youth for Understanding a similar program.
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Old 12-04-2004, 11:28 AM   #10 (permalink)
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$200??? Damn. I thought flights across the pond were on the order of $700-$800...
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Old 12-04-2004, 01:42 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carn

I went ot Nicaragua for a month

See, this interests me highly. I'm sort of delaying going to University for a few months because I have to upgrade a few classes, but I've always dreamed of spending a few months in a place like that.

Can you explain to me where you stayed, what you did for money, how you got there, how it was organized, etc.?

I think its totally awesome and I would love to go, if for nothing else, the experience!
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Old 12-04-2004, 05:19 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Well, I went there for the surf, so I was prepared for and expecting less than desirable accomodations. I flew out of Miami for about $400, round trip. We rented a 4x4 (a must if you plan on going anywhere other than the bigger cities), drove for 6 hours to this little village on the coast and basically just looked around for places to stay. We knew that the village had places to stay, but we weren't sure what exactly we would find. Anyways, we ended up in a little surfer motel that was owned by some locals. The rooms were like 8x8 and had two beds, a fan and a door. Extremely basic but for $7 a night we didn't care. It was an extremely chill place and the locals were super cool.

We stayed on the second story, since the ground floor was the toilets and the kitchen. Local girl worked in the kitchen and made food for everyone. The toilets were pretty gross by American standards, but I didn't really care. Basically we surfed three times a day and between sessions we just ate or chilled in the hammocks and read and talked. The food was fucking amazing. They mostly had pork and chicken, but some fishermen in a different village sometimes came by and sold their fish to the Pancho (the owner of the motel place). The fishermen would also bring lobsters sometimes. Every meal was served with rice and beans and some form of plaintains, usually tostones. For drinks they had a cooler full of beer and soda and Powerade. The beer was fantastic, by the way.

Ummm.. after a few days there we left for a couple of nights to hit up other surf spots. We drove through some bigger cities and stayed in a places that were a little nicer. Some rooms had air con, but they were $10 a night. Driving was probably the worst part of the trip since the roads are sooo shitty. Our top speed the entire time was 40 mph.

We went to one city, San Juan Del Sur, for a couple of days to hit up this one spot, and also to party. We went to a few bars and then to a disco. We met tons of really cool people in every place we went. And man could those Nican girls dance. I don't think I've ever seen a girl shake her ass that fast...

We also met lots of travellers as well. We met people from Cali, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Florida, Scotland, France and England. Almost everyone we met was super cool as well. Most of them were surfers, but the Canadians we met were hikers.

On the way back from San Juan we took a ferry to the volcanoe island and stayed there so we could hike the volcanoe the next day. It took us 6 hours to go up the volcanoe and 4 hours down; my legs have never been that tired. It was an amazing experience though. Hella sketchy terrain and it was hella steep. Anyways we went back to the first place and just surfed and chilled and met people.

The locals are very nice, and all the people we met were super willing to help out. Many people offered their extra bedrooms for us to stay in. We gave tons of stuff to the local kids, everything from surf wax to clothes to magazines to boards. They were all super stoked on surfing.

The rental SUV was $1200 for the month ($600 a piece), the plane ticket was $400, plus $100 tax to ship surfboards, and all other expenses for the entire trip came to a grand total of $252. If you don't rent a car, you can stay there for well under $1000 for a month. A car was a necessity for us since we were going to out of the way surf spots along the coast.

It is a very good idea to go with someone who speaks Spanish though. Some peopel speak English, but not many. Also, Costa is just a short bus ride away, and knowing Spanish is not a necessity there. Nica is kinda sketchy in the northern areas, but if you stay further south on the Pacific side, everything is cool. We never had any problems. I am definitely going back, hopefully for two months next time. It was a great experience.
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Old 12-04-2004, 08:48 PM   #13 (permalink)
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AFS and Youth for Understanding sound like something I would be very interested. I'm going to contact them for more information.

I am also interested in finding a place which will provide me with room/board and access to library/study area and areas for meditation in exchange for my labor (physical or otherwise). I believe my time would be well spent in reflection and contemplation (I am fond of Thomas Merton and Thoreau). I found one such Orthodox monastery in Finland which accepts volunteers, however I would be more interested in spending time in a Buddhist monastery on such an extended retreat. How can I go about finding if this is possible?
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Old 12-04-2004, 09:07 PM   #14 (permalink)
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www.kibbutzvolunteer.com. This site seems to have pretty good information, and can point you in the right direction to making things happen.

You may turn this down out-of-hand thinking, "Why would I go to Israel? I'm not Jewish!" but trust me, there are plenty of kibbutzim that don't practice Judaism any more than you do. Experience socialism in its modern form, make some friends for life, have some crazy stories to tell. Kibbutzim will be happy to take you, regardless of religion, they are always looking and appreciative of volunteers. You'll make friends with people from all across the world in these volunteer programs.

Seriously, this is an extremely viable option. If you really want to do something different, look into this. Let me know if I can be of more help.
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