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The Daily Tar Heel

Students take time away from virtual college to learn outside the classroom

Caroline Parker stands outside of the North Carolina she's living in during her gap semester. Photo courtesy of Caroline Parker.

With dorms consolidated, campus resources limited and classes shifted to online learning, some students have decided to take time away from schoolwork through gap years and semesters. 

Students are focusing their time on new extracurricular activities, volunteer work, jobs and internships.

UNC sophomore Caroline Parker said she decided to take a gap semester because she thought it would be difficult to take all her classes online. Instead, Parker is just taking one online class toward her major. 

With time away from the virtual classroom, she has worked a remote internship with the North Carolina Coastal Federation, taken a job as a nanny and joined UNC's triathlon club. 

Parker said her gap semester experience is largely positive so far.

“I definitely recommend taking a gap semester, because the time off has been really helpful in getting job experience and just taking a break from classes," Parker said. "It’s even allowed me to learn a lot of important life skills like paying my own bills.”

Jackson Stone, a sophomore at UNC, was inspired to take the semester off while doing a remote internship for a startup company out of Palo Alto, California. He said he was able to work in a variety of roles and learn about starting a company from the cofounders. 

"I honestly felt like I was learning more than I did last semester taking classes," Stone said. "I really enjoyed this schedule and was not looking forward to taking online classes, as well as missing out on so many of the resources and experiences that a normal semester would provide." 

Stone is taking this semester to continue his internship and pursue an opportunity with a nonprofit.

“I’m currently working part-time for Learn to Win, which is the startup that I interned for this summer," Stone said. "I serve on a non-profit’s board and help them with fundraising, business development, and just working remotely as a whole.” 

Jack Goldsmith, IV, another UNC sophomore, said he decided to take the semester — and probably year — off because he assumed classes would transition fully online this semester.

“I wanted to do something else rather than sit in front of my computer and take classes I knew I wouldn’t enjoy,” Goldsmith said.  

This fall, Goldsmith said he has been working remotely for an influencer marketing startup company, as well as volunteering for local charities.  

“I’ve been spending time interning and volunteering at TABLE, which is an organization in Carrboro that helps to feed local kids," Goldsmith said. "Aside from those two jobs, I’ve actually been pursuing a couple other independent software projects for fun.”

Goldsmith said he recommends a gap semester to those losing interest in school and those not learning or enjoying class due to online instruction.

“A mentor of mine told me last summer to wait on the college experience until it is truly a college experience again, so I’m probably going to take the spring off as well,” Goldsmith said. “I have already learned much more in a month from working than I would have if I had decided to come back to school.”

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