Nicole Iannella spent her gap year with the American University Gap Year Program in Washington, D.C.
Why did you choose to participate in a gap year program?
I chose the American University Gap Program in Washington, D.C., because I still wanted to learn and get some sort of college experience during my year off. I had always been interested in politics, so that’s what initially drew me to this program. I was intrigued by the unique gap-year internship, considering that not many 18- year-olds have the opportunity to intern three days a week in the middle of such a major city. Now that I’m here, I love feeling as though I am a typical college student, yet I still have plenty of time to do so many cool things through AU, my internship, and even throughout the District of Columbia. There are always plenty of things going on!
How did you decide which gap program was right for you?
I wanted to use my year to help direct myself more academically do I chose this program primarily based on its politics class. I also knew I wanted to get away from home and explore a new city, so where would be a better place for me to study politics during election year?
What is a typical day like in your gap experience?
Well, there are two typical days in my gap year experience. On Mondays and Thursdays, I have classes, but also a lot of free time. On these days, I typically go to lunch with friends, run around campus, spend some time in the library, or even explore DC, such as the National Museum of American History, the National Portrait Gallery, or the monuments. On the other hand, my Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays start off at 9 a.m. as I begin my commute to my internship along with three other girls from campus. I work from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Running Start, a nonprofit that helps train young women to run for political office. On my way back to campus, I always run into familiar faces, and it’s so fun to hear about everyone’s widely varying days throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
What has been the most memorable moment of your gap year so far?
So far, it would probably be the scavenger hunt we did around DC during our first weekend. I had never ridden on the Metro nor explored much of the area, so it was a crazy experience trying to figure out how to get to all of these places most of us had never been. My team did end up coming in last place, but we were able to see more of DC than I imagined possible in one day. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.
What is your favorite class experience so far?
The day after the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, my class was able to listen to three panelists speak about their own experiences from that tragic day. There were a variety of perspectives, for our visitors were all in different, significant locations on September 11, 2001, those being New York City, Washington DC, and the Dulles airport. The classroom definitely had a more somber tone that day, but it was very interesting and eye opening to be able to hear these guests speak about such personal, heartbreaking experiences.
What is your favorite internship experience so far?
My internship is unique in that every Friday the interns have the opportunity to join seven young women from Running Start’s Star Fellows program. Every week, there is a guest speaker or a Running Start staff member, giving advice or tips to help us professionally. Afterwards, we visit somewhere in DC, ranging from the Newseum to the Capitol. My favorite was a guest speaker who shared tips on dressing professionally. Following this, we all attended some of the opening festivities for the National Museum of African American History. I’ve already been learning so much in the office that it’s amazing to be able to get some guidance from other DC professionals as well as the Star Fellows about their different experiences both in the city and at their respective colleges.
What advice do you have for others looking at for agap year experience?
The most important advice is to do what you want to do. It is your gap year, and it is also unlikely that you will ever have a full year to explore anything you please, whether it be academics, interests or even other parts of the world again. It’s a time for you to grow, reflect, and try new things. Make the most of it and have fun!