Mind the Gap

As most NASH seniors will go to college next fall, Ava Hutchinson plans to do things a little differently.


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

Ava Hutchinson stands in front of the building she will be thousands of miles away from next year.

Halle Marsalis, Staff Writer

In a few more months, most NASH seniors will be freshmen again. Of the many post-secondary plans among the Class of 2022, enrollment in a four-year college is by far the most common — and that enrollment begins this fall.

But not for senior Ava Hutchinson. 

Hutchinson applied to schools, just like most of her classmates, but she deferred her acceptance for a year and plans to take a gap year in Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, and New Zealand. 

“When I knew I wanted to do a gap year I spent days researching for programs and this one just fit what I wanted the best,” Hutchinson said. “[During] semester one, I will be traveling to Thailand and Cambodia, while during semester two I will be in Australia and New Zealand.”

When Hutchison told her parents she wanted to take a gap year, they agreed, as long as she found a good program. 

“The group I found is 13 students and two leaders,” she said. “Through my program, you can get credit through Portland State University, but I am not doing any classes. I am just exploring.”

Hutchinson did much research to prove to her parents this was a good idea, even going as far as applying for financial assistance for students on gap years.

“I applied for one scholarship through my gap year program and got scholarship money, but they are all optional,” she said.

Hutchinson will be traveling with the group from September to May and expects to be without some of the comforts of home for part of her journey.

“We are allowed to bring our phones, but we might not have a connection most of the time,” she explained. “We go somewhere to get connection once a week, but otherwise you aren’t guaranteed connection.”

Hutchison decided that this summer would be her best opportunity for such a unique adventure, adding that extended travel might be harder after college.

“I realized that this is the one time in my life when I can just take a year and travel,” she said.

As for the concern that she’ll return to the U.S. and be a year behind her peers, Hutchinson is not at all worried. 

“I am young for my grade, so by the time I am a freshman in college, I’ll be the same age as the other freshman,” she said,  “I will also be graduating at the same point as those who who are in a five-year program, so it honestly is not a big deal to me.”

Of all of her gap-year options, Hutchinson opted for the most culturally adventurous. She hopes to come back with more knowledge than when she left. 

“I am expecting to get a completely new experience. I chose going to southeast Asia specifically because the culture and life there is completely different from what I would ever experience in the US or Europe,” she said. “I am excited to go, but I am also nervous about being on the other side of the world.”

Five months without old friends, without parents, and with hardly any reception would make most students nervous. Then again, there’s so much to be gained that this will probably be one of the best times of Hutchison’s life.