Joe Laliberte: Taking a chance with time away from GW

Last Monday, a day when most GW students were starting their classes in Foggy Bottom, I was 1,758 miles away in Colorado. It was actually about two more miles if you judge for the 10,000 feet of elevation.

Instead of taking introduction to political communication or principals of economics, I was at the top of Arapahoe Basin Mountain, off Loveland Pass in Colorado. Sheer, jagged rocks replaced the World Bank and the Washington Monument as they stretched into possibly the bluest sky I had ever seen.

Sitting at the small outdoor bar at the base of the mountain, enjoying a fine beer with people I can only affectionately refer to as “ski bums,” I could not help but chuckle.

Taking a semester off was quite possibly one of the best decisions I have made thus far at GW. After five semesters, 26 classes, three internships, two years as a GW TRAiLS guide and five grueling seasons of rugby, I was ready to take a step back to see the bigger picture.

At GW, most students are overly anxious and driven to become the next senator or Nobel laureate. We do internships, take jobs, participate in clubs, organize protests, raise money and travel abroad arguably more than any other students in the country. I can remember Dean of Freshmen Fred Siegel explaining to us at CI that there were only so many hours in a day, and challenged us to use our awake hours wisely. Would we sit in Thurston playing video games, or would we sit on the executive board of one of the 325 student organizations? I’m happy to say that many of us have chosen the latter.

This is a constructive characteristic at GW and it is one of the reasons I choose the school. However, it can become quite overwhelming for many students. All too often, we think that getting the best internship or graduating summa cum laude are the most important things in college.

Mark Twain said that, “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.” Well, last September I decided to take that quote to heart. After looking at my class schedules and the credits I had, I had three options. One option was to pick up a minor and the other graduate early. The last was to take a semester off.

Call me a slacker, but as I sit here in a small coffee bar in Boulder, Colo., you can call me whatever you want and I couldn’t be happier.

It is almost purifying not to have a set plan for the next six months.

The most inspiring and exciting part of taking a semester off is the sense of possibility and adventure that the next few months hold

No student could ever plan to learn everything between 24th and 18th streets in Northwest D.C. We cannot discover new possibilities and learn to challenge ourselves if we are afraid to take on something that is actually new.

Not taking classes for a semester will not only give me time to travel, but it will allow me to appreciate GW even more. After being away from Foggy Bottom for nine months, I’ll look forward to coming back to our urban oasis.

In my trips thus far, I have already started a mini-avalanche, been pulled over and had my car searched by an over-zealous Utah police officer, pretended I was in Entourage at the Sundance Film Festival, and gone climbing in Colorado.

Many of us are driven with internships and GPA aspirations to get out of college as fast as possible, with our minds focused on our careers. We should not be afraid to take a step back, and be driven to take a chance. There are only so many hours left to do it.

The writer is a junior majoring in political communications.

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