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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Students succeed after breaking four-year plan

Andrew Hamilton, an Interdisciplinary Studies junior, spends time with underprivileged children in South Africa. Hamilton was in South Africa during some of the time he spent away from school for a TOMS shoes campaign to give pairs of shoes to children.
Andrew Hamilton, an Interdisciplinary Studies junior, spends time with underprivileged children in South Africa. Hamilton was in South Africa during some of the time he spent away from school for a TOMS shoes campaign to give pairs of shoes to children.

Some UA college students are seeing the benefit of taking a semester off.

College offers many experiences, but some feel like something is missing that cannot be found in classes, clubs or people on campus.  

When Andrew Hamilton, a 26-year-old junior applying to be an international studies major, decided to take a semester off from college, he said at the time he “”didn’t focus, didn’t like school and (he) felt like (he) was wasting time and money.””  

He took a full-time job at Urban Outfitters and was initially going to earn more money for a year before returning to school. However, Hamilton found himself away from school for about two and a half years.  

Through a TOMS Shoes campaign at his work, Hamilton was selected from a drawing to travel to South Africa and spend 11 days dispersing shoes to orphaned children. Before traveling to South Africa, Hamilton describes himself as being very ignorant and unfamiliar with the country. It was a “”pivotal point in my life,”” Hamilton said.

The trip made Hamilton realize how “”I’m completely privileged and I can try to do what I want to do. It inspired me to work more on myself,”” he said.  

Hamilton didn’t return directly to school after Africa. For a little over a year, he took a position with the Southwest Conservation Corps. He said he worked outside for 90 percent of the time planting trees and building and repairing trails. Hamilton also received firefighter training while working, which led to his next adventure as a Wildland Firefighter.  

Back in college now, Hamilton says he enjoys it more. After helping people abroad, he is more focused and motivated now that he sees what he is working toward with his degree.

I have a “”gut feeling that this is where I need to be, school is what I need,”” he said. “”Right now a B.A. is what I need to go further.””

Hamilton “”sees it as time well spent,”” acknowledging the benefits of both classroom learning and experiential learning.

“”My only regret is I didn’t do it sooner,”” Hamilton said. “”I would recommend it if it’s what you want to do.””

Marisa Carlos, a business and economics junior, says she liked school, yet after her freshman year at the UA, determined she needed to take a semester off for health issues. Her sleep schedule had flipped freshmen year, she was missing classes and labs because of it, and her grades were slipping.

It was “”too hard to get healthy while in school,”” she said. Carlos says her parents were worried that she wouldn’t go back after the semester. They encouraged her to be at least a half-time student instead but she said, “”I knew what I needed to do.””  

“”I knew I would be back because I like school,”” Carlos said.  

Carlos spent the last fall semester getting healthy and working as a nanny.  

“”I was bored out of my mind,”” she said.  

Though she felt removed from the campus and friends during her semester off, Carlos returned healthy and with a positive change in her grades. It was “”the best thing I’ve done,”” she said.  

Her advice to students: “”If you’re having a hard time balancing your personal issues and school, then you should take a semester off to figure it out. It’s beneficial in the end.””   

Academic advisers suggest that students file for a “”Leave Of Absence.”” This will allow you to return to the UA without having to go through the hassle of reapplying.  

Coordinator at the Transfer Student Center, Jeanais Brodie, has worked with several returning college students in the past year.  

Though there isn’t a specific adviser that specializes in helping students take a semester off at the UA, Brodie suggests to talk to your advisor first if the idea intrigues you. She cautions students that “”you need to understand why you’re leaving and do the prep work. Think about that before you go, plan and prepare,”” she said.

“”This time you have is very precious and valuable and it’s good to have a goal so that it’s not just lost time.””

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