Taking a “gap year,” or a year between high school and college or career, has been popular in Europe for decades and is becoming a growing trend among students in the United States with some 40,000 students participating in a gap year each year since 2015.

Top-tier universities, like Harvard, even encourage students to take a gap year. Students that participate in gap years use the year, sometimes more, to travel, volunteer, or pursue personal growth projects.

For Columbia High School senior Oscar Kirkwood, taking a gap year is not only an opportunity to travel but to teach and get an affordable education.

The Enterprise sat down with Kirkwood last week to learn about what he will be doing with his gap year.

Why are you taking a gap year?

Oscar Kirkwood: It’s not so much a traditional “gap year” as it is an opportunity to live, work, go to school and travel to another country.

I will be teaching English to primary school kids at the Helen Doron English School in Dussel-dorf, Germany. The school is a part of a chain of schools around Europe that teach English, among other languages.

Do you plan on going to college after your gap year or pursue a career?

Kirkwood: I actually plan on going to school in Germany. I got a $1,500 scholarship from the National Football Association, which is a drop in the bucket for school tuition here in the States but could be super helpful in Germany. Tuition is free there, but I will still need to pay for books and supplies. I need to use the scholarship within a certain amount of time, or I will have to forfeit it.

Is teaching a path you are interested in pursuing as a career?

Kirkwood: Yes and no.

There is a huge need for teachers in Germany, but at the high school level and I would need to be fluent in German. So, it’s a potential path, but not my ultimate goal.

I am very interested in international business and the automotive industry; Americans buy a lot of cars from Europe.

Do you think you will return to White Salmon? Other than to just visit?

Kirkwood: A lot of folks think White Salmon is just too small, but we are so lucky to live here. I grew up spending time on the mountains and in the rivers. I would love to live here again, but the housing market will need to change so I can afford to move back.

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