Behind the Scenes

Jaimie Vaillancourt

Before Nate Bartlett stepped foot on Northwestern’s campus, he already had a year’s experience to embody the school’s motto, “Whatsoever things are true.” While his classmates decided to apply to college, Bartlett took a gap year instead. “I worked really hard in high school, and I wanted a break,” says Bartlett. “I didn’t have any specific plans for (my gap year) until the fall of senior year, so I decided I wouldn’t apply to college.”

As the rest of his friends left for college in fall 2007, Bartlett was hired as an Assistant Technology Manager at a non-profit organization called the Organic Trade Association in Springfield, Mass. With his prior technology work in high school, he was put to work fixing printers and typing in database entries.”I did a lot of work that I hadn’t really thought would have fit in my job description, like sweeping and organizing books,” Bartlett says. “I learned that a job title doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what you do. It means that those are just some of the things you do.”

Although Bartlett found his gap year experience to be rewarding, he realized work at OTA was not the work he wanted to pursue. After 18 months school-free, the engineer turned hopeful film freshman was reluctant to return to homework and math class but adjusted quickly. When AJ Strauman (Full disclosure: Strauman is an Assistant Video Editor for The Daily) received her admission into NU’s Class of 2012, she wanted to defer but was unsure of her decision. She spoke to Bartlett in a NU Facebook group, and he encouraged her to take a gap year. According to the Office of Undergraduate Admission, Strauman, a Communication freshman, was one of 30 students accepted to NU in spring 2008 who deferred admission until fall 2009.

“I wasn’t ready for college,” Strauman says. “I didn’t want to learn anymore, and I knew that if I was going to go to a place like NU, I needed to come wanting to come.”She was offered a job through the Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales to work as an English teacher in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, for seven months. With little support from her parents, Strauman embarked on what she describes as one of the most difficult experiences of her life. “I had a lot of trouble connecting and making friends because our cultures were so different,” Strauman says. “It opened my eyes that the world is filled with highly different people, and there might not be an underlying connector of humanity.”

For many students, taking a year or even a quarter off does not seem like an option. After three years at NU, Kellen Pomeranz, a Bienen junior, decided to study abroad the fall of her junior year. But after three months in Madrid, the music technology major was not ready to return to campus.

“I have been writing songs since I was about 15 and for the past year have been writing professionally,” Pomeranz says. “I wanted to get real world experience in the field, which was hard, considering I was in Chicago, and the people I work for were not.”

This Winter Quarter, Pomeranz is taking time off to pursue other interests and to make contacts with professionals in the music industry. In addition to writing and selling songs for a music producer, she takes classes at the College Conservatory of Music in her hometown of Cincinatti, Ohio, to receive the credits she needs to graduate by senior year.”It’s really great to be surrounded by so many creative people, and all the experiences I have had so far have been completely new,” Pomeranz says. “But I do miss my friends and NU, and I am really looking forward to returning in the spring.”