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Author Topic: Freaky Future ... Advice please
Dr Strangelove
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So I'm getting kind of nervous. The future is coming up on me really fast and, well, I suppose it's like at the beach, I see this wave forming, and it looks like it might be a big one, and if it is, I want to know what I'm going to do. And getting out of the water is not an option.

My situation is this: I've had a somewhat unconventional education and will be graduating this May from both high school and the local community college (Daytona Beach Community College). By graduating from the community college I mean that I will have my Assosciate of Arts degree, which should take about 2 years off of a 4 year degree. And I'm 17. I will be 17 when I graduate in May.

So I have two main choices. I can either continue on with my schooling, which would likely mean getting my Bachelor's degree at age 19. Or I can take some time off from schooling and find myself. Move out, spread my wings, whatever. I should mention that if I continue my schooling, it would almost for sure be as a History major, which would almsot for sure mean graduate school.
So, firstly, any advice on that particular quandry? I know there are a lot of particulars that are ... particular, but anything would be helpful.

I am personally leaning towards taking some time off. But, I am unsure about that. I know that when I look at the future and see myself at school in 8 months, I have this kind of sick feeling of dread, and when I picture myself independent, well, it feels good. A lot of unknowns, but I feel like it has possibility.
What I would picture myself doing is getting a good job and working full time once I graduate, while living at home, to build up some money.
Annnddddd from there I'm kinda lost.

I could travel. The idea of a massive road trip appeals greatly to me. I know I would love to do that. But, I'm not sure about the financial and practical aspect of it. I'm not sure how much money I would need saved up to attempt something like that, and I'm not sure if it would really do anything to help me in the long run. But man, it just sounds like so much fun.

I could stay at home. Mooching off my parents while working full time, I could likely build up quite a sizable amount of savings. My dad is quite financially savvy, so I'm sure I could make some good investments, and set myself up nicely. But, as I fully intend on finishing my degree sooner or later, and likely sooner, I'm not sure that would make sense, as I'd likely just blow what I saved on college.

Or I could move out and simply live. Try to support myself outside of my parent's supervision. Not really travel or try to save big (not that either would likely be possible if got an apartment, a car, a life, etc). But I would get work experience, life experience, and also ...

If I should choose that route, I would likely choose to live in Virginia, as the state itself sounds like my kind of place, and as University of Virgina holds great appeal to me. If I could establish residency, the tuition rates are quite a bit better. But I don't know anyone in Virginia, or really a great deal about Virginia period, other than that it's really pretty.

So that's how I see it. I know that's kind of a lot, and kind of jumbled up and all, but it's nice to get it out, and if anyone has any suggestions, comments, observations, anything, I would be eternally grateful. Thanks [Smile]

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James Tiberius Kirk
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I hear taking some time off does a lot of people good... helps them get some outside experience before heading off to college. A friend of mine plans to travel as well. (Yeah, road trips = $. Road trips + gas prices = $$$.)

As I understand it, taking time off just to "take a break" usually doesn't work whereas taking time off from formal education to pursue education or experience of another type is better. Having financial experience before you go is definitly a good thing, even if it all ends up spent when you go to school.

If you're really interested in VA, you could live in Northern Virginia always work in DC at one of the government departments for a year. Could help, depending on your major. This is all second-hand knowledge, though.

--j_k

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plaid
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Since you've already got some sense of what college is like, I'd vote for taking some time off before going.

If you travel, a great way to get around is to WWOOF -- join Willing Workers on Organic Farms -- stay at farms and work 40 hours a week in exchange for room and board. It's a great, cheap way to get around Europe, meet interesting folks, etc. (It's also in Australia, North America, some countries in South America and Africa and Asia, etc.)

If you're wanting to get established in Virginia, a great place to spend time is Twin Oaks Community -- it's close to Charlottesville (45 minutes) if you're wanting to check out the University of Virginia, and it's quite the interesting experience; a lot of college students come and stay there for short periods of time (3 months, 6 months, etc.)

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sweetbaboo
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I'm of the opposite viewpoint. I think you should go to school and get it done. Then go out into the real world, spread your wings, travel, do what you want. Are you planning to go to a school that will enable you to live at home with your parents? Maybe you could spread your wings by living away and get a bit of both worlds.

I think "grown up" life with so many responsibilities can catch up to you fast. Too fast, sometimes, if you put off getting your eduction.

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Amilia
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I'm with Sweetbaboo. Push through and get it done and over with. I took a year off between highschool and college, and then four years off in the middle of my BA. It is very frustrating to think that if I had just stuck it out I would be done with school and well into my career at this point. Incidentally, I was a History major as well; I am currently working on my Masters of Library and Information Science.

If you do decide to take time off, give yourself a timetable. Only take a year, or a semester, or whatever, off. And then really do go back. Don't let yourself drift along, missing application deadlines, thinking to yourself, "Well, its all right. I'll just go back next semester." I don't know if this is something you would be as prone to as I was, but I found it very easy to just go along from day to day, letting time slip through my fingers. Also, I know many people who took time off, and never did go back.

Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck.

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Jhai
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I did a very similar thing to you, swampjedi - I was a class away from getting my A.A. when I graduated high school.

Halfway through my senior year, however, I was completely burned out from schooling - while I'd applied to a number of colleges, and been accepted, the thought of going on to college produced just... apathy. So I took some time off - left school at the end of March (I had enough credits to graduate by then), and went to Germany for nine months. I argued my first choice Uni into letting me start a semester late, with the same financial aid package.

I found a job as an Au-Pair (nanny/housekeeper), which allowed me to break about even financially for the nine months while seeing an incredible amount of Europe and becoming fluent in German. I highly recommend doing something similar, if you'd like to take some time off.

Nine months later, I was completely relaxed and ready for college. It was the best decision I could have made. Anyways, I need to get some sleep, but feel free to email if you have any questions about my experience.

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pH
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I say get it over with.

But my avoiding real life strategy is to get as many degrees as possible, especially since doing so allows me to also avoid getting a real job, paying bills with my own money, and generally having to decide on a career.

I know what field I want. But I don't know what I want to DO. And I don't wanna pick. And also, there aren't all that many jobs in New Orleans unless you're in the service industry right now.

-pH

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Noemon
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What's going to work for you depends very much on your personality, but I lean toward suggesting that you just let the momentum that you've built up carry you through at least your BA. Part of this is for the reasons that people have alrady outlined, and part of it is the difficulty that you'd have with striking out across the country or world at 17. You aren't a legal adult yet, ridiculous as that is for someone in your position. It's going to be difficult to rent hotel rooms, rent cars in a pinch, etc. Nothing insurmountable, but I imagine that it would be a lot easier to do the same thing after you finish with your BA.
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Launchywiggin
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If you take time off--no more than a semester. Be serious about it and stay active. My sister's "semester" off ended up lasting 2 years and when she did get to college, she wasn't able to finish her undergrad degree (was an A student).

I definitely recommend VA. I've lived in Blacksburg (southwest VA) almost all my life and I love it here. I have many friends at UVA--I can say it's a great school, as are most of the schools in VA (GMU, JMU, VT, RU).

I also started college with over 30 credits (AP & dual enrollment) and I suggest going straight to college. You'll get rusty with the time off--trust me. The "burned out" feeling will probably be gone as soon as you're away from home on a new campus. At least that's how it was for me.

Best of luck!

and remember that you make your own luck!

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Troubadour
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Definitely time off. I always thought I'd get to travel. I never got around to it until I was 31 and it was the best thing I ever did. Six weeks through central and eastern Europe and getting to see snow for the first time. Pretty special.

I also feel that I didn't make everything I could of my time in study and that I didn't persue my career strongly enough. I feel that if I'd taken a break after HS - where I was the extra-curricular king, I might have done more with my time after, been a bit more focused, that sort of thing.

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Juxtapose
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quote:
I am personally leaning towards taking some time off. But, I am unsure about that. I know that when I look at the future and see myself at school in 8 months, I have this kind of sick feeling of dread, and when I picture myself independent, well, it feels good. A lot of unknowns, but I feel like it has possibility.
Trust your gut on this one. Building up a terror of school is NOT the way to go. It sounds like your education has been very intense. If you feel like you need to catch up on other aspects of life, I don't think anyone can rightfully blame you.
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Baron Samedi
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It's an individual situation requiring an individual solution. But I'm on the other end from most of the people on this thread. I had wanted to take some time off before getting my degree, but my dad pushed me to finish it without so much as a semester off. At the time I was pretty pissed. But as the time has passed, I couldn't be more grateful for his advice.

First off, spreading your wings works just as well before or after college. Except that after college (in theory, anyway) you'll have more money to help you do it. I've traveled during and after school, and while they're both good, let me just tell you how much better it goes when you have some money in your pocket. Being able to go places where you don't have friends whose floors you can crash on or filthy hostels to stay at, drive down the road without the constant fear of a mechanical breakdown that would leave you destitute, go to a show or try a nice meal in a new town, and comfortably live off savings during your travels instead of coming home to mountains of credit card debt are all things that simplify the experiences and make them much less stressful without losing any of the magic. And if you actually want to live somewhere else for a while, a degree can make it a lot easier to find a job in another city that pays more than minimum wage.

Another good thing about going to school now is that it's a lot easier to do it while you're young. I also graduated from high school at 17. When you're that young, it seems like you've got plenty of time, and you're not all wrong. But you'll be surprised how quickly a couple years off will turn you from the eager-eyed freshman to the creepy old guy in the back of the class.

There's nothing better than starting college right out of high school, being surrounded by peers, and making friends that you'll have for the rest of your life. There's a very short window for enjoying college like that. Speaking from experience, even going to college in your mid 20s (which I did while completing some post-grad stuff) makes you feel completely disconnected from all the 17 and 18 year olds walking around campus. Even if you start now you'll be pushing that age when you finish, and a couple years off can totally push you over the hill.

College takes several years to get through, and after taking a year or two off it's surprisingly difficult to go back into poverty and start studying again. And, for the social reasons I've mentioned, the longer you stay out the harder it is to get back in, and to stay back in. I've seen plenty of my friends try to get back through their educations after breaks, and the majority of them have failed.

I'm not trying to scare you. This is a highly individualized decision, and it's fully possible to do just fine in school after a break. But, in my experience, it doesn't make anything any easier. College is tough enough as it is, and I don't think there's any reason to add additional hurdles to the experience by doing something now that you could just as easily do later.

Just my opinion, though. Whatever you decide, good luck. [Smile]

[ March 20, 2006, 07:51 AM: Message edited by: Baron Samedi ]

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Brian J. Hill
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It's truly an idividual decision. You've received some pretty good advice from both "sides" of the debate, so all I'll add is that don't let pressure from family and/or friends influence your decision. Taking time off won't kill you, and likely will help you become a more-rounded person, if done with purpose. On the other hand, finishing college by the age of 20 has its upside. So do what you feel is right.

Virginia is a great state to live in. Depending on what program you want to do, I would consider one of the southwest VA schools launcywiggin mentioned. I'm from Radford and am a student of Radford University, so I'm biased in favor of RU, but really it depends on what you want to do for a major. Southwest VA is, in my opinion, a much cooler place to live than is Charlottesville, and the cost of living is DEFINITELY cheaper.

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Dr Strangelove
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quote:
Originally posted by Baron Samedi:


There's nothing better than starting college right out of high school, being surrounded by peers, and making friends that you'll have for the rest of your life. There's a very short window for enjoying college like that. Speaking from experience, even going to college in your mid 20s (which I did while completing some post-grad stuff) makes you feel completely disconnected from all the 17 and 18 year olds walking around campus. Even if you start now you'll be pushing that age when you finish, and a couple years off can totally push you over the hill.

That actually was one of my reasons for taking some time off. As it is, I would be going into college as an 18 year old Junior (I'll be 18 in July). I wouldn't likely be going to school with any of my current friends (who all happen to be 2 years older than me, oddly enough). And I should mention, if I haven't, that I have been homeschooled my entire life, outside of DBCC. So my scholastic environment has been limited to a community college, and I've been at a much smaller satellite campus most of that time. So, I would be going into a school environment many times larger than any I've ever been exposed to, I would be in classes with people most likely at least 2 years my senior, and I would not have any friends to start out with. And while I know I could work through all that, it doesn't seem so desirable in the face of maturing for a year (I would almost for sure limit myself to one year), and then going back to school hopefully more prepared.
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El JT de Spang
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By the time I got done transferring around and taking time off to ski, I was two years older than my classmates. It didn't really affect me at all, except for the short period of time where I was 21 and no one else was, which was actually kind of a plus (while simultaneously being kind of a pain). But that happens even if you're all the same age, because someone will be the last one to be legal and so won't be able to go to the same places that everyone else wants to go.

Being older than my peers is a little tougher now, because I'm halfway through the licensing requirements for engineering and I'm two years later than most. And even though I'd like to, I'm hesistant to go back to school because I'd be 30 by the time I finished (which I'm sure everyone over 30 will say is not that old).

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Advent 115
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My vote is for taking most of a year off and learn more about the real world. I did that after I graduated High school, and let me tell you Colorado and Nevada are beautiful. SO take some time off, have fun be a teen and then move on with your life, cause let me tell you after a couple of months that break can get both expensive and boring.

So I recomend taking about a year off then get your butt back to school.

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Baron Samedi
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You know, Dr Strangelove, it occurs to me that you already know what you want to do. So I say you do it. No one can give you a definitive answer one way or another on this. I was in a situation nearly identical to yours when I finished high school, and I couldn't be happier with the way things turned out for me. But that's me. I don't know you, and when you get down to it, no 17-year-old's situation is really identical to another's. You may very well be better off going down the other path, and no one here is in a position to debate that. You know your situation better than any of us, you seem (to me) to have already decided to take some time off, so I say good luck.

The only thing I think you should remember is that our culture has overly romanticized the late teens/early 20s and the whole process of "finding yourself". The truth is, no matter what choice you make, you're going to mature, and you're going to learn. It's true that you can have some powerful educational experiences outside of accredited institutions of learning. But what sometimes gets overlooked is that you can have some mind-opening and worldview-expanding experiences in accredited institutions of learning.

College life will give you opportunities for just as many road trips as you could reasonably expect to take during your time off. Between holidays, ditching the odd class to take a long weekend, and even the possibility of study abroad, you may never get that kind of freedom holding down a job in the real world. If you're looking for work experience, you can get that in internships while simultaneously securing your future. Heck, all the best jobs I've ever had I got through college, including the ones that didn't have a damn thing to do with my future career path. And all the most menial, embittering and soul-sucking work I've had to suffer through I got in the real world. I can't think of anything you could gain through taking a year off that you couldn't find in college if you looked for it (and most of the time, even if you don't).

Again, I'm not saying that this means you should go to college. I'm just saying that if you take time off, don't do it out of some romantic notion that it'll be the kind of wonderful life-affirming experience that you can't get any other way. Most people that have gone to college (with the exception of the people that try to get a degree while they work full time and support a family) will tell you that it's the freest time of their lives. Don't imagine that leaving college means that you're automatically going to be riding a motorcycle across the cornfields of Kansas or exploring the back streets of Venice with a mysterious stranger. Leaving college means living in the real world. It's where you're going to be spending the rest of your life, and as nice as it can be sometimes, I'm personally glad I wasn't in a big rush to get there.

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sarahdipity
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Also realize that if you decide to go to college right away it doesn't mean that you have to go right into a job after. If/when you go to college you could take a semester overseas. Or you could do the peace corps or americorps afterwards.

I think the one thing to be aware of is if you do something in between and want to get some scholarships make sure you're still doing something interesting not just laying around the house. Achievement based scholarships are very competitive.

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Baron Samedi
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One more thing, if you really are looking for advice. If you want to spend the next couple years becoming more well-rounded, perhaps the best way to do that is allow yourself an extra couple of years to get your degree. You say you want to be a history major. So if you take off now and come back to college with all the other 20-year-old seniors, you're going to be taking a whole lot of history classes. What I suggest is that you go to school next semester, take a couple history classes, and then some other classes that look fun. Join the band, the newspaper or the debate team. Get on the college radio station. Take some math, economics, poly-sci or electrical engineering. Maybe a chemistry or physics class with a lab. Learn to speak Russian or Japanese. Check out the creative writing, art history or music theory programs. Take a class in auto mechanics or computer programming. Heck, take a semester of raquetball or karate.

Like I said, when I graduated in high school I was young and had some college credits from high school, and that's pretty much what I did. It helped me from getting burned out on my career path (which will happen if you take all your classes at once). It also gave me a lot of skills that most people I work with don't have, and which come in handy more often than you'd think. And it gave me a list of interests and hobbies that most people simply don't have time for when they go right into the real world, or cruise straight through with a single-minded focus on career goals.

Honestly, as much (sometimes well-deserved) crap as our higher education programs take, there really isn't any better way to reliably meet some of the best minds in a wide variety of fields and prepare yourself for a diverse and well-rounded lifestyle than screwing around with classes that sound interesting. The best case scenario is that you'll find something you want to do with your life that you hadn't even considered. And the worst case is that you'll get the same degree you'd planned on along with a much more interesting resume, valuable contacts in other fields, and something other than your job to talk about over dinner.

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dkw
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I also graduated from high school and a community college (Associate of Arts degree) the same week. I went immediately to college, dropped out after one year and didn’t finish until I was thirty. Which wasn’t all bad, although being a “drop-out” caused me a fair amount of emotional turmoil (and my parents a fair amount of consternation).

Some thoughts if you do go to college immediately:

1) Depending on your major you still might not be able to finish in two years. Some schools have tracks for particular majors that take 3 or 4 years and even though you’ll have all your general education requirements completed you might still have to take, for example, a freshman engineering "orientation" course before you can take the upper level classes.

2) If you are taking only classes in your major, you should probably not take the maximum number of credits allowed. Those maximums are based on the idea that you will be taking some general ed, some electives, some easy or fun credits. Assuming you’ve covered all your general ed and electives already, taking 21 credits all in your major is asking for burnout. Take some extra electives, or take fewer credits, even though it means an extra semester or two to graduate.

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pH
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I'm taking 19 credits, and only 3 of them aren't in my major. [Razz]

I wouldn't worry too much about burnout, if you really like the subject. But that's me. I'm insatiable.

But the whole not being able to actually finish in two years is a real possibility. If I'd transferred after last year (my second year of college), I likely would have needed another three years to graduate. Turns out, the people who accredit business schools require you to have taken X credit hours at the school that's actually issuing your diploma.

Also, depending on where you go, your university might not accept all of your credits from the community college.

-pH

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beverly
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Oooo! Just on a whim, I say go to Virginia!

Now, I must tell you that the *only* reason I say this is because when I was a little older than you are now, I was at a cross-roads. I was unsure what I wanted from my future. I strongly considered going to Virginia and "starting over" so to speak. There was a University there I wanted to attend. I didn't do it, and there is a part of me that will always wonder what would have happened if I had.

On the other hand, I have a good friend who came upon a similar crossroads where she had the choice to head out to a similar part of the country. She did it, and she was bored to tears. Absolutely "nothing" happened. So she went back and resumed what she was doing before.

Soooo, yeah. Whatever. [Razz]

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Dr Strangelove
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I have to say, my gut is really leaning towards taking a year off. You make a compelling argument Baron, but I feel as though I won't lose much by trying it, while if I don't I will always wonder. And also, yes, there are a lot of other factors going into my thought process. To be honest, I think one of the big factors is that I want to do something that has been completely my idea and that I am forced to take full responsibility for. If I go to school and become frustrated and unhappy, as I likely will, I will have scape goats to blame it on - my parents, my friends, Baron Samedi ... [Wink] , and I would beat myself up because ... well, that's just how my mind works. But if I go out on my own for a year, I will be taking it fully on myself. If I'm miserable, I can point only so far as myself in my decision making. And that appeals to me greatly.
Ironically enough, it smacks of the Committement-Consistency Principle which I just learned about in Psychology of Adjustment. "The tendency for actions to be determined more by past decisions than by actual desires". When I heard that term defined, I thought to myself "Now that is how I do not want to live my life". I'm Arthur Dent, and I feel like Trisha is asking me to go to Madagascar, and I want to go.

Assuming that I take a year off:

Any practical suggestions as to how an 18 year old can make it in this world? As a traveller or as a ... waddya wanna call it ... well, as someone settled.

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Nell Gwyn
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I have no idea if this is something you'd be interested in, but I'll just throw it out there. The Student Conservation Association is something I'd really like to do if I didn't have credit card bills to pay. (I learned about it from a postcard off one of the ubiquitous posters at my university.) I haven't done anything like this personally, but it sounds really cool - from what I saw on their site, you can travel to somewhere different from home on someone else's dime and do something meaningful that would probably be great experience to have on your resume. I believe there are some history-related internships, and it'd probably be interesting, plus it could be a way for you to spend enough time in Virginia (or elsewhere) to see if you'd really like to live in that area.
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