Caleb Sager attended an IB high school in Chennai, India. Unsure of what he wanted to study in college, Caleb chose to pursue a gap year to dive deep into his interests – sound design and teaching. He spent 3 months in Bali teaching English and reaffirmed his passion to explore it as a career. During the Launch Phase, Caleb built an incredible portfolio of sound design work, completing projects such as redubbing movie trailers, designing sound effects, and making EDM beats. He also received mentoring from a sound designer at Samsung who previously worked on games at Microsoft. Now, as Caleb enters college, he has a clear vision of what he wants to pursue and what it will take to get there.
My experience with UnCollege started with a trip to Bali, Indonesia where I spent 3 months teaching at local schools. During my time in the classroom, I learned how to think on my feet, overcoming a difficult language barrier and preparing effective English lessons for my students. Using tools like Google translator and fun activities like hands-on games, I was able to get my students
to write entire paragraphs in English, which they read out loud to me on my last day there. It was a rewarding experience. The Launch Phase, which takes place in San Francisco, was when I explored my other interests and started to build a portfolio of work. Some of my favorite projects included working with a video game programmer to make a
prototype of a video game and creating a folder of music projects that included a lot of modulated audio (sound effects, manipulated dialogue, etc.)
Now I am attending college equipped with those crucial experiences that have helped me solidify what I enjoy and what I want to do with my life. The remaining phases – The Project Phase and the Internship Phase – I have waiting for me in the summer when I plan to either work on an audio team or volunteer as a Teacher’s Assistant at a nearby school.
One of the draws to UnCollege was that it is an organized gap year whereI still had a schedule and a plan on how my year would shape up. A rational fear I had about taking a gap year on my one was have been able to do as much in such a short time. UnCollege definitely provided the structure I needed to stay on Another draw to UnCollege was the focus on community, which I thought would feel like the IB cohort. Traveling and working with Fellows provided valuable experience in working with people that come from all over the world. Having phases that allowed me to do many things in an organized way was definitely a draw towards the program. Where else can you volunteering and travel, then learn about what you want to do through self-directed learning, learn practical skills, and intern all in one year? I also looked forward to having my own project that I can call my own, similar to the CAS project but on a larger scale.
In preparation, I had the challenge of explaining to people what exactly I was doing to pursue education. Explaining to other students who are going directly into college was interesting and sometimes disheartening when others would say negative things. But sticking to what I wanted helped me realize that all paths are different and I believe that my path was right for me. I also had to organize flights and money for a year that I did not know how much money I needed in Indonesia with the prices of food there being different than anywhere else I would be. So estimating and planning my personal expenditures as well as finding cheap flights were small challenges to be done before embarking. During the gap year, I encountered many more challenges such as adapting to new places quickly, making sure I followed my budget, and being responsible for nearly everything I did. You are expected to be an adult and for the most part I did just that.
In hindsight after UnCollege, I realized that being punctual with my work as well as being self-motivated to solve problems as they arise were two skills that consistently proved their worth. Problems arise especially while volunteering overseas and when the entire class hinges on what I do, then it was useful to power through and find ways to still get the job done. When I was in the Launch phase it is imperative that I was self-motivated and responsible to finish my work and strive for more. Our 48 hour work sprints were another example of where I had to grind to get my job done. What made it so rewarding was that I was passionate about what I was working on. Passion is something that can drive quality work and UnCollege gives you the opportunity and tools to focus on things you love.
UnCollege also helped me discover my passions for teaching and being a sound designer. Using that knowledge I am now going to school with a direction as well as being able to pursue my personal projects in my spare time. UnCollege taught me many practical skills such as public speaking, debating, application writing, and more that have already been beneficial for me.
It is not for everyone. But it is for the people who want to take a year off and return to school rejuvenated. It is for students who are responsible, risk takers, and that have a global perspective. If students want to explore and learn about themselves then this is also for you. A productive gap year is something I would recommend to many students, especially if they are former IB candidates. Almost everyone can benefit from a gap year, the better question is who will take maximum advantage of it?