An Unexpected Gap Year

By Oren Tirschwell ’20, from Hackley Class Notes 2021

I never wanted to take a gap year.

I always knew that. For 15 years, being a student has been my life, my identity. I am so passionate about learning, about taking classes, and about understanding how what I learn can challenge and enrich my perspectives of the world. Who would I be without that? Where would I be without that? What could I possibly do that would feel fulfilling… without being in the classroom?

I never thought there would be a global pandemic. Sure, I had read the articles over the years—“2018, due for a new influenza pandemic!,” and the likes. But come on. A global pandemic? Impossible. It’s the 21st century, we have made amazing medical progress—and we’re too young to even remember the smaller ones that have occurred over time.

But here we are. One pandemic later. And two-thirds of a gap year later.

Back in May, when it was becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 was not going to be a two-week anachronism, I wrote to Amherst, the college which I will be attending in the fall, to outline why I hoped to take a gap year and what my plans were for the year. I am incredibly grateful that my gap year got approved and so thankful that I have been able to make this year far more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined.

I knew that I would want learning to be the major part of my year, so I began my search for a wide range of different types of internships and jobs. The Hackley network was so incredible in helping me to find these internships. My first internship this year was with the marketing team at Teladoc, the leading telemedicine and virtual healthcare company. I started there for my Senior Project after getting connected through Jason Gorevic P ’21, ’23, Teladoc’s CEO, and then continued my internship into the summer. After that, I spent some time at a much smaller finance firm, Blue Elephant Capital Management, which is run by JP Marra ’86 P ’20, ’26, working on loan analysis and underwriting systems. At that point, I returned to Teladoc for several weeks before getting connected to a startup non-profit, NeighborShare, where I am currently volunteering to help set up and work with their data reporting systems.

Alongside those larger internships, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with an educational consultant out in California on Google Drive automation and organization projects for public school districts, after—surprise, surprise—getting connected through yet another Hackley parent, Charles Sichel-Outcalt P ’28, ’29, ’29. And, I’ve been fortunate enough to start working with Mr. Fishman, an Upper School history teacher at Hackley, designing a website for his new gaming and miniatures non-profit, HMGS Next Gen.

I’m also a cellist, and have been able to spend some time practicing, continuing to take lessons from my teacher, and recording some virtual recitals along the way.

This has been one of the most enriching, interesting, and fulfilling years of my life. Although all of my work has been done remotely, I’ve been supported by incredible supervisors, mentors, and colleagues. I have learned new programming languages, learned about marketing, used popular websites and platforms for reporting and analysis, and learned how to lead and run meetings and presentations. I’ve been exposed to the real world before I ever dreamed it could possibly happen. And now, I have the opportunity to bring all of these new experiences and what I learned into my college life and beyond.

I never wanted to take a gap year.

I never thought there would be a global pandemic.

Looking back, even if I had been correct about the latter, I would have changed my opinion on the former.