Two graduating seniors enrich their education by spending a gap year abroad


Megan Beh

Senior Sophia Flumerfelt will be traveling to Brazil next year to experience a new culture.

Jason Kang, Staff Writer

With the year winding down, a large majority of BSM’s senior class will move on to pursue a new academic path at college next fall. However, this is not the case for a small number of seniors like Sophia Flumerfelt and Michelle Doyle who are taking a gap year to further enrich their global perspective by experiencing a new culture. By studying abroad in both Brazil and Europe, these two seniors will have the chance to encounter a whole new environment and meet new people before returning to college the following year.

Sophia Flumerfelt
Traveling to Brazil

After graduating from BSM this spring, senior Sophia Flumerfelt will travel to Brazil to participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. After watching her brother, Sam, spend a gap year in Cremona, Italy through the program, Flumerfelt did not hesitated to do the same. “I’ve always kept this Rotary Exchange Program in the back of my mind, and seeing the great things that Sam did during his year abroad solidified my decision,” Flumerfelt said.

The Rotary Youth Exchange Program, which began during the 1940’s, trains young adults to become positive ambassadors and travel to different countries. With 126 nations involved in the program, Flumerfelt attended mandatory outbound sessions with other exchange students from Minnesota and outside the U.S. “The selection process is very thorough and intensive. I applied [last] September and was notified of my acceptance in December,” Flumerfelt said.

I know I’m going to miss home, but the best thing I can do to fight homesickness is turn off my computer, go outside and be with people”

— Sophia Flumerfelt

The Flumerfelts have been involved with the program not only through Sophia and Sam but also with other members of the family. Sophia’s cousin participated in the Rotary Program in Argentina, and both of her aunts spent a year in Philippines and Brazil. “It was an easy choice for us to say ‘yes’ to Rotary’s selection of Brazil for her because [it] has a solid exchange program that includes orientation sessions to prepare the ‘outbound’ students for their exchange year,” Mrs. Stephanie Flumerfelt, Sophia’s mother said.

Even with the excitement of immersing herself in the Brazilian lifestyle, Flumerfelt expects to face many challenges throughout her exchange program. By learning Portuguese, spoken by 99 percent of people in Brazil, she prepares herself for the new experience. “Speaking Portuguese is pretty much like singing a song. I know I’m going to miss home, but the best thing I can do to fight homesickness is turn off my computer, go outside and be with people,” Flumerfelt said.

After spending a year in Brazil, Flumerfelt plans to begin her freshman year in college in the fall of 2014. Having already applied to different colleges, she expects to come back to the US with an enhanced perspective and priorities in her life. “I’ve heard that coming back from your exchange year is harder than leaving for it, but I guess I can’t speak so soon without experiencing that yet,” Flumerfelt said.

With five other kids from Minnesota participating in the Rotary Program, Flumerfelt will leave in the end of July to the state of Paraná near the southern tip of Brazil. Staying with three families throughout the year, Flumerfelt hopes to meet new people and experience Brazilian education. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity, and I will definitely make the most of it and be a good representative of the U.S.,” Flumerfelt said.

Michelle Doyle
Seeking time abroad

To continue studying French and searching for unique opportunities abroad, BSM senior Michelle Doyle plans to take a gap year and travel to different French-speaking countries after graduating from BSM this summer.“The biggest factor that drew me in was that I could explore a passion I had for French to see if that is really what I want to study in college,” Doyle said.

While many of her classmates struggled to pick from universities in the U.S,, Doyle seeks flexibility from taking a gap year and intends to focus more on her French education. “I am planning to take a couple of French classes, maybe get a French internship, [and] work with a private tutor to improve my writing and reading skills for college,” Doyle said.

Yet unsure of her gap year attraction, Doyle plans to travel to different countries to learn more about the French culture and enrich her perspective on the world. “If I were to study in France, I am considering staying with my host sister from BSM’s 2012 Spring French trip. I see next year as an exciting adventure that will open me up to different opportunities and adventures that are waiting to be discovered,” Doyle said.

In addition, Doyle intends to take her gap year to better prepare herself for college. “I was just going to enjoy my senior year .Taking a gap year will affect my future because I will go into college more confident with knowing what I want to study [and] get to go explore the world. I will be able to have a more open mind,” Doyle said.