Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time Out: College Kids Take a Break

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time Out: College Kids Take a Break

Article excerpt

BY the end of freshman year at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, Heather Marlow was burned out and disillusioned.

College had turned out to be just another version of high school, homogeneous and highly competitive. At the same time, the new variety of choices available to her made it all the more confusing.

She wanted out. For a while.

Promising her dumbstruck parents that she would return to school at some point, Marlow proceeded to exit the academic route for a year and a half and strike out by herself on some less traveled byways.

She helped build a health clinic in the Dominican Republic. She researched an environmental show for CNN in Atlanta. She volunteered for a public-health project in Guanajuato, Mexico.

As a volunteer, many of her expenses were paid. She and her parents split the other costs. The first two projects were arranged by the Center for Interim Programs, a fee-based program in Cambridge, Mass. The third was a project of the Houston-based Amigos de las Americas.

At first, "We were shocked and panicked," her mother, Elaine, says. "My background was, you went in freshman year and four years later you graduated." As it turned out, she says, "It was the best thing that could have happened to her. Actually, it's a very brave thing to do."

In 1990, fewer than one-third of college graduates made it through within four years. While this situation worries some parents and educators, others, like Cornelius Bull, president of the Center for Interim Programs, urge students to take a break.

Interim matches students (as well as adults of any age) with situations that interest them worldwide. Bull says some of his students are building houses in Canada, working in a bird sanctuary in California, tagging turtles in Maryland and building guitars in Maine.

"Eighteen is a ridiculous age to be in college," Bull says. At that age, very few have the wisdom, perspective or experience to fully appreciate what they're being taught, he says. …

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