The following blog post was written by Bridge Year Fellow, Sonia Rao.

In-between.

That’s where I am right now. I’m sitting in my childhood bedroom, staring at bright pink walls I begged my parents to paint when I was seven years old. Stuffed animals on my bookshelves I never had the heart to give away. I just got back from a summer internship in Virginia, and in a week, I’m headed on a plane to my next stop – an isolated bed and breakfast in Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, my friends have started classes at UNC. They’re getting lunch at Med Deli and studying on the quad. They’re sitting in the Daily Tar Heel office on a Tuesday night with Linda’s tots. They’re playing frisbee on Hooker fields.

A few months ago, I wrote a column for The Daily Tar Heel about why I wanted – no, needed – a bridge year. I was tired and burned out from work and school. I didn’t want to do another COVID-19 semester. I needed a break.

That year seems like it was an eternity ago. Now, as I write this blog post, it’s hard to remember all the reasons I needed a gap year in the first place. Staying at my parent’s house thirty minutes away from Chapel Hill, catching up with friends, it’s easier to remember what I’m missing out on by taking one.

So I’m taking this as an opportunity to remind myself.

I have all the time in the world to go back to school, study at Davis Library, go to concerts at Cat’s Cradle, rush Franklin Street when UNC wins a basketball game. When’s the next time I’ll be able to travel for a year with no other commitments or responsibilities? This world is so big and I’ve seen so little of it. I’m so lucky to have the time and resources to explore it.

And a bridge year gives me an extra year to figure it out – school, life, everything else.

Between classes, work, and everything in between, I haven’t had time to stop and think in a while. These past few weeks at home have let me hit the “pause” button, and I’ve used this new free space in my brain to look introspectively. Every day, new questions fill my mind: Will I be lonely? How will I make friends? Am I making a mistake? What will I do? Where will I go? Will my friends still remember me when I get back? Will I be different? Will they be different? Who will I become?

So much of my identity is built off being a college student, a journalist, someone who’s lived in North Carolina her whole life, etc.

Who am I if I’m not any of these things?

I don’t know yet. I can’t wait to continue to hit “pause” for the rest of the year and find out.