Considering taking a gap year? WiTech founder Audrey Pe has some tips on making it meaningful and productive

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Wanting to educate, inspire, and empower the youth to break gender barriers in technology, Audrey Pe founded the non-profit group Women in Technology, or WiTech. In just a few years, the organization has expanded to hundreds of youth members in four countries. And all of this while Audrey was juggling assignments and activities as a high school student in Manila.

With her impressive resume and forward-thinking plans, it was no surprise that she landed a coveted acceptance to Stanford University in California. It is easy to get caught up with achieving such a feat early on, wanting to hit the ground running, but Audrey took a moment to reflect on what she had on her plate. Instead of matriculating last year, the WiTech founder made the “unconventional” choice of taking a gap year.

I say “unconventional” because that is the polite way a lot of people from older generations would describe a gap year as. But how unconventional is it really?

As young people tend to favor experiences over material possessions, more and more students are considering taking a year off their academics to gain life experiences and skills that they feel will serve them well. For those who have the privilege of taking a gap year, especially with so much uncertainty going on in the field of education amidst the pandemic, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle talked to Audrey about how to make a gap year meaningful and productive.

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Audrey Pe at Stanford University / Photo from Instagram/AudreyIsabelPe

Why did you decide to take a gap year?

The decision to go on a gap year was centered around working on WiTech. During high school, my time was split between non-profit management and academics. This led to many sleep-deprived days during my senior year and the realization that if I didn’t take time off before heading to college in order to focus on WiTech, I could potentially burn out.

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Photo from Instagram/AudreyIsabelPe

Was it hard to convince your parents to let you do a gap year?

Definitely not! My parents were very open-minded and saw that I’d use a year before college productively. I’m so grateful for their support because without it I don’t think I wouldn’t have ended up pursuing my gap year and enjoying it as much as I did.

What were your top three experiencing during your gap year?

First was attending the world’s biggest tech conference, Websummit, in Portugal. Second was being able to give talks at places like the ASEAN Young Entrepreneurs Carnival in Bangkok and the TEDxXavierSchool. And third is spending more time with my parents before heading to university across the world.

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Audrey Pe speaking at the ASEAN Young Entrepreneurs Carnival in Bangkok / Photo from Instagram/AudreyIsabelPe

What advice do you have for students who are deciding whether to take a gap year?

This is a tricky question because I think that taking a gap year really depends on one’s circumstances. Some general advice that I can give is that it’s important to be really self-motivated when taking a year off before college. You need to have the responsibility and drive to structure your time well and hold yourself accountable. In my case, that meant creating a Google document with all the months in my gap year and adding bullet points to indicate goals or events I had planned out.

Another important tip is to also remember that it’s okay if things don’t go as planned! What’s crucial is that you adapt to the challenges faced and make the most out of the time and resources you have. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have previously gapped and, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, find a support system of other gap year students online to connect with. That way, you can all motivate each other!

How does someone make his or her gap year meaningful?

Personally, my gap year was meaningful because it was geared towards the specific goal of making as much impact with the non-profit I founded before heading to university. My year was dedicated towards giving my 100 percent to WiTech before having to split my time between WiTech and Stanford upon starting my freshman year. If you have an overall goal that you want to pursue, or something you want to continue, but feel like you didn’t have enough time in high school, I’d highly recommend taking a gap year.

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Screenshot of a WiTech Manila 2020-2021 team call with over 95 new members / Photo from Instagram/AudreyIsabelPe

Audrey Pe is currently a freshman at Stanford University. She is the founder and executive director of WiTech. @audreyisabelpe

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