Despite having what she calls “three different life plans” for herself when she left Bosque three years ago, Zoe van Nortwick knew she wasn’t quite ready for college after graduation.
Goucher College, Prescott College, and Cornish College of the Arts were all schools to which she had been accepted. She’d even decided the courses of study she would explore once she got to one of these schools: Environmental Studies at Goucher, Adventure Education at Prescott, or Technical Director and Theater Design at Cornish. “I deferred originally to Goucher,” she said. But when it came time to go, “I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t want to go.”
So after a talk with her parents and their agreement to support her decision, she decided to take a gap year. “(But) my parents said I had to have a plan; I couldn’t just stop,” she said.
The gap year, which she now calls the best decision of her life, took her to France for a short-term exchange program followed by an additional two months which she spent traveling around Europe. When she returned, she worked a crew job with the New Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra. And when she wasn’t working, she was climbing. “I climbed everyday,” she said. “Climbed and worked for the full year.”
When spring rolled around again, Zoe’s mom encouraged her to apply to Ft. Lewis College; she was accepted and by August had moved into the dorms and declared Adventure Education as her major. “It was very quick and tumbled right into place,” recalled Zoe.
Now in her third year at Ft. Lewis, Zoe is making plans for when she graduates with a BA in Adventure Education, which she expects will be in either 2020 or 2021.
Zoe said that in the short term she’d love to work as a field instructor for Deer Hill Expeditions, a teen adventure program she participated in as a student at Bosque. Her long-term plans include working for an experiential, education-based school like High Mountain Institute. HMI focuses on educating teenagers through interaction with the natural world. Or maybe, Zoe said, owning her own business one day. “I added (Business Administration as a minor) in case I ever wanted to start my own company in that outdoor trend,” she said.
The path she’s on today is one she never thought possible and may not have discovered had she not taken that gap year.
“I’ve always loved being outdoors but never thought that I would do this...that it was a thing I could do,” Zoe said. “Knowing now that I can, it’s kind of life-changing. It’s shown me how many more doors there are to so many different things. You don’t have to be a guide, an instructor...you can be a (wilderness) therapist. I don’t think so many people realize that. Go for the classics? No! There are so many new majors. There are so many new avenues that people need to know exist.”
And when she’s not studying, outdoors is where you’ll find her. Zoe’s currently a ski instructor, in her second season, at Purgatory. It’s work she loves.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “It’s so cool. I work with “never-evers,” people who have never put skis on in their life! And what’s really cool is you get these people who don’t know the right boot from the left; but by the time we’re finished with the lesson, they’re out there skiing or riding the lift!”
Zoe said this spring she’ll work toward getting her Level 1 PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) certification.