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While most of her graduating class was registering for classes, Nursing freshman Sari Leventhal was registering for food stamps.

Leventhal, who took a gap year before entering college to work, is one of a number of Penn students who choose to do so each year in preparation for “the real world,” as she said.

Leventhal joined AmeriCorps’ City Year program in Boston. City Year corps members work with students in urban public schools for a stipend that works out to about $200 per week — forcing Leventhal and many of her colleagues to sign up for food stamps in order to feed themselves.

Leventhal is one of approximately 60 students who defer entry to Penn each year in order to pursue work, travel or study and gain exposure to life beyond college, according to Dean of Admissions Eric Furda.

Like Leventhal, College freshman Jonathan Walsh took a gap year in order to gain work experience and get the chance to see more of the world before beginning college.

Walsh spent last year working for an English-language newspaper in Jakarta, Indonesia, as well as a hedge fund in New York.

“I think it’s good that I got experience in two completely different fields,” he said. “Though I’m not sure I’ll end up doing either.”

College freshman Michael Lautman, who was concerned about not being “emotionally ready” for college, took a gap year in order to gain perspective on education and see what it was like to work.

After a year studying film in New York, becoming a ski instructor in Canada, studying martial arts in China and working in a sandwich shop to help finance his travels, Lautman said he feels closer to what he wants to do in life, though that “still isn’t very well-defined.”

While Leventhal gained “a lot of respect” for teachers over the course of the year, she is not planning on becoming a teacher herself. Instead, Leventhal’s favorite part of working for City Year was working with students outside of a classroom setting.

“Teachers touch students in very different ways,” she said. “They have to get through the math curriculum and don’t have time to take on the other things their students are facing.”

Still, between hour-long commutes, financial independence and cooking for herself, Leventhal said she found her experience to be good preparation for life after college.

In addition to preparing him for the job market after college, Walsh said working with older colleagues has helped him relate to his professors better.

Working long hours, six days a week, also helped to improve his work ethic, he added.

Lautman said increased focus is one of the most important things he gained from his gap year, noting that his experiences helped him put into perspective why he wants to go to college, which allows him to take more enjoyment in his studies.

“Having stepped outside academia, I know the meaning of college and of studying — the ‘why’ of why I’m here,” he said. “Without the reason why, you can never really be passionate.”

Working for City Year has likewise helped Leventhal appreciate Penn more.

“City Year is interesting in that everything you did was not for you,” Leventhal said. “It’s for your students and your teammates. College is really different. The majority of what you do is for yourself.”

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