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Gap year leads budding writer to Rochester

August 30, 2018
Olivia AlgerAfter graduating from high school, Olivia Alger ’22 decided college could wait. She worked in a hotel, taught refugee children in France, lived above a bakery, and wrote for a literary magazine. Now she joins the Class of 2022. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Olivia Alger ’22 spent three years attending the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, 350 miles from home. When she graduated two years ago, she decided college could wait.

“I thought some time off would make for a good adventure,” says Alger, who studied creative writing at the academy.

She moved home to Lake Bluff, a Chicago suburb, worked at a hotel for several months, then contacted an organization that sponsors young Americans’ volunteer work abroad during gap years. She spent three months in the south of France teaching elementary school students and refugees.

“I lived with a nice lady in her apartment above a bakery, and I was constantly learning and experiencing new things,” she says. “I met people from around the world, and my horizons were expanded immensely.”

Upon returning home, she worked for an online literary magazine and began applying to colleges.

“I’d heard about Rochester from a lot of my friends at boarding school who were headed to the Eastman School of Music,” she says. “My counselor also thought Rochester would be a place where I could dive deeply into what I’m passionate about.”

Once Alger applied and visited the River Campus, she knew this was the place for her.

“I felt very centered and comfortable, like the twisted detour I took had paid off,” she says.

Alger plans to major in English, with a creative writing track.

“I’ve been passionate about writing since first grade,” she says. “Our teacher gave us an assignment, and I thought, ‘This is kind of fun.’ And by middle school, I was aware that this could be a profession. I love writing. I think all of us have unique stories.”

Alger feels her three years at the arts academy helped prepare her for college life.

“Living with other people in an international environment, and learning how to share space, will really make this transition easier,” she says. “My goal is to get to know my class really well, foster relationships, and be part of a community.”

Alger’s hobbies include long walks—“even in the cold,” she says—and making playlists of music ranging from jazz and hip hop to reggae. She hopes to become involved in student government at the College and would love to join writing clubs, and perhaps the Campus Times student newspaper.

“There’s a lot I want to explore,” she says. “I’m ready to get started.”

Let the new chapter begin.


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