On the first day of May, many of the members of the senior class at HHS wore shirts with the name of the school they will attend next fall and hung pieces of paper with their names and school crests in the main hallway.
Not Chloe Londoño-Ayr.
Wearing a shirt that reads, “It’s Colombia, not Columbia,” she snapped pictures in the courtyard with her friends even though she is prepared to “experience something different” next year, as she said.
Next September, Londoño-Ayr will move to the South American country of Colombia to live with her Abuelita. She will be staying in the city of Medellin, located in a valley between two mountains. There is a lot of smog but it is “absolutely beautiful,” Londoño-Ayr said. “I love it there.”
The idea to take a gap year came during her sophomore year when, “me, my mom, and my dad, all had the same realization that I could go live in Colombia for a year,” said Londoño-Ayr in an email. After she went through the college application process with her peers but was not thrilled with any of her acceptances, the gap year seemed like the best route to take.
She also cited readiness for college as a reason to take a break for a year. She said that everyone is following the same path and is “overworked [and] overstressed,” so a gap year would give her time to recharge and mature before pursuing a degree.
Londoño-Ayr also hopes to gain from the cultural immersion she will experience while in Colombia. She plans to enroll at a local college to take intermediate Spanish classes, and at home she will only be allowed to speak Spanish with her Abuelita.
Londoño-Ayr is confident that improving her Spanish will benefit her in her desired field, healthcare. By the end, “I should be fluent,” she said.
Physical, as well as intellectual improvement is a goal of Londoño-Ayr’s while in Colombia. She will practice twice a week with a men’s field hockey team and compete with them on weekends.
She first worked with the team on a previous trip to Colombia, when she needed a way to stay in shape for her high school field hockey while she was away. Her dad found a team that practices right down the road from her Abuelita’s house, and she will join them again next year.
“They were so embracing,” said Londoño-Ayr. Because “Chloe” is not a Spanish name, “they call me ‘la nina’,” which means “the girl.”
Most of the men are in their twenties and thirties. Field hockey is a relatively new sport in Colombia, so while most of them are faster than she, her stick skills are on par with theirs.
Londoño-Ayr hopes that playing with them will improve her endurance and allow her to continue her love for the game while she is in Colombia.
Service will also play a role in her experience, hopes Londono-Ayr. She has an aunt who works at a daycare in the city for single mothers. Colombia has had an influx of people recently due to the issues in Venezuela, and Londoño-Ayr thinks she can help those who come to the daycare.
“Little kids will be forgiving if my Spanish is horrible,” she said. She may also try to volunteer in a city hospital to gain experience for a future medical career.
On her third visit to Colombia, Londoño-Ayr believes she will feel comfortable with her surroundings but is worried that she will have a hard time making friends. “In college you’re surrounded with people your age…I’m going to have to put myself out there,” she said.
In terms of college, Londoño-Ayr plans to tour more U.S. schools over the summer and then apply next fall while she is in Colombia. She said she will likely send applications to a mix of both new schools and schools that she previously applied to.
Londoño-Ayr is unsure of exactly what aspect of healthcare she wants to pursue in college, but she is certain of one thing: her desire to have more global experiences.
She has considered spending four years at a university in Spain, but she said, “if I don’t go to an international school, I’ll definitely study abroad.”
These plans of language, sports, and service will be on Londoño-Ayr’s mind for her last few months in Holliston before she departs on a journey that she hopes will be an impactful experience in her life.