Mar 182012
Authors: Emily Smith

After spring break, while most students are getting ready for the last stretch of the semester and signing up for Fall classes, Sarah Hamilton is planning a solo journey around South America.

On Aug. 8, the sophomore international studies major and pre-med student will board a plane with a one-way ticket to Guatemala. She plans to take at least one year off to travel the continent.

“I’m planning on traveling from Guatemala to Argentina by foot and bus,” Hamilton said. “No plane rides except the first and the last.”

Hamilton also wants to spend a few months in Peru, and plans on, “moving slowly through each country.”

“I want to volunteer in each country, trek and hang out with the locals,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton made this decision because she is unsure about what she wants to do with school.

“The only thing I do know is I want to travel and be fluent in Spanish,” Hamilton said. “So I thought, why not now? I’m going to regret it if I don’t go.”

Hamilton said many people wonder if she is concerned about traveling alone.

“It’s hard not to be nervous,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know what I’m going to run into.”

Despite her nerves, Hamilton said she wanted to travel precisely because of the “unknown-ness” of it all.

“I’ll be throwing myself into a challenging situation,” Hamilton said, “where I have to speak another language and not be comfortable with my surroundings.”

The Center for Advising and Student Achievement (CASA) reaches out to and supports students like Hamilton who take time off and return to CSU, according to Madlyn D’Andrea, director of advising for undeclared students.

“Jobs are harder to find,” D’Andrea said. “And many people want to finish their degree.”

D’Andrea said CASA does not currently have a way of tracking the number of students who take time off and return to CSU.

Bethany Siekmeier, junior liberal arts major and Spanish minor, spent a year-and-a-half traveling to Europe, Asia and South America after high school.

Siekmeier started out in Switzerland and Cambodia with Christian organization Youth With a Mission, and eventually travelled to Mexico City, Guatemala and Ecuador with her brother.

“I felt like I was not ready to commit to going to school,” Siekmeier said. “I wanted to do something different and experience things I’d never experienced.”

Siekmeier said everyone should take some time off.

“The biggest part was I learned who I was. I needed to do that before college,” Siekmeier said. “I think people should think a lot more about it (college) than they do. I didn’t want to just waste that privilege.”

Collegian writer Emily Smith can be reached at

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