At first glance, senior Hannah Fritz seems no different than any other Lewis & Clark student. What can’t be seen though, is the life experience she has under her belt.
By Althea Billings /// Features Editor
Unlike a traditional student, Fritz did not go straight from high school into college. For four years, she was a member of the Oregon Ballet Theater Company. College was not in her plans.
“I didn’t want to take the SATs, I didn’t want to do any of it… maybe one day when I’m way older. In my mind way older was like in my mid-thirties, which is like when a dance career ends, if it’s a long dance career,” Fritz said.
Originally from the Bay Area, Fritz’s parents didn’t force college as her next step after high school.
“My family wanted me to look at colleges and check that out as an option, but they were also really supportive of my decision to join a dance company.”
Flash forward a few years, and Fritz broke her foot. In spite of this, she danced on it for another year, until she came to a realization.
“That was when I realized that I was giving more of myself to it than it was giving to me, and it didn’t really feel like an equal partnership,” Fritz said.
Being a ballet dancer is very physically taxing, and for Fritz, it was emotionally demanding as well.
“It’s not a forgiving place… The thing that’s really hard about it is that your main competition are your best friends and so it’s really hard to feel settled in it,” she said. “There’s also a sense of being one of a group, which is great, that camaraderie is wonderful, but there’s also a sort of loss of self in it, that I had a particularly difficult time with.”
Fritz found herself wanting more, intellectually.
“Ballet does require quite a bit of memorization and intelligence, but it’s not the same as being plugged into an intellectual scene like college is,” Fritz said.
Armed with this, and her lifelong love of and inclination towards working with children, Fritz decided it was time to go back to school. Originally she intended to pursue a pre-medical major, with the eventual goal of opening a naturopathic practice.
At 22 years old, she began attending Portland State University (PSU), but it wasn’t a place that would serve her long term.
“I found it frustrating that I wasn’t able to connect with any of my professors…I was taking first year chemistry courses and there were 700 people in my class… it didn’t suit me. ”
Fritz then came to LC with many general education requirements fulfilled, ready to pursue a new interest that would take her through the rest of her college career, psychology. With her degree, Fritz intends to pursue a career in the field of social work.
Despite being older than many of her classmates, at 26 years old, Fritz doesn’t feel that the biggest difference between herself and others is age.
“More than my age what I think makes a difference is having had other life experience in between; having lived on my own for a number of years…. I’ve had serious relationships between high school and coming to college, I had a really rigorous career,” Fritz said. “I’m really motivated to be here. I really want to be here, enough that I made big life changes to be here and I think that’s something that has definitely shaped my experience.”
Since she made her own way to college, Fritz feels the gravity of the opportunity that college provides.
“My motivation is coming from me. My parents were not telling me that I needed to go to school… that decision did not come from them, it was internally driven, and so when I came back to school I felt this was my decision, this is my life,” Fritz said.
What Fritz gained in her years between high school and college was more than just experience, she also gained a strong sense of self, and and appreciation of what a gap year can do for newly-minted adults.
“I think there’s a growing awareness that taking a gap year or two might be a really good thing for young people coming out of high school,” Fritz said. “Maybe going straight through isn’t the right thing for everybody. Maybe college in and of itself isn’t the right thing for every body. Everybody should be able to come at it from whatever path leads them to it naturally.”
Though she has left the professional ballet world behind, Fritz reflects positively on her time as a ballerina, and what that experience has given her.
“The work ethic that’s drilled into you from a young age is something that I don’t think that you can learn anywhere else. The performance of it is so liberating and wonderful…It’s a mode of self expression that’s really unlike any other,” Fritz said. “If something hard is going to scare you, you’re not going to make it in ballet.”