During his gap year, Jesse Newton ’18 learned to work with his hands.
“I wanted some time off from school, I wanted some time to reflect,” he said.
Newton skipped the New England winter, flying to the southern hemisphere in February. He spent three months in New Zealand working on several different family farms across the south island.

“I was traveling alone. I didn’t really have a strict itinerary of what I was doing, but it was a good feeling,” Newton said.

He enjoyed the freedom and independence of his experience, learning about sheep farming and beekeeping. For Newton, his time spent with a family of beekeepers was most memorable. For three weeks, he and the family roamed through the New Zealand bush, collecting 100-pound boxes of honey.

“It’s the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen, and I come from Vermont,” he said.
Newton said the labor was hard and repetitive, especially in the 100-degree weather with the constant threat of bee stings. He also had to wear protective gear resembling a hazmat suit.

“My suit was very, very old and it actually ripped a few times and suddenly quite a few bees were stinging me,” he said.

Even with the intense heat, the beekeepers rehydrated with hot afternoon tea. 
“I could not understand the rationale, but apparently it hydrates you better than a cooler substance,” Newton said.

Although the work was hard, the rewards were very sweet. Newton recounted an afternoon spent in the bee house putting frames of honey into the extractor machine. He said the air was filled with the warm and intoxicating scent of honey.

“I don’t have a wicked sweet tooth, but it’s fantastic. It’s the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted,” Newton said.

The particular kind of honey he helped to produce is called Manuka honey. Produced exclusively in Australia and New Zealand, it is valued for its antibacterial properties. Because of the benefits, Newton said he could guiltlessly dip his fingers in the vats of honey.

“I hate to use this expression, but I have never been that high on sugar,” Newton said.
Once he returned home to Vermont, Newton worked full-time as a carpenter with his father. They built an entire barn from start to finish while also repairing and building cabinets and tables.

Newton said of his dad, “He likes to restore historic buildings from the 18th and 19th century using techniques that these people would have used and the materials that would have been available to them.”

Since coming to Bowdoin, Newton has worked to get his academic muscles back in shape. After taking two years off from math, multivariable calculus has been a particular struggle. 

Finding his place in Bowdoin’s social scene has also been somewhat difficult, as his gap year has caused him to feel somewhat disconnected from his peers. However, Newton has found a home on Bowdoin’s crew team.

“It was probably one of the better decisions I’ve made since being here,” he said.
Although he barely has time to sleep with his busy schedule, Newton has found sweet satisfaction back at Bowdoin.