“Of course the world of work begins to become – threatens to become – our only world, to the exclusion of all else. The demands of the working world grow ever more total, grasping ever more completely the whole of human existence.”
– Joseph Pieper in Leisure, the Basis of Culture
Author Personal Insight & Bias
I have to admit. I’m biased. As a research editor, I get the privilege of studying and writing about many topics, all of which I believe will help young men and women navigate this dusty globe on the journey we call life. However, some topics I’m more passionate about than others, especially those I’ve personally experienced; add to that anything involving thinking more humanely, globally, and reflectively and it’s something I can really get behind. Naturally, then, I highly recommend a Gap year as I’ve had some amazing experiences. Throughout this article, beware of my bias because I’m convinced that, engaged in for the right reasons with wise consideration and preparation, Gap years can set a life on fire.
(A Brief History)
- A Gap year is time taken off, usually pertaining to the time after high school before going to college that involves volunteering, work, or travel for the intention self-improvement in college and life-beyond. Other terms used to denote the same idea are: bridge year, interim year, and sabbatical.
- According to the Center for Interim Programs , one of the oldest and most trusted organizations for Gap year know-how, information, and counseling, says, “A Gap year can be taken after high school, during college, or at any break between life’s major chapters. It is for anyone, at any age. A Gap year does not mean that one has to plan a full year of activities. Individuals may take a summer, semester, six months, or even more than a year of Gap time.”
- The history of Gap years actually extends back to the 1970’s in the UK, where students were encouraged in the seven to eight month break between high school and college to travel internationally. The idea of the Gap year came to the United States in the 1980’s through Cornelius H. Bull with what were called “Interim Years.” He founded the Center for Interim Programs, now run by his daughter Holly Bull. This time off concept has since grown and developed, morphed and altered into, taking the British term, the “Gap year.” More and more articles, studies, high schools, and colleges are promoting the Gap year. According to the American Gap Association, the most famous article on the Gap year was, and is, “Time Out or Burn Out” by William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions at Harvard. The article essentially sheds light on the extreme pressure on young people to perform, to choose the “right” college, etc. to the exclusion of rest, leisure, and reflective time – hence, the Gap year. All in all, the idea is not new, as sabbaticals have been common for a long time, but with the increasing changes in our society, participation in Gap years is increasing.
- Gap years are popular in other countries: Australia, Belgium, Japan, Nigeria, South Africa, Denmark, and others. According the American Gap Association, 30,000 to 40,000 students in the United States take a Gap year. In 2015, the percentage of students taking Gap years increased 22 percent over the previous year. Gap years are also catching on in many universities and some have financial aid available. Statistics are showing that universities are responding to a demand. At UNC, participants in the Global Gap year Fellowship are granted $7,500 to develop their own six-month service experience. Princeton’s Bridge Year is a nine-month tuition-free program that places small groups at sites in five countries – Brazil, China, India, Peru and Senegal – to do service projects. Beginning in the fall of 2015, Tufts’ 1+4 program is aimed at democratizing the Gap experience. “When we looked at our own data in terms of students who have deferred admission to take a Gap year on their own, they are disproportionately self-paying,” says Alan Solomont, dean of Tufts’ Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. “We want to make sure students who need financial assistance aren’t precluded, so we’ll provide aid.” (Click here for full article)
“Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.”
-Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture
Top Overall Reasons
Refocus and Refresh
We as a species need rest – biologically, emotionally, and psychologically. To be fully human requires leisure – not mere entertainment – but time and space to not work and achieve, but to rest and reflect. We must rest to refocus and refresh. The obsessive character of the workaholic threatens to take over all of life, and when that happens, life becomes servile. We are creatures that need to wonder, to awe, to be inspired through contemplation and the beauty of ordinary things. Both scientific studies and anecdotal evidence tell us that the number one reason and benefit of taking a Gap year is to take a break from the rigor and routine of school life in order to reflect, explore, learn, and enjoy life in a different way. (For more, check out this article about taking breaks.)
People who take breaks, including Gappers, are more productive because of it. “There is a lot of research that says we have a limited pool of cognitive resources,” says Allison Gabriel, an Assistant Professor of Management at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies job demands and employee motivation. “When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.” The myriads of studies on work productivity and breaks are ubiquitous, suffice it to say, the research is solid and continues to grow that “Gappers” return to do better academically.
Language and Culture
Experiencing a different culture can be scary and enlightening. Taking a Gap year to travel, work, or volunteer in another culture can transform minds. For me, I went on a mission trip to Mexico and experienced culture shock. To see poverty firsthand, drive on congested roads, not have running and clean water, not shower every day, while being asked to be cheerful forced me to recognize many realities. I gained a tremendous appreciation for the local people and their joy. I saw how dependent my culture and I are on material things for happiness. I came back grateful. I came back aware of a world much bigger than my own. All this would not have happened if I stayed home. In addition to understanding the interconnected world more and appreciating what we have, learning another culture and language can open up many new opportunities.
Power Up on Life Skills
A Gap year forces one to grow up in new ways. When I traveled to Europe I was forced to adapt, learn quickly, be decisive, make friends, and take responsibility (especially financially). All of these life skills developed more away from the regular routine because I was put in situations I’d never been in. Necessity is the mother of invention, and if all we do is seek comfort, we’ll stunt our personal development. As for Gappers’ testimonies and research, personal growth is on the top of reported benefits. All in all, to take a Gap year is to be challenged in ways you never dreamed – and with that come failures and successes, and, should you choose to learn from those experiences, a huge power up on life skills.
Go Global on Perspective
Our world is shrinking and flattening out. We are becoming more and more connected through technology, especially communication technology. In light of this, it stands to reason we adapt our thinking about ourselves and our future. In my 15 years of teaching, I have found that young men and women want to make a difference in the world for the good. This is a another top reason why to consider a Gap year. Some Gappers develop important relationships and networking that pays dividends later in life, through college and beyond. The advantages of thinking and acting globally are beyond quantification.
Enrich the Resume
Traveling to Southeast Asia, volunteering in Latin America, working with a medical unit in Africa, or any number of local Gap year options look great on a resume. As a former administrator who hired teachers, any experiences that showed me who the person was, beyond the typical degree and work experience, were what set people apart. Consider this – who is more hirable? Two people, same age, degree, and work experience, but one is bilingual because she volunteered with the Sisters of Charity in India. The fact is, employers are looking for individuals who are willing to take risks, who are skilled, creative, and experienced in real world situations.
Make Memories that Last a Lifetime
Seeing the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum where gladiators fought, the Rodin museum, and the beautiful picturesque Alps are mental photographs that don’t fade. My time in Europe was not all easy, and it took lots of planning, preparation, money, and plenty of adapting along the way, but it remains to this day my greatest memory. For others, their time working with poor people in an urban center locally or internationally, or a mission trip stick out as their best memories. We all need moments that we have, memories we hold, to inspire us and give us hope as we embark on this voyage of life.
Research Backs Up the Benefits
Research demonstrates the amazing benefits of a Gap year. Those who take a Gap year have higher GPA’s, higher graduation rate, are more hirable, have a higher job satisfaction, greater understanding of peoples and cultures, greater sense of direction for choosing majors in college, and are more mature in life (see major studies in detail here). Read more about the research on the benefits of Gap years below.
Eye-Witness Testimony is Huge
Firstly, I can give my own testimony – taking a Gap year can change your life (see more at the bottom of the article). It changed my perspective, challenged me personally, and grew my appreciation of culture, art, history, and nature. There are countless testimonies all saying similar things, but here are two gathered from the American Gap Association.
Recent Cornell University grad Wes Cornell says his year doing scientific research shaped his academic focus. In Costa Rica, he researched the health care of workers at coffee farms through Duke University’s Organization for Tropical Studies. He completed a program on sustainable development and tropical ecology with an environmental study abroad organization. Wes interned with the Colombia Nature Conservancy in Cartagena, and researched viral pathways at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
At Cornell, where he studied ecology and agriculture policy, he noticed classmates struggling to find themselves. “Having had time off, I was able to figure out what really interested me,” he says. (Click here to see full article.)
“I’m really glad I took a Gap year, not just because I had amazing experiences, but because I feel like it gave me a better perspective going into college, prepared me for living away from home, trying new things I might not be comfortable with, and learning from every experience no matter how successful the outcome.
I am so happy with my decision to take a Gap year. When I graduated high school I was burnt out, and didn’t have the grades to get into my college of choice. Even if I had gotten into that college, if I had gone right away, I believe my value of education would still have been low and I would have gotten bad grades. Instead I was so excited to start college a year later, and had so much more motivation to study hard and truly valued my education. I believe that more students should participate in a Gap year.”
From a parent:
“This program provides a wonderful opportunity for the student who is looking for an alternative to just another year in college. My son, Derek, learned considerably more about himself, other cultures, languages, & independent travel in the past year than I could possibly imagine. He is now more focused & passionate about what is important to him. This has been the best experience of his life!”
Top 5 Reasons NOT to Take a Gap Year
Let’s now think about why NOT to take a Gap year. As a teacher, coach, and school administrator I’ve had many discussions with students about college, what to do after high school, and if time off should be taken. Invariably and undoubtedly, I could tell which students would be successful (and by successful I mean Aristotelian excellence). Students with high expectations and strong work ethic generally succeed. Many parents fear their son or daughter won’t return to college after a Gap year. This is not a good reason to NOT go because 90 percent of students return to college within a year of taking a Gap year.
So, if considering a Gap year here’s the Top 5 Reasons NOT to.
To have a pain-free, work-free, financially-free get-away.
The idea of a Gap year is not to check out of responsibility and consume life, especially on someone else’s dime. That would do the opposite of growing in virtue. The reality is Gap years take work, intention, sacrifice, and determination. The planning involved in traveling internationally the right way can be quite difficult and time-consuming. It would be a bad reason to Gap it for this reason and would lead many difficulties and disappointments.
To have fun partying in another country.
Socializing at a young age in an environment with little accountability is hardly a recipe for success. Though many travel, not all do, so to think of Gap years as merely “traveling for fun” is simply not accurate. The thing to remember, though, is that Gap years are for a purpose. The purpose is to take time off in order to grow!
To have no more responsibility.
The desire to “just not be in classrooms and have homework” is strong. With the added pressure from well-intentioned parents and adults, it’s understandable to want relief. Though this desire is one of the reasons for taking a Gap year, having it as the sole reason would be a mistake; it is only rational if responsibility is not abandoned. The idea of a Gap year is to be more responsible for your life, not less. Gap years do provide relief from the school grind, but they are more successful when taken with a definitive purpose to return refreshed and refocused.
To get a leg- up in college admissions.
Though this is not necessarily a bad idea it is not always true. Some colleges like Gap year students for various reasons, but others don’t. It would be unwise to spend time off without knowing for sure what the college(s) of interest thinks. In fact, many schools now like students to apply and defer rather than take a Gap year off and later attempt to apply while in Bulgaria or Guatemala. In addition, the idea of getting a leg-up may actually be counterproductive to the very purpose of a Gap year because the cultural mindset of work-obsession is being reinforced. Remember, Gap years are for true leisure in the Joseph Pieper sense. Namely, to take time off from pressure, academics, and getting a leg-up” on others for the sake of clarity, direction, reflection, contemplation, and renewal.
To leave and expect everything to be exactly the same when one returns.
This is something to seriously consider. Not all one’s friends from high school do a Gap year. Many Gappers have returned home from traveling to find friends gone and their social life changed to the point of regret. Some have also been disappointed when compared to high school friends who have had a year of socializing at college under their belts. It is certainly something to consider before making the decision to Gap it.
In a nutshell, Gap years have to be something wisely considered for a definite purpose with clear expectations. In fact, it would be wisest to decide where to attend college first, then go on the Gap year. There are pros and cons to contemplate practically and financially. Most importantly, a person should only consider a Gap year if they have taken time to research it, think about it, contemplate, mediate, or pray about it, and of course, consult wise counsel.
Top 10 Research-Based Benefits
In the Journal of Educational Psychology , University of Sidney, researcher Andrew J. Martin studied the academic motivation and performance of more than 2,800 high school and college students and found that Gappers reported significantly higher motivation in college—in the form of “adaptive behavior” such as planning, task management, and persistence—than did students who did not take a Gap year. (Source found here .)
For most students, Gap experiences have an impact on their choice of academic major and career – either setting them on a different path than before a Gap year or confirming their direction (60 percent said Gap years either “set me on my current career path/academic major” or “confirmed my choice of career/academic major”). (Source found here.)
A new study of more than 900 first-year students by Sydney University researchers revealed that not only did taking a year off have a positive effect on students’ motivation, it also translated to a real boost in performance in the first semesters at university. (Source found here.)
Students who have taken a Gap year overwhelmingly report being satisfied with their jobs. Upon further inquiry, Haigler found that this was related to a less-selfish approach to working with people and careers. (Source found here.)
A very powerful result from a study showed that 88 percent of Gap year graduates report that their experience had significantly added to their employability. (Source found here.)
The highest three rated outcomes of Gap years is that of gaining “a better sense of who I am as a person and what is important to me” followed by “[the Gap year] gave me a better understanding of other countries, people, cultures, and ways of living” and “[it] provided me with additional skills and knowledge that contributed to my career or academic major.” (Source found here.)
Burnout from the competitive pressure of high school and a desire “to find out more about themselves,” are the top two reasons students take Gap years, according to a survey of 280 people by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson of Advance, N.C., co-authors of a forthcoming guidebook on the topic. (Source found here.)
Gap year students are perceived to be “more mature, more self-reliant and independent” than non-Gap year students based on a study in Australia called, “The Characteristics of Gap-Year Students and Their Tertiary Academic Outcomes.” (Source found here.)
Taking a one-year break between high school and university allows “motivation for and interest in study to be renewed.” (Source found here)
Ron L. Witczak, Assistant Vice Provost and Director of Study Abroad at Portland State University (PSU) in Oregon, agrees. “If done properly, the experience can and will be transformative for the student,” he says, and adds, “I believe that students who participate in successful Gap year programs are much better prepared for higher education: they’re more prepared to think critically, to see the world through another lens, to gain some intercultural perspective and just be better citizens.”
The following chart, a part of the 2015 National Alumni Survey which was undertaken by Nina Hoe, PhD, in collaboration with the Institute for Survey Research, Temple University, and the AGA Research Committee, details what respondents cited as their most significant influences when deciding to take a Gap year.
Gap year possibilities are endless. If interested, start with the Center for Interim Programs and their 30 years of experience here . Consider some basic options among the over 6500 they’ve complied. Also, when perusing the resources, remember many of the organizations apply to more than one kind of Gapping.
Recent studies on happiness indicate the need to engage in meaningful service to others. This is the best reason for volunteering in the Gap. In addition to personal growth, however, learning to help others by engaging in new skills, working with people, improving communication, beefing up the resume, and even gaining perspective on possible career options are all benefits.
Ideas for local and international volunteering
One doesn’t have to travel to another country to volunteer. Get to know your hometown more. Here are some resources for stepping up locally.
Each year, AmeriCorps offers 75,000 opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. Opportunities include: tutoring disabled or disadvantaged youth, building affordable housing, cleaning parks and streams, and many more.
CNCS provides information about volunteering opportunities in all 50 states with data that includes volunteer rates and rankings, civic engagement trends, and analysis.
The AHS runs volunteer vacations in the form of trail building projects in the US. Those who love the outdoors will love this opportunity to explore. Volunteers enjoy backpacking or hiking tours provided by the host agency or organization.
This government agency provides an exhaustive list of volunteer opportunities and organizations on their homepage.
This 120-year-old nonprofit offers opportunities for students to serve those who cannot care for themselves. Volunteers of America is a “church without walls that answers God’s call to transform our communities through a ministry of service that demonstrates to all people that they are beloved.”
One may choose from many secular or religious options while volunteering internationally. For those willing to explore options there’s something that could work for every person.
Ideas and Resources:
This volunteer organization is careful to work with the local communities in places where help is greatly needed. United Plant offers opportunities in more than 35 countries.
An excellent resource for those passionate about planet conservation.
WWOOF, is a global network of organizations that matches volunteers with organic farms worldwide. In return for volunteer work, hosts provide food and accommodation.
Omprakash Education through Global Engagement (EdGE) offers individual Gap year programs connecting volunteers with opportunities in 40 countries around the globe.
Projects Abroad is one of the largest volunteer abroad organizations in the world. Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad sends over 10,000 people abroad each year on a variety of service projects and internships.
A Gap year isn’t necessarily traveling internationally. A great option is to get involved locally by getting a job. Again, the purpose is to work, gain valuable experience, most ideally in some field where there’s some interest, and go to college after a year of work and reflection. The key here is that work actually provides a rhythm to life that helps refocus and can give you confidence, discipline, direction, and even a little pocket change. Consider the following for internships or work, but remember, find the most interesting options and go for those first.
- Animals – Veterinary or Animal Therapy
- Conservation/Natural Resources
- Health care
- Human Rights
- Help out with the family business.
- Work on a farm or ranch.
- Start your own business.
There are so many options to consider here, it’d be best to reflect on personal interests first, then find organizations that correspond. Remember these benefits as the search commences and becomes difficult: learn a potential career, add to a resume, or earn scholarships or credits.
For a few ideas check these out:
Go Overseas provides reviews and reliable information on every Gap year program in the world. Compare programs, read peer reviews, look at photos, read articles, and find the best Gap year program for you. Click here for specifically finding “Intern Abroad” programs.
Global Citizen Year recruits, trains, and supports a diverse corps of high school graduates to engage as apprentices in Asia, Africa, or Latin America. In collaboration with top universities, business and social sector leaders, Global Citizen Year provides its Fellows with ongoing training in leadership, global development, and social entrepreneurship. Fellows return with the critical perspectives and skills needed to succeed in college and beyond.
Kivu Gap year is an eight-month internship and home stay based Gap year experience at domestic and international locations.
Hostel World provides a helpful guide for individuals looking to see the world and fund their travels by working in hostels
Rustic Pathways offers programs in the South Pacific, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Structured, group oriented programs encompass community service, outdoor adventure, and various skills courses.
AUA is a citizen diplomacy initiative aimed at countering violent extremism before it can take hold, working at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World and in the United States.
Students seeking internships within creative industries and fields can find opportunities via FS.
This website offers a list of thousands of internship opportunities throughout America.
This organization provides a list of opportunities to intern abroad.
Students considering teaching English as a foreign language can do so via a paid internship with TEFL.
This option may be a good fit for the adventurous risk taker seeking clarity in life. The best recommendation for this category of Gapper is to find work with favorable hours for adventure, preferably in a foreign country. This experience is different from the cultural immersion program by not being an actual program. The benefit of going with the Life Pilgrimage is not continuing the work-obsessive mentality, but finding something simple to provide for life expenses while exploring, contemplating, writing, drawing, reading, hanging with locals, and adventuring. Here’s a couple ideas followed by some resources.
Take the train
Get a Eurorail pass and travel to 23 different countries of rich history and culture, or get tickets on the Trans-Siberian Railway and see amazing Asia in all its glory.
This can be a great local and inexpensive option for any amount of time. It can be really rustic and challenging or fairly laid back and low key. It can also be an international trip to any number of amazing places.
For me, the Pacific Rim is an amazing option here in the Northwest, but this country is big and beautiful. Take advantage and make it a Gap experience to get away and commune with nature.
Go on a safari
Who doesn’t want to? Cost can be prohibitive, but if there’s a will there’s a way. Many a soul have found what they’re looking for on a safari.
Just road trip it
Our country has amazing natural beauty. From Yellowstone and Yosemite, to the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls, there is too much for anyone to see it all in a lifetime. Why not find direction in the great blue yonder?
Take an education vay-cay
This is what many Gappers actually end up doing. For me, going to Europe for a month was an education in history, theology, art and sculpture, painting, music, and geography. What better way to broaden the mind than taking a trip…for the sake of broadening one’s mind.
Do a marathon National Park tour
There are 58 National Parks in the United States, making it possible for the determined traveler to hit nearly all of them in a year.
Take a Look at These Options:
This organization offers three to eight month Gap year programs in Central America, South America, India, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, East Africa, and the Native American Southwest focusing on community, cultural exchange, service-learning, and adventure.
AHA specializes in providing tailored Gap year experiences for students looking to study art history in a foreign location.
Pacific Discovery offers nine-week Gap year semesters in New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Galapagos Islands, India, Nepal, Tibet, Southeast Asia, South America, and Central America. Pacific Discovery focuses on deliberate overland journeys, immersion in diverse cultures, service-learning projects, and exploration.
These Gap year experiences are perfect for students looking to truly immerse themselves in the culture and everyday life of a new place.
TW has programs allowing students to teach art, dance, drama, or music to children in overseas locations.
Learning another language is a very good option that can open new vistas of opportunity. The advantages are numerous, from improving your brain functioning and memory, increasing appreciation of diversity, to increasing employability. The best way to learn a new language is to be immersed in it. Here’s a couple places to start:
For me, this is the best hub for everything Gap related. Get familiar with this trustworthy and quality site.
A variety of Gap year programs, including the two-semester Global Gap year, South America Gap Semester, and Asia Gap Semester combining deep cultural immersion, fieldwork with experts, and engaging readings and discussions. There are both Fall and Spring semester options.
This organization offers options in many countries. Their website has a powerful search bar that could be extremely useful.
Go Overseas offers a comprehensive list of Language Immersion programs in many different countries.
Choosing a Gap year will take time, money, and work. Depending on the type of experience chosen, the financial impact varies. From local volunteering and living at home, to a year traveling, the cost is quite different. If a Gap year seems cost prohibitive, don’t give up!
Here’s some options for financing a Gap year. We recommend a combination of working, saving, and donations.
- 01 Plan early and well.
- 02 Save consistently in a bank account set aside for a Gap year.
- 03 Spend wisely to increase the amount that can be saved.
- 04 Be persistent in asking for money.
Benjamin Franklin’s advice is still true…kinda: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Begin working in high school with a plan to save for a Gap year. Not only is this great work experience, it builds virtues that will help all through life.
Get a job locally and start now
With foresight, a job during high school and summers can be a great way to start building up money.
Looking to hang out with furry friends and make money during your Gap year? Check out PSA for some great opportunities.
After signing up and being verified, students can find opportunities to make money through housesitting in their area.
Not everyone’s favorite activity, but odds are, if the Gap year is costly, fundraising will be necessary. There are countless ways to raise funds, here’s a few:
Go to American Gap Association’s page on fundraising for some great opportunities.
Go Fund Me is a leading online tool for individualizing a persons need in seeking donors to a cause.
Ask Friends and Family. It may be the old fashioned way, but with persistence, it works.
Contact/write letters to local organizations like the Rotary Club, Lions Club International, or local trust funds.
National Security Language Initiative for Youth
Sponsored by the Department of State, this program provides scholarships for students looking to learn less-commonly used languages.
The Foundation for Global Scholars mission is to create global citizens and leaders by assisting students in obtaining cultural and academic experiences abroad. The Foundation will support this mission by awarding scholarships to help enable students to obtain international experience. Students who are from underrepresented populations in international education are a priority.
Patreon is for students who hope to spend their Gap year doing something creative can use this resource to raise funds from friends and family.
The Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs is a division of the State Department that can act as a hub for many different options.
Test Drive Your Future is a great organization that has scholarships specifically designed for Gap Year students.
We’ve broken it down to three steps.
Follow These Simple Steps:
First, ask yourself these questions.
- What is my motivation in taking a Gap year?
- Have I checked with the college(s) I’m interested in about deferment?
- Am I willing to do what it takes to pay and prepare?
- Have I considered the pros and cons and talked with wise counsel?
Then try one of these online quizzes:
If still convinced, click on these resources to begin
more detailed thought about a Gap year:
- Get a free 90-minute consultation through the Center for Interim Programs found here:
- Consult with 25 years of experience in advising Gappers, Gilpin and Associates. They charge $200 dollars an hour and an additional fee if they structure and plan your Gap year.
- Obtain advising and consultation about personalized Gap year programs at Dynamy:
Why did you take a Gap year?
I took a Gap year to see the world, take an adventure, learn about my heritage, and enjoy time with my wife. My experience was after college and before my career.
When did you go and for how long?
I was able to go backpacking in Europe for a month with my wife. For me, this worked out because I choose to be a substitute teacher for a year after earning my degree and before I completed a graduate degree. I did not even consider a Gap year in high school. Looking back I can see great value in taking a Gap year after high school to prepare, refocus, and refresh for college. This isn’t the only time to take Gap years though. Gap years are becoming more popular after college and some businesses are even beginning to offer Gap years as well.
How were you able to prepare and pay for this trip?
The packing, preparing, planning, and arranging details took considerable time and attention. The best advice I’d give on preparation is to choose an option that works for you. Choose something you’re passionate about because the more passionate you are, the more fulfilling your Gap experience will be. As for the financial part, my wife and I budgeted money and saved. It sounds easy, but it’s not. Use online budgeting tools and start saving early for this…you’ll thank yourself later. When we actually began traveling, we came to find out things were not as we planned many times, especially the costs. What began as hostels and B & B’s soon turned into camping around Europe (in cabins at places like KOA’s). This saved us money and was amazingly better than hostels for us.
What are the greatest benefits you’ve received from your Gap year?
The echo of my Gap year reverberates through my life to this day. Beginning my career with a travel abroad experience was perhaps the best preparation to meet the demands of my job . I was able to broaden my view of the world, see other cultures, and connect with the very history I was asked to teach. In fact, I use a PowerPoint of the pictures of Europe throughout my World History class every year. I was also able to lead a trip to Europe for Juniors and Seniors. It helped me get hired . My Gap adventure has been a topic of conversation in every job interview I’ve done. Businesses want a person who is willing to take risks, sacrifice, learn, and appreciate the great variety of peoples and cultures in our global world. To travel is to step a rung up on the employability ladder. All in all, if you want to set yourself apart, a Gap year spent volunteering, working, traveling, or exploring is a great way to go.
Besides helping prepare for teaching, the backpacking adventure around Europe is the best memory of my life . Good memories are priceless and truly required for peace of mind. Also, before Gapping it I did not appreciate art and sculpture. After visiting the Rodin museum and Notre Dame, being blown away at the Louvre, and walking the streets of Florence and Venice, I came to love art and culture – to truly appreciate and love Beauty itself. The experience opened my eyes. The incredible visit to Rome and the Coliseum, Napoleon’s tomb, and the chilling and moving experience of visiting Dachau all had the effect of waking me up to more reality, if that makes sense. On top of intellectual fulfillment and enlightening experiences, Gapping it gave me practical life skills. The challenge of navigating subways, hostels, and local food and customs provided invaluable life lessons. Though I wasn’t aware of “Gap years” when I was in high school, I can strongly suggest by my own experience as a proof, that taking a Gap year could change your life. Perhaps its time to consider committing to the intense work, money, and time it takes to take a Gap.
“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand”