Should I take a Gap Year?
With the Easter holidays around the corner, now is the time to start thinking, deciding, organising and booking. So let’s start with the first question you need to ask – should I take a gap year?
In short, yes. But if you need a little more convincing, read on for the top benefits of taking a year out before university, college and adult life…
The shorter question is really ‘why should I not take a gap year’.
Top concerns include being a year behind, jeopardising your university/college application and the expense of travels. I am here to dispel all your fears and turn you into a believer!
Most forms of higher education and employment actually love seeing a gap year on the resume. It shows maturity, independence, courage, huge life experience, less common skills and attributes, masses of global awareness and lots more.
All you have to do is make sure you make the most of every moment you’ve got. Don’t use your year as an unending Netflix binge or an excuse to slouch around being waited on by the parents. Use it well: have fun, see the world and gain all the experience you can.
Below are just a few of the many benefits of taking a year out of formal education, followed by some indisputable stats to totally rid you of any doubt…
8 benefits of taking a gap year:
1. Raise your cultural awareness
By both living and working alongside local people, you’ll become immersed in a whole new way of life. You’ll quickly learn to appreciate other cultures, from their views on religion and relationships to their normal day-to-day activities.
For you, breakfast is a speedy 2-minute bowl of cereal from the cupboard. For someone else, it could be a 2-hour walk to the well for water, a week’s worth of harvesting for grain, and a 4 am wake up to slave over the stove just to get the food on the table for 7!
How I see it, a holiday allows you to see a different culture. A gap year allows you to live it: to really get to grips with how others both survive and thrive.
2. Learn a language
Today, we’re all living in an increasingly global society and as a result, language is quickly becoming a huge asset for all of those entering the working world.
In light of this, what better way is there to pick up a new language — or brush up on an old one — than by immersing yourself with native speakers?
When abroad, there’s no excuse. No shying away from testing out your speaking skills. If they don’t speak English, you either buck up and try your best, or suffer a less rewarding and authentic trip.
All that you learn along the way can be put into practice immediately. This means you’ll pick up all the lingo far faster than behind a desk back at school.
Your efforts will not only be greatly appreciated by local people but will also allow you to form some strong cross-continent relationships and immensely enhance your overall experience.
3. Discover a hidden passion
It could be jet-skiing, photography, organic farming or international relations.
Perhaps you’ll find that the sloths of Costa Rica are your calling and conservation is for you. Maybe you’ll be sat upon a Nepalese mountain peak and suddenly awaken the spiritual guru inside. Whatever it may be, a gap year gives you the unique opportunity to really broaden your horizons, both physically and mentally.
Everyone has those secret things they’ve always wished they’d learnt when they were younger too. That one activity or skill that you now feel you’re too old to learn without looking a fool? Well, a gap year is your chance…
Besides, if you do mess up, it’s not like you’ll be seeing the witnesses again anytime soon!
4. Prepare for adult/college/uni life
To start, it’ll probably be your first experience of really having to look after yourself. No mummy to tie your laces or daddy to keep the passports and flight tickets safe.
Sadly, we do all have to stand on our own two feet at some point! So the sooner we learn, the better.
A gap year can teach you the independence and maturity needed to make the most of college or university. Arranging travel, finding accommodation and spending longer periods away from home are great ways to improve your independence. Getting used to life on a budget will also really help when the tuition fees roll around and your off to fend for yourself.
Often a big gap year myth is that universities won’t look too fondly upon it.
However, colleges and universities love those who can display commitment, passion, and perseverance to something bigger than themselves, and that’s exactly what a gap year does.
What’s more, many people who enter college straight from school regret their choice of course within the first two years. Taking a break from education and getting away for a little while can really give you the chance to consider what course is right for you.
A year off gallivanting (and saving the world of course) can also help avoid ‘academic burnout’. You’re likely to return with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm for study and a more focused approach to learning.
So it seems that a year of fun can actually improve your college/uni prospects!
5. Become more interesting!
While travelling, it’s best to stick to the ‘live life to the fullest’ motto.
The adventures of spending a year on the move, hopping from country to country and contributing to communities and projects along the way, will create a myriad of stories and memories to last a lifetime.
At the end of the year, the stories will certainly have mounted up. While they make for wonderful times to reminisce about, your stories and anecdotes will also make for fantastic conservation starters in the interview room, at parties and definitely during freshers!
The social benefits are endless… one thing that many gap year students say is that they feel that actually have something interesting to say!
In other words, with so much more life-experiences under your belt, there’s simply much more to both share and relate to.
6. Develop as a person
Other than becoming more interesting, your year away will also increase your confidence and maturity, as well as help you develop some important life skills.
By having to speak to people day in and day out, you will certainly be forced out of any shell you’ve been hiding in! It’s you in charge so there’s no escaping engaging with strangers and sorting things out for yourself.
Returning gappers often report that their family and friends tell them they’ve ‘changed’, but always in a positive way. Encountering so many new experiences and ideas about life makes it near impossible not to change. Everything you see and do will have an effect on who you are and how you think: just embrace it!
When it comes to becoming a good citizen and responsible, contributing adult, a gap year can do plenty for that too. You’ll hone your global awareness, improve all your communication skills and be far greater at adapting fast in the face of challenges.
While we can all learn a lot in the classroom, it isn’t until it’s put into practice in the real world that we really understand how it all works.
Whether volunteering, working or just travelling, you’re bound to learn heaps about who you as a person. I bet you’ll surprise yourself at just how much you can do and achieve…
7. Jazz up your resume/CV
All those new skills and interests you’ve been working on will be fantastic additions to the CV.
Cultural awareness, self-organisation, independence and any experience of the working world will catch the eye of all employers.
Many look out for experiences that point towards courage, teamwork, curiosity, open-mindedness and a willingness to try something new too. These transferable skills mean you’ll be a great asset to any team and an integral member of a company looking to push forward in the competitive market.
In addition, unless mum and dad are feeling particularly generous with the funding, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to spend the entire year travelling the world. However, a few months at home actually offers the perfect opportunity to gain some work experience (and earn a little too).
Nowadays, there aren’t many jobs that don’t require some form of work experience. Finding work in the field you’re interested in for a later career is ideal. However, many of you probably have no idea what your future may look like!
If this is you, don’t panic. Any experience of the working world will get you a long way when you emerge the other side of University to face today’s competitive job market.
8. Most of all, have fun and make life-long friends
Generally, those you’ll encounter on your gap year will be a group of fun-loving young people with aspirations and goals similar to your own.
Because of school, you’ve probably been surrounded by the very same people for years now. Sometimes university can come as a shock to those who haven’t really had to do all the meeting and greeting business since the age of 5.
By taking the year to travel and volunteer, however, it’ll be simply impossible not to meet new people. You’ll interact with people from all walks of life that you would never have come across if you’d skipped straight through to uni.
When university then does come around, you’ll be the confident one, with great stories to tell and a whole lot of practice at small talk and make friends.
And with friends all over the world, you’ll also have plenty of free accommodation to utilise on your future travels!
Stats to back my facts…
Those who take a gap year:
Believe me yet?
Come on, you can’t deny that there are plenty more pros to the controversial gap year than cons.
If you’re already planning one, you can now feel assured that your decision has been a wise one. For those who aren’t so sure, perhaps this can help you figure out if it’s right for you.
All in all, I reckon that if you’re not wanting to study mathematics or physics, as unis and colleges seem to fear your brain might be wiped during a year away from the books, then go for it!
There’s nothing to lose, and so very, very much to gain…