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How a Gap Year Benefits University Life

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Melanie
Last year was a year of adventure. I lived abroad for 10 months and consequently got to experience foreign worlds first hand, work unique jobs, and learn a lot about myself. Soon enough, my blissful Gap Year came to an end and I rejoined “real life” when I arrived here in California to start my astrophysics career at UC Berkeley. It has now been a couple months since I’ve arrived and so far, so great. I’m thoroughly enjoying my classes and my new friends, and my experience has overall been absolutely positive. Had I not taken my Gap Year, my first months as a freshman would have been radically different, and by different I mean probably a lot more stressful.

My Gap Year Reduced Stress at University

Arriving here, I had a new bed, 13 new suitemates, and a whole new city to get used to. The fact that everything is different in college overtax many new students, but this was something I already became very comfortable with last year. Since the majority of freshmen are coming in straight from high school, they tend to be amidst the stress of figuring out what they want to study, who they want to be, etc., but I already had 15 months to ponder and clear up these things. I came in feeling nothing but excited for I was clear-minded, well rested, and eager to get back into the rhythm of things. This mentality set me ahead of many of my peers not just academically, but even more so socially and mentally.

Socially, college is just like the movies. There are frat parties and study groups, social media-obsessed populars and those who play video games until dawn. However, when you first get here, you fit in nowhere and you have too many preconceived expectations of what college should look like. Eager to find a social niche as soon as possible, everyone is overly friendly and subtly desperate to make ourselves count in the social scene. It’s hectic.

What I Learned on my Gap Year That Helped

I learned something very valuable last year that helped me breeze through this aura of social anxiety. In life, the things that end up meaning something genuine, that influence you positively and become a part of you, are things you didn’t chase after. They result from patience, acceptance, and trust that your environment will adapt to you. The people who immediately started their search for the type of friends they already decided they want to have are the people who end up disappointed. Instead, one should make the decision that every person you meet is a potential friend, that every moment or conversation will matter at another, and realize that those crazy stories or incredible friendships will only be crazy when they are thrown at you.

Here’s an example. When first arriving at my residence of hundreds of new students just like me, I found myself feeling left out from any group of people that I didn’t know yet. I would look around and wonder if I would ever become friends with that guy with the skateboard, or the girl with the galaxy backpack. But, just as I saw on my Gap Year, all those then-strangers mixed and matched and came together in the most perfect way. I took a step back and ignored the pressure, and sure enough, I never had to go looking for the friends I have and love today. It’s hard to imagine that asking the girls in the laundry room how they’re doing will be the first memory you make with your future best friends, but it very well could be. Some conversations lead to incredible connections and others don’t, and that is the point. Test the waters because it’s all brand new, and remember that assuming you won’t get along with a certain someone is the most harmful thing you could do to your social career in college.

How a Gap Year Helps Academically

Academically, a Gap Year really puts you ahead because you’re just seriously excited to get back to school. I had a whole year to reset my tired-out high school brain, and stimulate it with vastly different types of knowledge. I didn’t do math problems for a whole year, but I thought about whatever came to mind. This is rewarding because without trying, you ponder things you care about. Particularly, I thought about who I want to be and where I see myself in the future. I could be sure that it was only me deciding to care about those things, not my parents or society or academic pressures, and I became overwhelmingly passionate about a few things.

I also thought about my dreams daily and became very eager to achieve them. So, I more or less know what I’m looking to learn in college, what sort of job I want and who I want to be out of college. More or less because, well, I’m 19. Nevertheless, I came to college prepared to give it my all with my newly intensified passion for astronomy and physics, and many other things. Six weeks in, I’ve done just that. I sit in the front of my lectures, ask several questions, reach out to professors, and do everything I can to do my best. A whole year to reflect on what I care to study changed who I am as a student incredibly, and confirms that every step I make is just one more step closer to achieving my goals- goals that keep getting bigger and better.

Gap Year Assets I Took to College

Something I’m also really grateful for are all the new assets I came to college with post-Gap Year. For instance, I’m extraordinarily clean and organized. After living in foreign homes where I had no choice but to keep everything extra neat, I have become a very responsible house keeper. In fact, I even make my roommates’ beds in the morning and maintain a very tidy dorm, which is something I never would have expected of myself.

I’m also very dedicated to keeping myself healthy. When you leave home and you don’t have the same workout or food options, and you share a bathroom with strangers and have a packed schedule, it’s difficult to always feel your best. I recognized the importance of prioritizing things like getting a few runs in per week or setting off time to stretch or scrub my body on my Gap Year, and I didn’t wait to get into a healthy rhythm of it here. I’m also very timely, and because of so I have more free time to do things that make me happy and to relax and keep myself well rested. Especially when you’re in hard classes and constantly busy with clubs and parties, this control and adult-ness that I acquired on my Gap Year really makes college way more pleasant.

Furthermore, free time is usually lazy time for college kids. This is acceptable considering how stressed we are the majority of the time, but since my Gap Year was essentially a year long homework break, I mastered the art of free time productivity.

I realized just how much you can achieve with as little as one hour on your hands, and I take that to reach out to that girl in my residence hall who always wanted to get coffee, for example. Or I’ll take the time to reflect and journal, or call a friend from home (or my parents if I’m feeling generous). In addition, it’s important to have these “free-times” as often as possible. In other words, if I’m running because I’m late to my lecture and I run into that climbing-loving guy I met a couple weeks ago, I will stop and have a full conversation with him even though I’m missing class. I now have a new friend who’s going to introduce me to a potential new hobby, and I caught up on those 5 minutes of missed lecture online later that night. Prioritize the little moments, they add up to the stuff that is really worth it in the long run.

Gap Year = Growth & Maturity

These small yet valuable lessons that I’ve instilled in my life because of my Gap Year make me feel more mature than a lot of other people here. I am focused on the things that many others have yet to realize are so important and it also made my adjustment period very short and easy. Mentally, more so than time-wise, I am a year ahead. Because of so, I feel way less pressured in all scenarios. Socially, I’m patient and academically, I’m brave, and the best part of these advantages is the position it puts me in to be able to help others. I often am the one to comfort others and help them with their first experience away from home since I’m already so familiarized with it. I’m not looking for help, I’m helping. With a mindset that is stable, open-minded, and ready for whatever is coming my way, I’ve got way more headspace to seek out more interesting things rather than dwell on discomforts, insecurities, and fears like most freshmen.

It’s crucial to know that all of these things only matter if they matter everyday. I learned that it’s extraordinarily unproductive to think in the short term, or to think that everything you’re doing is just to get to somewhere else. Each day is a fresh start, and if you dwell on being a certain type of person for a while or commit yourself to something for just a short while, the sum of your experiences will be made up of unclear morals that don’t have a consistent identity.

Your life shouldn’t be rated on your list of accomplishments, but on your quality of life on a day to day basis. Be nice to everyone, everyday. Work your hardest and do things that make you proud, everyday. Still, forgive yourself and allow yourself to grow. Tomorrow is right there and it’s a whole new day where you should decide to be the best you, again. In college, you will definitely have ups and downs but as long as you know what kind of qualities you strive to be defined by, you can be yourself through it all. This is you thinking long-term. This is the only way to grow and improve productively in order for you to reach your full potential.

On an astronomical scale, nothing really matters. Evolutionarily speaking, we are too miraculous to make sense and the most assuring solution to this loneliness is a religious outlet that no one can truly understand. We are small, lost, but we are also everything. When nothing matters, you realize that everything matters. Everything is the meaning of life, every moment is the most important moment, and one day is just as worthy as your entire life. So make it count by deciding who you are and living by it everyday, and college will suddenly be anything but scary.

Had I not taken my Gap Year, I wouldn’t have learned all of realized all of these things that truly brightened my future. I wear an invisible backpack of unforgettable times from my gap year at all times, and I can’t imagine what kind of college student I would be without it. What I left behind was short-lived and amazing, but it’s the fact that I will carry the lessons with me forever that made my gap year so, incredibly worth it.

How a Gap Year Consultant Can Help Make Your Gap Year Better

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You’ve read a few Gap Year related articles. You’ve started marking a map with your dream
destinations and your room is littered with guidebooks. You’ve puzzled over budgeting and
savings and you’ve told everyone who will listen that you’re planning on taking a Gap Year. But
how will you put all of the pieces together? Planning a Gap Year can be an intimidating task. As
the idea of traveling the world for a year before entering university gains popularity, the list of
available Gap programs and resources grows. Every student wants something different from
their Gap Year: work experience, animal encounters, internships, cultural integration, to learn a
new language – the list goes on. So how do you pick the perfect program when googling “Gap
Year” brings up thousands of results?

If you’d like to relax and save yourself some time, consider meeting with a professional Gap Year counselor. Gap Year counselors work one-on-one with students to help them plan and personalize the experience of a lifetime. These counselors have in-depth knowledge of a number of Gap Year programs, can connect students to alumni, and work with students throughout the planning stages, the journey itself, and the transition back to university. Based on an applicant’s personal preferences, a counselor handpicks a few potential programs out of the many available, or helps to design a custom independent Gap Year.

Gap Year Counselor vs. University Admissions Counselor

What’s the difference between a university admissions counselor and a Gap Year counselor?

While university admissions counselors may recommend a Gap Year, their jobs are to focus al-most entirely on the transition back to university. Holly Bull, president of the Center for Interim Programs, puts it this way:

“A major difference between the two fields is timing. Most admissions counselors work with
students during high school and not once the student is in college, whereas a good Gap Year
counselor stays with a student from junior or senior year in high school right through the gap
year. Gap year students’ plans invariably change through the year itself so Gap Year coun-selors are ideally staying on top of the changes and continuing to offer viable options all along. ”

Julia Rogers of EnRoute Consulting clarifies:

“Gap Year advisers concentrate solely on Gap Year planning, so we are much more specialized in our focus. When I am not working directly with students, I am researching new gap year op-portunities, traveling to visit programs and working closely with colleagues in the Gap Year field. The biggest difference is the process. With admissions to college, you are trying to market your-self to a school, and the counselor is helping to get you admitted. Gap Years flip that process on its head: a Gap Year is about what you want to do, who you want to become, and what pro-grams and activities can make that happen. The entire college admissions process is about be-ing chosen whereas (with) the gap, your planning process is about choosing what do you want to do. Some gap year programs have an admissions process, but it is not nearly as stressful as trying to get into college!”

Many Gappers work simultaneously with both a gap year counselor and an admissions
counselor. While an admissions counselor helps students get into university, a Gap Year
counselor focuses on Gap Year planning and the transition from Gap Year to university.

Working with a Gap Year Consultant

Most Gap Year counselors offer a first session for free. This is a great chance to brainstorm for
your Gap Year, get to know your counselor, and ask any questions you might have about their services. First sessions also include an initial pick of potential Gap Year programs that suit the client’s needs. Further counseling will include “in-depth knowledge of a wide range of program options, many of which do not show up at Gap Year fairs or in general searches on line,” access to alumni pools from potential gap year program fits, and assurance of program quality.

Brainstorming is the first step. Gap Year counselors work directly with clients to customize their Gap Year. When the Center for Interim Programs begins working with a student, they quickly hone in on program possibilities:

“We start with students’ basic interests from their initial application and proceed right to the brainstorming process. Most students are not aware of the range of possibilities until they hear concrete options being outlined. Based on what they respond to most favorably, we help them zero in on specific programs and combinations to match their most important interests and goals.”

Consultation providers such as Taylor the Gap, the Center for Interim Programs, and EnRoute Consulting will typically vet 20-25 program options based on personal preferences and budget. With years of professional experience, Gap Year counselors stay up to date on potential oppor-tunities for their clients and can make adjustments to the Gap Year as necessary. All Gap Year counselors provide ongoing consultations throughout the planning process, the Gap Year itself, and the transition back home.

Marion Taylor, owner and founder of Taylor The Gap, shared the basics of her process with us:

“I provide a free preliminary consult at the onset-either in person, via skype, or phone. I then re-view their questionaire (which they have submitted online to me) and provide a set of gap pro-gram recommendations (these are usually several drafts/renditions) based on both their inter-view and questionaire responses. I work with the students and parents in choosing the best match based on their talents, skills, language, budget, timeframe, etc. This might involve provid-ing alumni references, liaisoning with gap program staff, editing an application (but not changing the content), following up post-acceptance, prep for departure, post-gap evaluation, pre-college/transition advising, request for testimonials and feedback.”

The Center for Interim Programs provides the following services to its clients:

• A free 90-minute brainstorming session by phone, Skype, or in person with one of our three expert Gap Year consultants
• In-depth knowledge of a wide range of program options, many of which do not show up at gap year fairs or in general searches on line
• Our “stamp of approval” regarding program quality based on site visits and/or alumni feed-back
• Our alumni pool of over 6000 students since we began doing gap year counseling in 1980
• Once a student signs on, we provide all program details and ongoing consultations through the gap year and beyond

So when should you hire a Gap Year counselor? EnRoute Consulting suggests that:

“A Gap Year counselor is a good idea to consider if you are excited by the idea of a Gap Year but don’t know where to start or feel overwhelmed by the planning process. Working with a consultant makes the process deliberate and much less stressful. Any program can create a shiny website, but counselors know which programs really deliver on quality of experience. We keep tabs on how to travel safely in various areas of the world and have first-hand knowledge of opportunities on every continent! For parents, working with a counselor offers the peace of mind of knowing that their child will be pointed towards reputable programs and that their concerns will be validated and addressed.”

Planning Forward from Your Gap Year

Most importantly, Gap Year counselors can help students to apply their Gap Year experiences to university life, what Marion Taylor (Taylor The Gap) stresses as an “essential component” to her work. She goes on to say:

“I not only conduct an evaluation (in person, Skype, or written) at the end of their gap experience, but I prepare the student for what they might feel post-gap during adjustment to college… I work with them to try and negotiate a balance with what they learned and experienced during their gap year into integrating that into college and the social/academic environment. Most often their gap experiences help them to navigate the social decisions in a much better way as well as hone their focus on their academic studies.”

The Center for Interim Programs also let me know that, “We coach students through the transition to college, or back to college, following their Gap Year. We also recommend pursuing experiences during the Gap Year that might help clarify a major or career choice. Many of our students apply or reapply to colleges during their Gap Year, or are doing transfer applications.”

Julia Rogers of EnRoute Consulting believes that taking a Gap Year can greatly influence a student’s future studies and career. With help, students can more easily build their resumes and pursue extracurriculars during their gap year that will help them work towards their goals. As she puts it,

“Most Gap Year students have a better idea of what they want to study after their year, so ad-justing your intended area of focus based on what you learned about your interests on your Gap Year is a natural first step. One of my students thought before her Gap Year that she wanted to major in business, but after a series of volunteer placements decided that she’d rather go into public health. Knowing this before she started college allowed her to adjust her course load to be more relevant to her new interest… Another aspect of transitioning to post- Gap Year life is figuring out how to translate those experiences into bullet points for a resume.”

Finally, some counselors believe that universities and colleges across the U.S. could be doing a better job of providing programs to integrate Gappers back into an academic setting. Katherine Stievater of Gap Year Solutions points this out, saying, “I would like to see colleges take a more proactive approach with Gappers. These students bring amazing perspectives and skills that can truly enhance the school community, and allow them to continue to deepen their learning.”

So, What Can a Gap Year Counselor do for You?

“Many students come into the process not understanding some important aspects of Gap Years – for example, that they usually consist of several activities, and that many students are now looking at gaining work experience and taking part-time jobs to help pay for Gap Year programs. The idea of learning about Gap Years and researching options can immediately seem over-whelming. Gap Year Consultants bring hundreds of hours of experience, they know pros and cons of different programs, have connections to many Program Directors, and can quickly re-search new ideas to complete the student’s Gap Year plan. While Gap Years often change after they begin, it is important to start with a plan.” – Katherine Stievater

Want to get in touch with a gap year counselor? We’ve listed some of our favorites for you in our
Resources section.

Announcing Dianna Hahn as the Associate Director of AGA

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There’s big news at AGA this month as we announce a new executive level team member. We couldn’t be more excited to have Dianna Hahn’s expertise and enthusiasm for Gap Year expansion on board. Not only did Dianna benefit from her own Gap Year, it changed the course of her career, and we’re so glad it did!

Dianna Hahn, AGA’s Associate Director

Dianna’s journey with Gap Years began during her own Gap Year when she deferred a semester at college to live in Paris as an au pair. This sparked her interest in travel and experiential education. She went on to study abroad, and pursue a masters in International Education as a result of a last minute decision to do something different before heading to college!

Now as an international educator with more than 15 years of experience working with youth, volunteers, artists, and educators in both experiential and international setting, she is a strong advocate for Gap Year programming. As the director of Global Routes and previously its partner organization, Windsor Mountain International Travel, Dianna has worked with hundreds of families to support students in meaningful educational programs. She also was the director of Clowns Without Borders, an organization bringing artists into areas of crisis to provide performances and workshops for children.

In recent years she has been consulting for various international education organizations with a focus on staffing, strategic planning, and crisis management. Her main focus has always been to build community across cultures and encourage long lasting friendships across the world.

Dianna has organized educational programs for youth and adults throughout the US and in more than 20 countries. She has traveled to Samoa to research the culture of tattooing, facilitated leadership and service learning programs in the Grenadines, paraded in the streets of Port Au Prince, Haiti with a band of clowns and musicians and collaborated with performing artists in Northern India to perform for migrant worker children. She loves spending time with her family outdoors and dabbling in the garden when she gets a chance!

Dianna holds an MA, International Education, School for International Training. BA, Anthropology, Connecticut College.

Gap Years on Instagram!

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Watching Gap Year students take off on exciting adventures is always a blast! This month on Instagram programs are launching and students are making the world their classroom. Check out some of the cool things that are happening and follow their programs on Instagram!

Follow EnRoute Consulting on Instagram

EnRoute

Follow The Leap on Instagram

Leap

Follow Where There Be Dragons on Instagram

Where there be Dragons

Follow Winterline Global Skills on Instagram

Winterline

Follow Rustic Pathways on Instagram

rustic pathways

Follow Outward Bound on Instagram

outward bound

How Gap Year Students Can Help Victims of Natural Disasters

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The end of the summer has a certain energy to it – last splashes in the pool, back-to-school shopping and ramping up for the newness of a fresh school year (whether you are in school or not). This year, with record-breaking storms lashing much of the southern US, the energy is wholly different. Those without power, shelter or work have been robbed of the reassuring rhythm of daily life. When you strike out for a new grade in school or college or a Gap Year, it is an exciting, anticipated change. When you return from a shelter to a destroyed home, the anguish of such unexpected change is overwhelming.

We are a nation rooted in the idea of helping one’s neighbor in times of need. Even in such a divided climate, this is one area in which we almost always excel. Gap Year students are in a unique position to lend a hand during the cleanup in the hurricane-ravaged south and the wildfire-ravaged west. We cannot wait for national service to become the norm, families need help now. If you are currently on your Gap Year, or plan on taking a semester off next year, here are some great ways to contribute your time to victims of natural disaster:

Volunteer with All Hands:

All Hands Volunteers is a volunteer-powered disaster relief organization dedicated to rebuilding hope for people impacted by natural disasters all over the world. They have already mobilized for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma relief efforts. Most notably, you can volunteer for any length of time, so it’s very flexible for Gap Year students or professionals who want to take some time off to help.

worker gap year

Join Americorps as an NCCC or FEMA corps member:

AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women ages 18-24. AmeriCorps NCCC members are assigned to one of five regional campuses into teams of approximately ten members, and complete 2- to 3-month projects responding to local communities’ needs in every state (10-11 months total). They often attend to natural disaster relief efforts. For those wanting to gain experience in disaster relief, the FEMA program focuses specifically on disaster response and recovery.

Sign up for Americorps Updates:

The Corporation for National & Community Service has a new landing page for natural disaster relief efforts. You can see available opportunities there or sign up to receive email updates.

Volunteer in Glacier National Park next summer:

This breathtaking national park is undergoing serious damage as we speak due to wildfire. They will no doubt need lots of help rebuilding trails and structures in summer 2018. Follow their employment page for updates or visit their NGO partner, Glacier National Park Volunteer Associates.

Fundraise for Disaster Relief:

Get creative in supporting those affected by hurricanes or wildfires. Here are lists of reputable organizations to fundraise for:

Hurricane Harvey relief organizations

Montana wildfire relief organizations

Hurricane Irma relief organizations (including Caribbean)

At this moment, families all over the country are in need of our support. If you are currently on your Gap Year, consider donating your time to helping others. Not only will you help those in need, but you will also benefit from lending a hand; volunteers often see improvements in mental health, physical health and overall wellbeing.

Make no mistake, this is the beginning of a new normal where fiercer, more frequent storms are going to disrupt our daily lives.

Current and future Gap Year students: heed the call and make volunteering in disaster relief a part of your gap time.

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Republished with permission from the author, Julia Rogers, of EnRoute Consulting. Originally published on Huffington Post.

Benedict Cumberbatch Credits Success to What He Learned on His Gap Year

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It’s no secret that taking a Gap Year can change your life and your perspective. But it’s encouraging to hear it from one of the biggest stars on the screen. Benedict Cumberbatch, of Dr. Strange and Sherlock Holmes fame, took a Gap Year? Did you know that? All these years later, with fame and success in his wake, he still points back to that year teaching on a shoestring budget as one of the pivotal points of his life and a secret to his long term success:

“Right after high school, he reportedly saved up money to spend a gap year teaching English to monks in a Tibetan monastery in India. Although, he was given food and lodging, he said he had to learn to live “by very limited means.””

Carol Kuruvilla writes on Huffington Post

She’s quoting and article by Dominic Wells, from The Lion’s Roar where Cumberbatch unpacks the secrets to his on screen success as follows:

“But there’s a deeper reason why, although he takes his craft seriously, he doesn’t take himself too seriously; why he remains famously one of the nicest and most unaffected of major stars. It was the Tibetan monks who taught him that you don’t have to be boring to be serious about your profession or your spirituality: that humor is an intrinsic and necessary part of life.

“They were amazingly warm, intelligent, humorous people,” Cumberbatch recalls with a smile. “Hard to teach English to. I built a blackboard, which no previous teachers seem to have done. With twelve monks in a room, with an age range of about eight to forty, that’s quite important. The reward–punishment thing of sweets or no sweets, or game or no game, worked quite well. But they taught me a lot more than I could possibly ever teach them.”

And what was that, exactly, I ask? “They taught me about the simplicity of human nature, but also the humanity of it, and the ridiculous sense of humor you need to live a full spiritual life.”

“Cumberbatch was an unknown young English teacher when he made his connection to Buddhism at a Tibetan monastery in Darjeeling. He returned to the Himalayas as one of the world’s biggest movie stars.””

The moral of the story: What you learn on your Gap Year sometimes changes the course of your life and becomes the secret of your success!

Gap Years in the News

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As Gap Year programs across the country and around the world get ready to kick off a new academic year of experiential education through travel, the press is highlighting the growing movement and success stories. Here are a few of the best of late:

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Malia Obama’s Gap Year About to End as She Goes to Harvard

The Chicago Tribune writes that the First Daughter took, “Her 12 months of me time, according to news accounts, featured an extended trip last fall to Bolivia and Peru, a journey reportedly organized by a Boulder, Colo., company called Where There Be Dragons.”

“Last February, Malia Obama started an internship with the Weinstein Co., an employee there said. It’s a film and television production and distribution company founded by brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein. She hit the Sundance Film Festival in January, was spotted in Aspen, Colo., in February, traveled in June with her parents and sister to Bali and rocked out with her younger sister in August at Chicago’s Lollapalooza.”

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The ‘New’ Gap Year: Is it Worth it, and What Should I do During my Year Before University?

The Telegraph writes about the trend in Gap Years away from a party year towards educational CV enhancement and personal development. We think this is a good thing!

““The perception and purpose of a gap year has substantially changed in the past decade,” says Iwan Williams, the Exam Results Helpline Careers Advisor at Ucas.

“It used to be viewed as a way for young people to ‘dip out’ of the ‘real world’ and take time to go on a voyage of self discovery.

“That’s certainly something people might consider but less and less people are doing it.”

When it comes to gap years, more students are looking for experiences that will not only prove enjoyable, but also fuel their CVs.”
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10 Gap Year Ideas to Get You Packing

Western Union writes about ten Gap Year ideas to get your juices flowing. Considering a Gap Year next year? One of these ideas could catch a spark for your planning:

“Whether you’re transitioning from high school to college, college to the real world, or changing careers, a gap year can be the perfect way to figure out what you want out of life. While more common in Europe, taking a gap year is a growing trend in the U.S., with some prestigious universities even encouraging them. Make the most of your time off with one of these rewarding gap year ideas.”
Gap Year Yara

This Is Why Yara Shahidi Is Taking A Gap Year Before Going To Harvard

Actress Yara Shahidi is deferring her enrollment to Harvard, just like Malia did last year. She tells Essence that plans to spend the time like this:

“I have chosen to defer beginning my academic life at Harvard —plus, I am only 17— to do my best in representing my generation, via Grown-ish, and do a little more ‘growing into’ myself, as well,” she said.

“On the top of my agenda is to continue in the space of activism, particularly helping myself and my peers understand the power and importance of our voices and our votes, because mid-term elections are around the corner for many of us first time voters! I’ll also continue to champion the importance of access to education, as it has been the cornerstone and the foundation of my life, to date.”
Gap Year AGA

How to Maximize a Gap Year

If you’re going to spend the time and money on a Gap Year you want to get the most out of it, right? The Chicago Tribune references AGA’s National Alumni Survey and Ethan Knight and delivers some great advice:

“Going into the year with a plan is essential, but be sure to leave room for the unknown.

“Leave some space for the free radical,” Knight said. “New things will arise. You may never have known your dream job was out there. You have to leave space for that to be explored.”

A little freedom to explore may be exactly what a student needs during a gap year.”

An Educational Gap Year: What the World Taught Me

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Melanie
I started my 14 _ month long summer vacation with utter excitement. I signed up for things
left and right, knowing exactly what I wanted to learn, what insights I wanted to seek, and more
so what I wanted escape from back at home. Coming from a high society of lost individuals, I set
out to see other worlds and finally feel at home somewhere. So, I packed my things and
journeyed to volunteer in Costa Rica for 3 months. I was able to check off ‘Spanish fluency’ and
‘find home away from home’ from my to-do just as planned. I then lived with my family in
Paraguay for a month, where I worked, studied, and grew close to those closest. It was, just like it
sounds, sheer paradise. Check.

My too-good- to-be- true first semester set a high standard. Second gap semester, I took a
job in bumble-town France where invincible, brave ol’ me abruptly received a culture shock for
which I didn’t sign up. It wasn’t the new food or the incredible difficulty to pronounce the one
word I knew, “quoi?”, it was just this feeling I hadn’t ever had before. With no inspirational
youngsters around, and a plethora of smelly cheese, I stopped feeling like the valiant,
independent explorer who could take on anything. While I expected to discover another unseen
utopia, I’d instead discovered a new side of me, one I didn’t ask to see. However, I had a
challenging, intriguing job, learned French, backpacked through several European cities, and
became best friends with a group of smoking 90 year olds. Check?
melanie hilltop

Through working exotic jobs, adapting to various cultures, and simply living
independently all year, my gap year taught me a lot of things that changed me for the better. At
18, experiencing such an array of jobs has a very worthy reward. I learned to be disciplined,
empathetic, and most of all, patient. I worked along side hardworking, compassionate locals who
taught me the value of caring about what you do. I saw the immense separation between the rich
and the poor in both South America and Europe, and lived with people from both parties. The
jobs I had allowed me to live the very distinctive lives of people from all over the world, and this
experience opened my mind to a much larger extent than I ever thought imaginable.

Looking back, I am so thankful for all the many petit-lessons these jobs instilled in me. For instance, I
farmed organic coffee beansand ever since I fervently appreciate locally grown food. I got a
TEFL certificate and taught English to adults, and never again will I be the disruptive, arrogant
student I once was.

Along the way, I met people who gave up everything they have just to help
me when I had a small issue, and ever since when I can’t find a good friend, I decide to be one.
The list goes on and on. The list, that is, of things I learned not through a book or a college
course, but through raw experience. I learned that there’s a difference between knowing that
something is there (ex: poverty, lack of education, pollution) and living through its detrimental
effects. One adds abstract knowledge and the latter adds empathy and genuine comprehension-
in other words, go live it to really learn about it. I lived, and boy did I learn.
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I also learned a great deal by having the home, people, language, climate, food, and
purpose that I’m used to stripped away from me, only to be faced with complete other worlds to
which to adjust. Adapting to other cultures really opened my eyes to see how the society I grew
up in shaped me into who I am. It opened up my eyes to see that different worlds prioritize
different values- that what many people describe as ‘success’ here in America, is not what success
means at all in many other parts of the world.

Differences like these are the ones that allowed to me reflect on what values I believe, what morals I’d like to take home with me, and why it’s so important to leave your bubbled life as much as possible. Waking up in a different culture every
morning also made me realize that the world is huge and that, as cheesy as it sounds, there really
is no place like home. I learned to appreciate every quality and detail of my life back in
comfortable New York, and realized the blessing it is to always have somewhere so great to call
home.

Lastly, these new cultures taught me the beauty of learning languages. The special thing
about learning languages is that the reward is being able to understand and communicate with
another few hundred million people. When my level of French hit advanced, I faced a whole new
population of people on this planet that I could now personally get to know and uniquely learn
from. It is a great feeling, and I’m only optimistic about learning many more very soon.
Furthermore, I went about my gap year alone, just me, my journal, and I. This was
significant because I frequently left beloved places only to show up to a new place where I, once
again, did not know anyone and had to start all over. This was tough by myself, especially for a
first timer.
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When showing up to a new home with a new family, or to a new job with new co-workers, you’ve got to be very self-sufficient. I had no option but to keep my rooms organized, my clothes cleaned, and myself fed. I cooked countless meals, I took hundreds of trains and planes, and I must have packed and unpacked my bag 1000 times. I was vulnerable, forcefully
sparking up small talk in a new language to keep myself from being isolated, and it all made me
so much stronger.

I learned not only to be responsible and disciplined, but also to be brave.
Often I would miss home or feel uneasy in yet another new setting, but I pushed through one un-
comfort zone after another and relentlessly grew into a tenacious, extremely independent 18-
year-old ready to tackle just about anything. Another valuable thing that came out of being alone
for so long was having the time to reflect, and a lot of new things on which to reflect. Finally, the
overload of unfinished thoughts left over from high school were understood. I spent days
analyzing the world around and within me, and now, I feel clear. Thus not only did I have a year
to see and to try new things, but also to think deeply about whom I was prior, and why. I got to
see what about me stayed the same when everything else around me was different, and only then,
did I learn plenty about myself too. Ten months of adventure, challenge, and direct perceptions of
other worlds, inarguably, taught me a lot.

Written by Melanie Russo, who worked with Taylor the Gap to plan and prepare for her independent Gap Year.

Gap Year in the News: Summer 2017

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The media highlights of the Gap Year movement continue. More students are enrolling in Gap Year programs and students in high school are increasingly considering taking a Gap Year as an important piece of their educational plan. Check out these articles and share them with your community:

Making the Most of a Gap Year Before College

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If you’re going to take a Gap Year before college, definitely make the most of it! NBC talks about how to do just that:

“A gap year is a wonderful opportunity for young people to take a year to follow a passion before attending college,” said Avis Hinkson, dean of Barnard College in New York. “Some will have internships, some will travel, some will fulfill religious responsibilities and some find paid work. All-in-all, they will grow and mature.”

“While the reasons for a gap year can vary from the pursuit of a passion project to simply needing to work to earn money toward that degree, in every case, the year should be a worthwhile use of time.

“There are the hard benefits of making money and the other benefits of expanding one’s world view,” Ruderman said. “Schools want to see you do something productive – where you are getting a discernible benefit.”

Why More College Students May Want to Consider a ‘Gap Year’

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VOA Learning English published this piece & accompanying video delving into the reasons behind taking a Gap Year. Check it out:

“Stoke told VOA she felt different when she returned to the United States to begin her studies at Virginia Tech in 2014. She said she felt at ease and that she knew more about herself as a person. Also, when talking with friends who went straight to college from high school, she found many had a difficult time in their first year of college. Some told her they questioned the field of study they had chosen. Others said they felt lost at the college or that they were wasting time doing things like partying.”

Dadline: Don’t Rap the Gap Year

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The Roanoke Times encourages older people to be a little more open mined about the rising trend of taking a Gap Year between high school and college in this call for intergenerational understanding and support:

“Sneer at those kids who take a year off from school, if you want. Call them spoiled, homesick and lazy. Those descriptions would have applied to me in 1987. Heck, they apply to me today. But if a potential college student needs an extra year to make the right decision, one with a lifetime’s worth of consequences, what’s it to you? Doesn’t matter if they spend their time skiing in the Alps or working in a garage, just as long as they figure out how they are going to make a difference in the world.

Believe me, sometimes you can learn a lot more about life away from a classroom than in one.”

How To Make Your Gap Year Valuable To Prospective Employers

This is a big one for a lot of Gap Year participants, whether you’re trying to impress a college board or an employer upon return. A Gap Year can translate into immense benefit to your career path forward, the trick is in communicating that.

“It’s also important to identify the key skills that are crucial to the job you’re applying to. The beauty of gap years is that participants come away with a set of soft skills that are more difficult to hone in a college environment. Knight suggests thinking of your gap year experience from three lenses that an employer will likely value: the ability to work independently and be a self-starter, the ability to collaborate in a team, and the ability to think on your feet and be entrepreneurial when necessary.

Participants of gap years, according to Knight, usually tend to have those skills well documented and well experienced. But it’s important to identify specific instances where they were able to practice those skills, and communicate them to a prospective employer in the interview process.”Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 11.46.57 AM

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