Is Taking a Gap Year Worth Graduating Late?

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In short, YES. Gap Years can kickstart motivation, teach valuable life skills, hone resumes into killer shape, and open doors to future opportunities. And believe it or not, Gap Year students may actually graduate a year ahead of time.

Did you know that many teenagers in other countries wait a year after high school before heading to college? In Norway, Denmark and Turkey, for instance, more than 50 percent of students take a year off before college, according to the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education in Oslo, Norway. (USA Today)

So what makes the Gap Year such a popular trend in countries which greatly value higher education? While Gap Years may look like a delay in starting your “real” life, the stats show us that a Gap Year can effectively jumpstart a successful college transition and future career.

Gap Years Boost Resumes & Applications

One of the most common complaints Gap Year advisors hear from parents is that “we saved for four years, not for five.” The cost of a Gap Year can be a huge concern for parents who are staring down four years of rising college costs. However, Gap Years can actually save parents money in the long run. As the world becomes increasingly connected, universities and employers are looking for students with international experience. The skills and experiences that students gain while on a Gap Year can work in their favor when applying for scholarships, job opportunities, and grants.

Gap Year – Adulting 101

Over the course of their international year, Gap Year students practice more independent adulthood. The challenge of taking on a Gap Year can teach organizational skills, time management, basic budgeting, safety awareness, and can boost independence and responsibility. When a Gap Year student then transitions to a college setting, the skills they already have can boost them ahead of their peers. Without the distraction of “learning how to be an adult,” students can focus on classes, keep track of their academic schedules, and even pursue internships or job opportunities immediately.

After taking a year to build these skills and connections, it’s going to be easier for students to earn money while at university, thus cutting on-campus costs. As a Gap Year student, be sure to seek out opportunities to build your resume and work experience as you travel, especially if your goal is to be financially independent in university.

Increase Odds of Completing a Degree Program

Take a look at some of the most common benefits students reported (National Alumni Survey) having gained during their Gap Year:
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Many students report returning from their Gap Year with new motivation and personal confidence that can help them to succeed in university. The time abroad allows students to explore new interests, to get in touch with their passions, and to learn that their educations should be self-driven. Taking a 1-year break between high school and university encourages ‘motivation for and interest in study to be renewed.’ [Birch, “The Characteristics of Gap-Year Students and Their Tertiary Academic Outcomes”, Australia, 2007] As a result, Gappers are more likely to return to university and to pick a major that truly suits them. Statistically, we see 9 out of 10 Gap Year students returning to take up college studies within a year.

With a lower risk of dropping out, changing their major, or being bored in a major they dislike, Gap Year students earn noticeably improved grades. According to Bob Clagget, former Dean of Admissions at Middlebury College, students who took a Gap Year almost always overperformed academically in college, usually to a statistically significant degree. Most importantly, the positive effect of taking a Gap Year was demonstrated to endure over all four years.

With this boost in personal motivation and GPA, it’s not uncommon for Gappers to complete their time at college a year early. But even if the student does not graduate faster than the average four years, after taking a Gap Year they will automatically have a better chance of actually completing university to begin with.
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Gappers Build A Successful Future

Ideally, a Gap Year allows students to discover their dream calling and to start down the path towards a future they care about. Students who have taken a Gap Year overwhelmingly report being satisfied with their jobs. Students need time to get to know themselves and to take charge of their own decision-making process. Given the chance, Gappers will explore new interests, create valuable experiences for themselves, and ultimately work towards a meaningful future career. Without that time, it’s not uncommon for students to land in a degree program which leads to a career path they have no real interest in. If one year of international travel could save you 5+ years of tedium, wouldn’t you want to leave tomorrow?

Combating Gap Year Costs

Gap Year costs can be easily combated with a little effort on the student’s part. Gappers, take the time to seek out and apply for scholarships and grants. With the Gap Year movement growing rapidly, many organizations are working hard to provide financial assistance to those who need it, with the goal of providing Gap Year access to every student.

Starting the adventure from within the safety of a structured program that is accredited is another great way to save money and avoid costly early hassles and emergencies. Check out our list of accredited programs to find high quality programs that cater to your individual goals.

After participating in a group program or two, save money by switching to solo budget travel. Travel to destinations like Central or South America, where living costs may be cheaper than staying in an apartment back home. Take a look at work-abroad opportunities, where students trade a few hours of work each day for room and board. These are a great way to learn new skills and gain experience that can boost resumes and jumpstart a future career!

Finally, have a plan! Your Gap Year will help you forward only if you’re intentional with your time. If you’re actively planning to find motivation, to take on projects that will help you into internships and opportunities down the road, and to be working towards your college path, you’ll find that a Gap Year can help students get through uni faster than ever.

Don’t Forget:

Life is not a race to the finish line. Don’t think of a Gap Year as a delay in your “real” life. You are building your real life right now, every single day. Are you building a life that excites you? Are you pursuing a future that inspires you? If not, perhaps it’s time to take a Gap Year, explore what the world has to offer, and jumpstart the life you want to be living!


Taking a Gap Year can save students (and parents) time and money down the road. Thanks to the newfound skills, motivation, and self-knowledge that students gain during a Gap Year, the college process can become cheaper and easier. Here are a few ways a

Gap Year can equip students for accelerated college success:

International experience boosts resumes and applications, both for job opportunities and potential scholarships.

“Adulting” skills learned on the road ease the Gap-college transition, allowing students to focus on their studies.

9/10 Gappers return to university within a year. The motivation and skills aquired during their Gap Year greatly improve their odds of staying within one degree program and completing it. Some may even earn their degree in only 3 years.

Gappers report higher levels of job satisfaction after college.

Gap Year costs can be combated by applying for scholarships, earning money during the trip, and pursuing budget travel to cheap destinations.

New Videos to Build Financial Literacy for Gap Year Students

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Gap Years are all about skill building. During an educational “year on” students have the opportunity to put boots to the book knowledge they’ve been accruing over 12 years of formal schooling. One of the big points of skill building and real world learning that surface during the planning and execution of a Gap Year is financial literacy and skill building. All of a sudden, students who have been under the umbrella of parents find themselves responsible for saving a large amount of money and figuring out how to spend that wisely.

If you are a student working to get your head around the financial aspects of your Gap Year and adulthood, or an adult who works with young people in the transition of emerging adulthood, this is for you!

As a new tool in the toolkit for bridging the gap between financial dependence and independence, the team at Steve Buhaly’s Money Tips has put together a YouTube channel as part of an educational, not-for-profit endeavor to raise awareness on financial literacy and empowerment for young adults, primarily college students or recent grads.

The videos cover topics like savings, debt, and investing basics (and they’re currently working on a few others that include job hunting, interviewing, negotiating, and more in-depth coverage on investing). The next topic, on investing basics, should be released very soon.

These videos are free for public use, and have no advertisements. Below, is the first release topic on savings.

If you know of any young people or organizations that would benefit from using these videos, please feel free to share them. The primary purpose in circulating this content is to help educate young adults on how they can secure a healthy financial future in an entertaining and engaging way.

Follow them on Facebook and

Travel Access Project Announces Grants for Gap Year Travel

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$3000 USD Gap Year Grant for 2017-18

We’re very excited to announce the arrival of some new grants on the Gap Year travel scene. Travel Access Project, which is developing open-source educational resources for every country in the world, is also making a big splash this spring by announcing TEN $3000 grants for Gap Year Travel.

Seven of these will be awarded through TAP. Three will be awarded through Wayfinding Academy, Go Overseas, and the AGA Back-a-Gapper Scholarship.

Apply Here!

  • Do you have a dream of taking a Gap Year to travel and learn?
  • Do you want to take a break between high school and college to experience the real world, expand your skill set and gain clarity towards your career path forward?
  • Perhaps you’re just graduating from university and you’re looking to take a year to apply some of what you’ve learned, intern, or just experience another culture before you enter the work force?

Maybe you just believe, like we do, that travel is fundamental to an education and you realize that your education won’t be complete, no matter the diploma, until you’ve wandered a while and become a citizen of the broader world.

Apply Now!

And please share with every one you know who might be interested!

How to Bootstrap a Solo Gap Year

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If you have almost no money, how can you fund a self-designed Gap Year experience? Most give up. Some get really creative.

Victor Saad was 25 years old and seriously considering MBA programs when he decided that he could get a better learning experience—and spend much less money—by designing his own professional gap year, or in his words, a “self-made master’s degree.” He made plans to quit his job and take 12 business apprenticeships over the course of 12 months.

But he had one big problem: money.

Victor’s adventures would take him across the United States and the world, including China, Costa Rica, and Cairo. All these flights and living expenses would have to come from somewhere. As Victor explained in his TEDx talk:

I don’t have some massive trust fund, and FAFSA doesn’t let you take a loan out for your own self-made degree. So I got creative. I asked 200 people to subscribe to the project at $10 a month. They would get to learn from my lessons and see what I was doing, and I would have the means to run the project. After several really interesting conversations about why in the world anyone should give me a penny, roughly 100 trusting individuals gave me just what I needed.

In other words, Victor crowdfunded his expenses—but not in the typical fashion.

When most of us think about crowdfunding, we think of IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, or GoFundMe: powerful platforms that can certainly be used to run a successful fundraising campaign. But many potential contributors are hesitant to fund someone else’s travel adventure, and many cannot give more than a small amount of money. Many of these traditional campaigns fail to meet their goals.

A Different Approach: Providing Value to Supporters

Victor took a different approach that employed the same core idea behind crowdfunding—you give me some money, I provide you with meaningful updates and rewards related to my project—but turned it into a subscription service instead. It’s a lot less intimidating to ask someone for $10 a month for the next 12 months than asking for $120 right now. This model also ensured that Victor wouldn’t take the money and then neglect to provide the goods he promised (as too many crowdfunding campaigners do), because a contributor could simply cancel their sponsorship. For contributors, this approach feels much safer and friendlier than a traditional crowdfunding campaign.

What about travel costs? Victor’s subscriber income wouldn’t cover all the flights he needed, so he asked his network for help. The father of one of his former students ended up giving him a number of “buddy passes” for standby flights.

What about lodging cost? Victor’s approach was to first ask friends and family if they knew anyone in the area he could stay with. Then he tried Couchsurfing, Craigslist, Airbnb, and “frantically posting on Facebook and Twitter.” Essentially, he took whatever the world offered him:

I stayed in everything from office spaces to vehicles to mansions. I was a vagabond. But it was okay. I was a student.

I learned all this while researching Victor before interviewing him for my podcast, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, so I asked Victor if he relied on any other sources of funding to make this year possible. He told me that some of the apprenticeships he took did pay him $15-$20/hour and that he sold some possessions to earn a few thousand dollars at the beginning of the year. Beyond that, he received no outside support and completely self-funded his 12-month, travel-intensive learning experience.

Recipe for Independent Gap Year Funding

It’s clear from Victor’s story that he had a number of resources that allowed him to pull off this feat of funding, most notably a wide social network that let him recruit a critical mass of subscribers and people to donate things like flight buddy passes. Regardless, I see a model here for any young person who wants to take a Gap Year, doesn’t have the cash to fund it, and is willing to exercise her entrepreneurial muscles.

Here are the ingredients:

Subscription service: Instead of running one big crowdfunding campaign to fund your travels, offer “subscriptions” to your gap year for a fixed monthly rate. Provide options ranging from $5/month to $30/month. (The best platform for doing this at the moment is probably Patreon.) For the different levels, offer a range of perks including monthly email updates, postcards, souvenirs, and videos (which can also serve as accountability and journaling tools for you). Aim to generate at least $1000/month from this income.

Donated airline miles and buddy passes: To tackle with the major expense of flights, ask your family, friends, and communities if they would be willing to donate accumulated airline miles or buddy passes to your cause. You can also get one of the many credit cards that gives you 50,000+ air miles as soon you spend a few thousand dollars (which you can launder through your parents when they need to buy something expensive like a new computer).

Free housing: Get really comfortable with using Couchsurfing to stay at strangers’ houses. Tap your extended Facebook network to find potential hosts where you go. Investigate work-trades situations with hostels or private homeowners who will let you stay for free in exchange for a few hours of work each day (find these opportunities at Help Exchange and Work Away).

Part-time work: Develop a highly transferable skill (what I call a Masseuse Model skill) that will enable you to pick up part-time work wherever you go.

Frugality: Learn how to cook rice and beans really, really well. Figure out to how entertain yourself without going out for drinks or going bungee jumping.

Good-looking personal website & travel blog: Tell the story of your financing efforts on a highly polished personal website, which also serves as your travel blog. Victor was a master of sharing his story online, being genuine, inspiring people, and gaining their support. Be like Victor.


Together, these six ingredients could fund a Gap Year. It’s not an easy path, but it’s a rewarding one. Good luck, gappers!

PS- If you try putting this plan into action, I’d love to follow your progress, and maybe even help you set up your subscription service. Write me:


Blake Boles is the founder of Unschool Adventures, the travel and education company for self-directed young people ages 14-21. His most recent books include The Art of Self-Directed Learning and How to Live Nowhere. Learn more at

10 Gap Year Scholarships to Apply For Today

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You knew that there were scholarships available for university and college programs, but were you aware that there are also scholarships available for people taking Gap Years?

There are!

If you’re going through a Gap Year organization then it’s likely they are going to have some scholarship money to award. Be sure to ask for it! Even if you are charting your own course, or no funding is available through the organization you partner with, there are outside scholarships that you can apply for.

Back a Gapper

The “Back-a-Gapper” Scholarship program is a network of individual scholarships that individuals interested in taking a Gap Year are eligible to apply for. Each scholarship, listed in this Back-a-Gapper section, will have a brief description and instructions on how to apply.

The Humboldt Back-A-Gapper Scholarship is endowed by the generosity of Richard Stepp, a Humboldt State University Professor and philanthropist. Students must (A) be a resident of Humboldt County, California, (B) and be applying for an AGA-Accredited program. Over the next 3 years, roughly $20,000 will be given to individuals who meet these criteria and are selected by this competitive application process.

The Pollination Project

The Pollination Project gives $1,000 startup grants to individual change makers and projects that promote compassion around the world.

National Security Language Initiative for Youth

The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs. Previous language study is not required, and language learners of all levels are encouraged to apply.

This is a scholarship for recent high school graduates or current high school students aged 16-18 to focus on “high need” languages. The current list includes: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, Persian (Tajik), Russian and Turkish.

Fund for Education Abroad

This award requires university credit. Fund for Education Abroad. The newly established Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) was created in order to open doors for deserving education abroad students.

Starting with the 2011-2012 academic year, FEA will award funds for students planning to study abroad on any academically rigorous programs. Designed by the FEA Advisory Board, FEA scholarships are intended to meet the financial needs of students who might not be eligible for government grants or existing funds limited to specific programs or groups of students.

America’s Unofficial Ambassadors

This scholarship requires university credit, too. Competitive scholarship for students who are primarily going to Muslim countries. The idea is that bridges are built through forming meaningful connections across cultural boundaries and they’re awarding money for people going to volunteer in the Muslim world.

Foundation for Global Scholars GRIT

The Foundation for Global Scholars is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Denver, Colorado whose mission is to create global citizens and leaders by assisting students in achieving their personal and professional goals of obtaining cultural and academic experiences abroad. The Foundation will support this mission by awarding scholarships to help enable students to obtain an international experience. Students who are from underrepresented populations in international education are a priority.

Browery Youth Awards

arth Island Institute Brower Youth Awards for 13 – 22 year olds living in North America who show outstanding leadership on a project or campaign with social impact of environmental impact

Freeman Awards-Asia

This is another scholarship that requires university credit. This is for students primarily going to Asia and offers scholarships up to $7,000.

A Freeman-ASIA Award provides need-based funding to assist the recipient with the cost of the study abroad program and related expenses, including airfare, basic living costs, local transportation, books, etc.

Schepp Foundation

This award equires university credit. Do check the page for eligibility before applying. You’ll need to make a trip to NYC for a personal interview for this award and your costs for that will not be covered. People as old as 40 can apply for this grant, expanding the gap year demographic beyond the scope of most youth oriented programs.

Go Abroad Scholarships

Go Abroad has compiled their own list of scholarships and has some recommendations on the process of tracking down, applying for, and winning the ones best suited for you. They break them down by country of origin, as well as subject, all with a specific focus on going abroad (of course!)

Of course there’s always more to learn about financial aid for your Gap Year, visit our financial aid resources page to dive deeper!

Are you aware of Gap Year scholarships that we haven’t listed here? Please link to them in the comments!

Photo Credit: Ondrej Supitar

Finding Money For Your Gap Year

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MoneyUnfortunately, most students don’t wake up with extra thousands of dollars lying around to spend on purchasing whatever they want. Unless you planted a coin as a kid that later grew into a money tree, you’ll probably need to plan in advance for footing your gap year bill.

Traveling CAN cost you a pretty penny. Many of the world’s most expensive cities lie outside of the United States, yet remain popular gap year destinations among students. Does this mean that there are a bunch of cold, hungry, and broke international students fluttering about the cities of the world? Heck no! Don’t deflate your dreams of travel or cancel your flights juuuust yet. While it can be expensive to take a gap year, there is more to your life abroad than the pleasures and indulgences of touristing. If you are budget savvy and willing to make a few sacrifices every now and then (think: 2 scoops of ice cream instead of 12), your overall expenses will be more than manageable.

While the cost can be a nasty little drawback, don’t feel defeated and default to the college path juuuust yet. Even if your trip abroad will be your most expensive purchase to date, preparing for it should not feel daunting or troubling. With proper planning and with time on your side, you will be able to finance your gap year no sweat (okay, with a reasonable amount of sweat).

Step #1: Estimate

Before you can start saving for your gap year, you probably want to know a ballpark figure of what your end savings goal is. The overall cost will vary dependent on a number of different factors, including destination, whether or not you’ll be working, the overall cost of your program provider, and the relative cost of getting there, around, and back.

Students should begin discussing their gap year goals with their academic advisors, potentially their university advisor, and their parents early on. Even if you have yet to decide exactly where you want to go or what you want to do, these conversations can start giving you an estimation of potential out-of-pocket expenses.

Consider Your Fixed Travel Costs

As you are financially planning for your gap year, be sure to factor in the actual costs of traveling. Your flight from your home country abroad may end up costing you hundreds of dollars. You may need to apply for a visa, or even a passport if you are new the game of travel (WELCOME!). Will you be traveling overland between countries, or staying put for the entire year? While these fees are often paid up front and don’t detract from your day-to-day cost of living, they still detract from your bank account and can be a hefty start-up cost.

Budget For Your Personal Spending Habits

If you’re the kind of person who always needs seconds and thirds, or requires fine dining each weekend, you might need to buffer your budget to plan for your flagrant spending habits. Your gap year might be a good opportunity for practicing minimalism and simple living; after all, you’ll want to stretch your saved dollars as far as possible.

Honestly critique those spending habits. I would bet that if you were to realistically consider the amount of money you spend regularly back home (let’s not discount the frequent Starbucks fixes or what you “pay-at-the-pump”) the cost of living abroad, despite including these extraneous fees, may turn out to be very comparable to (or cheaper than!) your present lifestyle. We know that saving money is no easy feat, and sometimes requires a bit of sacrifice. You might really want to go to that concert with your friends, or think you need the latest iPhone. But delayed gratification IS real and you won’t regret the compromises you made once you’re having a blast abroad.

Aim to Save a Little Extra

Consider the numbers you’ve calculated as an under-estimation (even if, in fact, they are an over-estimation!). Why? Because your gap year might be more expensive than you expect, and nobody wants to travel with financial worry. Save as much money as possible before you take your gap year; in this way, you will be able to relax and truly invest in your new life.

Step #2: Start Saving & Fundraising

Financially planning for a gap year takes work, creativity, and persistence. While you should definitely consider getting a job and putting your savings towards your adventures, you do not need to squeeze a 40 hour work week on top of your school life to make it work. There are plenty of other avenues for raising money. Read on for some tips to save money for your gap year:

Make a Budget & Stick With It

Financial discipline is tough. It takes conscious, daily effort and forces you to make good decisions a habit. But stick it out – it WILL get easier. Set small savings goals for yourself and celebrate those successes. Use apps or online tools to keep track of your expenditures and stay on target.

Leverage Crowd Funding

Make a FundMyTravel campaign or other online fundraising platform. Leverage the power of the internet to get family, friends, and extended networks involved in donating money for your gap year. This is an especially fruitful effort if your gap year will be dedicated to a specific project or cause that you care about.

Work With What You Have

Identify other sources of financial gain, like grandparents. Think outside the box when it comes to raising money. You can get community organizations involved or host your own bake sale/fundraising event. You can ask your religious meeting place to make a donation or offering to put towards your goals. Parents, grandparents, those aunts and uncles you only see but once a year. If you are passionate about your trip, they’ll be able to feel it and will likely support you in your endeavours
Ask for money for birthday/holiday gifts. Use every opportunity you can to accomplish your savings goals.

Just remember: Every. Penny. Counts.

Step #3: Apply For Gap Year Scholarships

Scholarships aren’t JUST for those going to school. Many travel scholarships exist to help youth travelers get out and see the world – to learn not only in the classroom, but experientially, too. Check out these great scholarships for gap years:

Don’t get discouraged if you do not hear from the scholarship organizations as quickly as you’d like. Just keep on trucking: apply for as many scholarships as you can, and look for alternative sources for scholarships, too. Your town or city council, the university you are deferring from, your high school – ask around and keep applying for any opportunity that pops up!

Step #4: Plan to be Budget Savvy While Abroad

Depending on your financial background, the costs outlined above may bring you a sigh of relief or might render you unconscious on the floor. No matter your current health status, here are a few tips to help you stay within budget while on your gap year:

Not to sound like a broken record, but live, study, volunteer, or work outside of major cities. You can still visit the city hubbub on the weekends to experience all that is cosmopolitan and wonderful, but to lessen your overall costs, steer clear of metropolises.

Consider Travel Convenience

If you are interested in exploring many countries on your gap year, factor in the ease of travel. For instance, while I had initially planned on spending a semester of my college life drinking afternoon tea and wearing big hats at horse races in England, after further consideration, I chose instead a program in Germany. It’s central location allowed for better overland travel via the EuroRail; I thought myself a stroke of thrifty genius.

Project the Currency Exchange

There are places in the world where the American dollar can make you feel like a king. There are also places in the world where you look at your sandwich and think, “Wait, did I just drop $15 on this?” When choosing a study abroad program, factor in the costs of local expenses. When the U.S. dollar is stronger, the cost of living will be cheaper, and vice versa.

Get a Student Card

Apply for an ISIC card and never forget to flash your student ID. Many international students will receive a discount at major landmarks, museums, transportation centers and more. It never hurts to ask, right?!

Brown Bag It

Commit to packing your lunch and eating in sketchy* looking restaurants. Many international students are pros at the homemade peanut butter sandwich by the time they head home, and show no fear when eating off-the-beaten path. Generally speaking, what you’re looking for is a restaurant with many happy-looking people speaking in the local language, the lack of an English menu, and a fat chef. *Use your best judgment; food poisoning abroad is as bad as it sounds.

The Choice is Yours…

Students should aim to select a program that fits your budget as well as meets their academic and personal goals. Make the most of this opportunity to take a gap year after high school: research, plan, and collect as much background information as possible to ensure your experience is exactly how you want it to be.

Most importantly, cost is not the only factor to consider when choosing where to travel. Keep in mind that while some programs may be cheaper (such as those in Nepal or Indonesia), if you are a hardcore Spanish or Latin American Studies major, it might not make the most sense to study in Asia.

While we steadfastly argue that the benefits of a gap year not only justify but outweigh the impending costs, we do realize that the financial commitment remains an important factor when students are considering their post-graduation options. It is important to look at your gap year as a financial investment, one with dividends that will pay off for years to come. In fact, many students cite their international experiences as the primary line item on their resumes that ended up landing them the job. Cha-ching!

Photo Credit: Martin Vorel

Article contributed by Megan Lee

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