Advice for Parents from Gap Year Parents

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As a Gap Year counselor, I work closely with students to design meaningful plans for their time out. More often than not, a student’s parents are also by their side to encourage and inspire the planning process. Parents of gappers see the value in travel and experiential learning but also want to make sure their child will be safe on their Gap Year. If you are currently helping your child through the planning process, consider these tips from seasoned Gap Year parents who have been there!

1. Start Thinking About a Gap Year Early

In my experience, the sooner a student starts brainstorming their Gap Year plans, the more deliberate the ultimate itinerary turns out to be. Gap Year parent Jane suggests, ”Try to get started on the exploration of opportunities early in the process and be open-minded. A variety of experiences is valuable…these kids are still young – why not take advantage of a few opportunities?”

An excellent entry point to Gap Year research is visiting a Gap Year fair or starting to look at AGA accredited opportunities online.

2. Good Communication is Essential

Start planning by getting everyone on the same page. Gap Year parent Debra offers this advice: “Take both your child’s and your wants and desires into consideration. As parents, we were not comfortable with some programs, but our advisor was able to find programs that made everyone happy. There are so many programs out there, you can find something that works for every member of the family.”

“It’s all about balance,” explains Diann, whose son planned a Spanish-immersion gap year that took him to Spain and South America. She encourages families to set expectations together regarding accountability and decision-making. It helps for parents to set parameters at the outset of planning and then allow their child the freedom to tackle the decision-making within a framework that’s comfortable for everyone.

3. Research is Key

Planning a gap year is a research undertaking for the student and their family. After her daughter’s Gap Year, Jessica offers, “I think you have to figure out what your goals are and then hang in there until you find the right programs. There are so many choices. It can be overwhelming, but with help you can narrow in on the right ones. I also think it was extremely helpful to speak with the program directors. In one case we decided not to pursue a program that had looked like a good fit from their materials.”

4. Ensure Your Child Has Skin in the Game

“Travel AND work,” says Hilary, who watched her son save money to travel to Asia and Belize. “Make sure the student earns something to help pay for at least some of the experience.” Students can save for their gap time in a variety of ways, including crowd-funding, working or leveraging a special skill. Wendy’s daughter knitted scarves for three months to fund a trip to Thailand. She believes the experience was fantastic for her daughter, including the fact that she earned the experience. “The three months in Thailand was a life changer for my daughter,” Wendy says. “It showed her that she was strong and resilient, that the world is full of kind people… She met lots of people from many different countries and made some lasting friendships.”

5. Help Your Child Mentally and Physically Prepare for Their Travels

Preparing for a Gap Year is a delicate balance of preparation and learning to roll with the inevitable bumps in the road. Perrin’s son spent much of his Gap Year traveling independently in Argentina. She thinks it’s important for fellow parents to realize, “Nothing is ever going to be exactly what you anticipate – but it will all be a great experience.”
Other parents urge successors to, “Apply for a South African visa asap,” or “Don’t forget the vaccinations!” In other words, create a check-list of the things that need to happen in the months leading up to departure. The physical tasks of preparing for a trip have the added benefit of mentally preparing a student for leaving.

6. Step Back and Let the Magic Happen

It’s hard to watch your child struggle on their Gap Year, but allowing your child to problem solve is all part of the experience. Gap Year parent Betsy explains, “Let your child get into and out of her/his own trouble. [Gaining] confidence that they can survive travel misfortunes is part of the beauty of a gap year.”

Genevieve feels the same way: “Parents need to let their kids go…I didn’t hear from my son during the time he was living in his Fijian village, but I thought it was important to let him have the space and make his own way.”

7. Witness the Evolution

We love hearing from parents about the changes they witness in their own children over the course of a Gap Year. Here are some highlights from recent parents of Gap Year students:

“She is more responsible at taking care of her affairs…managing travel, money and logistics. She is more empathetic, and sincerely appreciates the opportunities she’s had in her life.”

“[My daughter] has a deeper sense of calm and maturity after this past year. She developed an even better sense of herself and it appears to have given the time to reflect and further define her own personal value system. She also has a ‘lightness of being’ that I would ascertain comes with the observations she made on her own humanity relative to our earth and how other people live. She has developed a serious desire to have impact which I am sure will redirect her life path from here forward.”

“He knows now that the world is big and diverse. It’s not so abstract anymore. He jumped out of his comfort zone and came to know himself better–and to experience a confidence in his ability to navigate life.”

“This experience was life changing for [my daughter]. She left as a recent high school graduate who waited to be told what to do and returned as a young woman who is confident in her abilities like never before. It helped her find her passion for teaching, for travel and for meeting people of all walks of life.”

8. Parting Words

Perhaps Gap Year parent Ann says it best: “You will never regret giving your child this opportunity.”

Julia Rogers is the Founder of EnRoute Consulting, a firm dedicated to providing mentorship and logistical support for young people who take gap years before or during college. Over the past ten years, Julia has become an expert in her field by advising hundreds of students, as well as personally visiting gap year programs in over twenty countries. She works with high schools, colleges, service-learning organizations, non-profits, government entities and families to further experiential education and ethical travel.

Building Gap Year Skills Before You Go

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Most students think that their Gap Year starts the day they board their flight. In reality, your Gap
Year starts the day you commit to taking it. From there on, the entire planning process is a skill-
building opportunity that regularly pushes Gappers out of their comfort zones. For perhaps the
first time in your life, you’ll be managing a budget, researching destinations, signing up for Gap
Year programs, and sorting out the minor details of the adventure ahead. It’s a lot to process,
isn’t it?

To get the most out of a Gap Year, you’ll want to start establishing travel skills and challenging
yourself before even leaving home. Create the ultimate adventure and build confidence in your
skills by doing the following:

Take Charge!

This is YOUR Gap Year. Not your bestie’s, not a Gap Year organizer’s, and not your mom’s. It is
the responsibility of each student to personalize their own trip to fit their goals. Only you can know
exactly what kind of Gap Year would work best for you, so it should be up to you to mastermind
the adventure.

Would you rather work with wildlife in Africa or volunteer as a teacher in South
Korea? What jobs are available locally to help you get started with funding? Gappers who take
charge of their own planning process and savings will get so much more out of their Gap Year.

Planning your own adventure can:

  • Boost excitement and inspiration for the adventures ahead
  • Improve personal awareness of the next step in your planning process
  • Increase your confidence and independence
  • Allow for a flexible schedule… plan what you want to do, when you want to do it
  • Teach financial management skills

When students take charge of planning and funding their own Gap Year, it becomes truly theirs.
After months of hard work and research, this gap year is your baby. There’s a feeling of
tremendous success and accomplishment that comes with pulling off your first big adventure.

Go on a “Test-Run”

Never traveled before, or only traveled with family, or in a group? Think about taking a test run
before the main event. Test out your travel and planning skills with a weekend trip away. Trust me, there’s no better way to find the kinks in your planning system than to put them to the test!

  • Does your backpack work?
  • Have you packed a dozen things you’ll never actually use?
  • Can you read a map and navigate a bus transfer?
  • Do your shoes work, or will you need to buy a new pair?

A test run is a safe and easy way to gain confidence, find the flaws in your gear, and to
challenge yourself while home is still close by. Keep track of any fails or problems you discover
along the way and find solutions before your big take-off date.

Set Monthly Personal Growth Goals

Ideally, Gappers set themselves a series of goals – some help with planning the actual details of
the Gap Year, others encourage personal confidence-building as the departure date grows
closer. Setting these goals requires quite a bit of introspection, so set aside time to think about
what you want to get out of your time abroad and what you want to know before you get started.

  • What are you afraid of?
  • What do you most want to accomplish over the next year?
  • Take it a step farther: how can you start today?
  • What can you do now to push yourself out of your comfort zone and find your feet?
  • What makes you nervous about your upcoming Gap Year?

In all likelihood, there’s a way to challenge those fears before leaving home.

Afraid of navigating transit? Take day trips alone or with a friend.

Worried about the language barrier? Start taking classes with Duolingo or a local language

Scared of culture shock? Learn as much about the culture as possible before leaving.

Learn Some Gap Year Safety Basics

There’s nothing like some basic safety knowledge to take away fear of the unknown and boost
the overall success of a Gap Year! Did you know that international travel is far safer than the
naysayers would have you believe? Well planned Gap years are relatively low in risk and high in potential benefits. For
more info, check out our Data & Benefits page.

According to the stats, travel outside of the US is generally quite safe. Even so, it’s a good idea to have some safety knowledge under your belt:

Communication! Stay in touch with family and friends, let people know your plans, and know
emergency phone numbers.

Health insurance! Invest in good travel health insurance and know the medical situation in your
destination country.

Plan your accommodation in advance by at least a day or two. Avoid arriving at night without
booked accommodation.

Stay away from any protests or demonstrations. In some countries, it’s illegal for you to
participate or even watch.

Know basic first aid, even if your Gap Year won’t be international.

Avoid binge-drinking and drugs. A party year isn’t a Gap Year.

Keep track of your passport and documents. Make copies, in case something goes missing.

Want to learn more Gap Year safety hacks? We have just the post for you.

Prepare Yourself With Realistic Expectations

Gap Years aren’t always a walk in the park. Prep yourself for an upcoming Gap Year by reading
everything out there on your destination, the experiences of other Gappers, the program(s)
you’ve signed up for, and more. Understand that homesick days are inevitable and that a Gap
Year is a challenge, not a vacation. Just understanding this can help Gappers find their courage
in hard times and push through to reap the benefits of an amazing year. Trust me, it will be
worth the work.

Last but not least, never give up!

Set goals and knock them out, dream big, and watch as all of the hard work pays off. You absolutely can do this.

Parents: How to Help

So how do you encourage your Gap Year student? Keep in mind that this is your kid’s Gap Year, not yours.

The best way to be supportive of their adventure is to be interested and positive about their progress, but NOT to take charge. Don’t helicopter.

Students get the most out of their Gap Years when they’re the ones to plan, self- motivate, and fund the year. Encourage your teen to plan a gap year itinerary that will further their educational and personal goals. Talk to them about their ideas and their passions, encourage problem-solving instead of providing solutions to challenges.

Finally, encourage your Gapper to fund their future adventure themselves, even if you could help significantly. Gap Year
students who fund their own time abroad learn valuable skills that will help them into adulthood.

Essentially, your job now is to facilitate learning, from the sidelines! Hand over the reins, provide
encouragement, but be insistent that this Gap Year be their baby, not yours.

More tips on Gap Year parenting.

19 Year Old Oliver Crane Rowing the Atlantic on His Gap Year

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Nineteen-year-old Oliver Crane is preparing to row 3,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic – which will make him the youngest person ever to row solo across any ocean.

Ollie is taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, billed as the world’s toughest row, not only to push himself while on his gap year but to raise funds for marine conservation.

The challenge, which starts in the Canary Islands and finishes in Antigua, will begin on December 12 and is expected to take around three months – meaning Ollie will be on his own for Christmas and New Year. He admits he will miss his family and friends, particularly at these times.

“I have enjoyed scuba diving since I was 10 and have seen first-hand the devastation that climate change, over-fishing and garbage pollution have already wreaked on the ocean. It was a dream come true to go to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia but the part I saw was a let-down. There was horrific damage. It ignited my passion for ocean conservation.

“I thought this challenge was a good way to combine the two, so I’m raising money for Oceana, the largest charity in the world focused solely on ocean conservation. It works with governments to pass laws that protect ocean environments and sustainable fisheries.”
Oliver Crane

Ollie found out about the annual Atlantic event after looking online for difficult challenges. “It’s a tradition in my family to take on a project before university,” said Ollie, who will be going to Princeton University to study politics. He has four siblings – three older and one younger – and their achievements include climbing Mount Everest, cycling across Africa and hiking from Mexico to Canada.

The two-year-old boat that Ollie has bought, the SS4, was custom-built for ocean rowing. It has a solar-powered water-maker and is designed to right itself if it capsizes. It doesn’t have a toilet; Ollie will have to use a bucket. The boat completed the Atlantic crossing last year with a pair of rowers from Devon.

Ollie said: “After the race I will take it to schools and yacht clubs in the US and talk about the challenge and ocean conservation. Then I’ll sell it on.

You can find out more about Oliver’s quest and make donations through his website.

This article excerpted from Devon Live where it was originally published October 6, 2017.

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


Follow The Leap on Instagram


Follow Where There Be Dragons on Instagram

Where there be Dragons

Follow Winterline Global Skills on Instagram


Follow Rustic Pathways on Instagram

rustic pathways

Follow Outward Bound on Instagram

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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.

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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.


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.”

Gap Year CV

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.”
Gap Year WU

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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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.
melanie leopards
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

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.
melanie zip
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.

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