What is a “Gap Year”?
“A one-year hiatus from academic studies to allow for nonacademic activities”, also known as venturing out into this world to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in a foreign country (or even your own country) to explore and in some cases, gain work experience away from the books or the inside of a classroom. Sounds pretty good to me!
A study on Gap Years in the UK shows that 26% of high school students took a gap year and almost 100% of them agreed that it benefited them, whether it be personally, adding to their CV’s or all round. There’s no right or wrong way to approach your life when you walk out of your final school exams. For some, it’s an easy decision but for others, the fear of “growing up” or enrolling in a university degree with some doubt of what that may actually be, is frightening.
We were in the exact same position and decided to take a gap year and don’t regret it one bit. Here are our gap year experiences:
Our gap year experiences
When I left school, I knew from the get-go that a 3-year university course was out of the question. University definitely wasn’t for me and my parents were both extremely supportive of my decisions. Instead, I embarked on a journey I will never, ever forget. If I’m perfectly honest, still to this day I find myself looking back on the time I lived overseas at the tender age of 19. I jumped head first into the largest culture shock ever… volunteering 6 days a week in a Mother Teresa Orphanage in Mumbai, India. What a change from Sydney, Australia that was!
The experiences and lessons I gained from this were incomparable to anything I’ve ever learnt before. I grew from 19 to what felt like 25 in a matter of months, gathering knowledge and experiences that to this day, I still find extremely valuable. Interestingly enough, studies show that only 12% of gap year takers volunteer, so there is ample opportunity here for you to get out of your comfort zone.
Jacob also took a gap year after graduating high school, making his way all the way to the unfamiliar Scandinavian territory of Sweden to do a student cultural exchange at a local high school. His motivations were to play European handball and use Sweden as a base to travel to nearby European countries. He lived with a host family for a year, learned Swedish (well, tried to), and lapped up the Swedish culture. It was a learning experience that he couldn’t have got any other way.
Is it a gap year right for you?
There’s a lot of pressure towards the end of grade 12 to know what you want to do in life, what job you want, where you want to live and what’s next in your life but at the age of 17 or 18 do you really know what this is? If you do, kudos to you, but if not, don’t panic, there’s still time and plenty of it!
Allowing yourself to take a break from the last 13 years of school, gives you a very strong chance of discovering new career paths, new likes and dislikes. More often than not, you hear plenty of stories of students leaving school thinking they want to be a doctor or a journalist, only to discover one year into their course they, in fact, have no interest in either of these positions and are now feeling completely lost with their choices, and financially drained.
There are so many opportunities in this world, for any type of traveller.
If you’re afraid of travelling alone or aren’t quite sure of who to travel with, many companies have well organised multi-country tours to help. It takes the stress out of being alone and gives you the chance to meet like-minded travellers and help gain the confidence you need to get out there.
So where can you go for a gap year? ANYWHERE! The USA was the #1 destination worldwide for British travellers, with Australia coming in at a close second. But no matter where you go, it will be a change and a new experience from your everyday life at school. That we can assure you.
What gap years can do to you
After travelling for most of our lives, as children, teenagers and now as a married couple, we can safely say, travel brings pure joy to both of our souls.
Travel is a way of life, a mind set, and a freedom that you can’t experience any other way.
Travel pushes you out of your comfort zones, it helps break your fears and gives you confidence. Travel allows you to immerse yourself in a mix of cultures, beliefs and engage with people from all over the world. Travel gives you the opportunity to make lifelong friendships and gain a new perspective. Travel is in our blood and without it, I can assure you there would be a piece of the puzzle missing from both of our hearts.
Our advice to you
If there’s one piece of advice, both Jacob and I could give to anyone it would be this…
If you have the opportunity, take a gap year.
Don’t follow what the rest of your friends or fellow classmates are doing, do what’s right for you. If that means taking a leap into the world to a foreign place you know nothing about, do it. You’ll never look back. You have the rest of your life ahead of you to settle down, study, and find your dream job.
Believe me, the knowledge you learn about yourself and the rest of this world whilst travelling is knowledge impossible to gain in the comfort of your own hometown.