What Type of Gap Year is Right for You?
Gap years are usually viewed as taking time to travel between life stages or as a time when someone disengages from curricular education and/or work. Yes, a gap year can be the most adventurous year of your life, but it's not all fun and games. In fact, most “gappers" spend time volunteering, teaching and taking a few classes during their time abroad.
At first parents might be concerned about gap years, thinking, “Does my kid just want to go have fun for a year?" But, this is a misplaced fear. Gap years entail much more than going to techno dance clubs in downtown London. Taking a gap year allows you the opportunity to work with a variety of world renowned organizations. One of the most appealing aspects of taking a gap year is that you can improve your current talents while discovering new ones!
Before taking a gap year, you'll need to think carefully about what kind of personality you have. If you're shy in front of large groups, then taking a teaching gap year may not be the best option for you. However, during your gap year you may want to branch out and challenge yourself to overcome old fears. The great thing about gap year programs is that many of them are short enough for you to explore many different parts of yourself as you continue to grow as a person. You can work with organizations that conduct research in remote and exotic locations, save endangered wildlife, volunteer in hospitals and orphanages, or intern for a local start up all while experiencing a new culture from the inside.
Volunteers are the fuel for gap year organizations and the communities they serve. Even if you've never rebuilt a hurricane-crumbled house or fed a starving child before, don't hesitate to look into being a volunteer. Just ask yourself this essential question: Do you want to meet other young people, work in a group, and see another country from the inside while donating your skills to a cause greater than yourself? If so, then taking a volunteer gap year is right for you.
As a volunteer you can work with communities in multiple countries all with just a single program. You can preform construction work, including large building projects, work in clinics, or lend you skills to an orphanage.
The most important thing for the gapper is to make sure that the project is for the benefit of the community and not for selfish means. Make sure the ethics behind it are similar to yours. Often times it helps to go with an independent company to avoid conflicting interests.
Employers are attracted to someone who has gone abroad and learned the communication skills necessary to succeed in the business world. Employers want to know that you did your gap year for a reason. If your reason was to get work experience, then employers will be very impressed at your dedication and risk-taking ability.
Since there are an increasing number of employers that are looking for graduates and competition is increasing, it's important to have industry experience. Working during your gap year will set you apart from the competition.
When we think of “adventure," we imagine rock climbers, bungee jumpers, and free divers, but most programs for adventure travel have more to do with scientific research than surfing a monster wave in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, taking an adventure gap year can be both rewarding and exciting. Many NGOs are looking for a gapper with the right attitude, someone who shows their willingness to help others. Taking an adventure gap year will not only give you the unique opportunity to explore beautiful natural landscapes, but also teach you valuable life skills. Taking an adventure gap year might just toughen you up, giving you the tools you need to take on whatever life throws at you.
What type of “gapper" are you? Share your thoughts on what type of gap year is right for you!
This article is brought to you by Nick Wright.
Nicholas, Chief Editor at Go Overseas, is an avid reader, obsessed with poetry and literature. He attended the University of San Francisco and next fall he'll be attending Columbia University to earn his Master's degree in writing. You can find Nick (stereotypically) hanging out at cafes throughout San Francisco and playing the electric bass with his band "Coma Kids".