It has been awhile! I have settled back into life in Winnipeg, Canada and school has been keeping me busy. In my Journalism course we were asked to write an opinion piece. I wrote mine on the importance of taking a gap year. So, I thought I would share it here. Enjoy!
The question was first asked sometime during my last year of high school and I haven’t been able to escape it since. “What are you doing with your life?” This question quickly became my nemesis. Since its conception, the question of my life’s plan has become a hot topic throughout many of my conversations.
I used to try to avoid the question with introspective possibilities, but that never satisfied their curiosity. People wanted to hear of attainable plans and majors. Uncertainty and doubt only raised more concern and created more questions. So, what is a confused, indecisive grade 12 student supposed to do when interrogated about the direction of their life?
My solution was to look my interrogator straight in the eye and state that I would be taking a gap year.
A gap year may be considered impractical. The biggest concern is that a student will lose momentum or fall behind their peers. Society has established that the logical direction after graduation is to continue studying. There is a fear that if the pattern of study is broken, the young adult will not want to return to school.
I was greeted by many concerned individuals when I revealed that my life plans would not involve immediately obtaining a post-secondary education. These individuals may have been apprehensive because they had never heard of the benefits of taking a year off.
The biggest advantage of taking a year off is that it provides a break from formal education. Even Harvard University recommends that students defer their enrolment to take a gap year. A break from academics does not mean a vacation from learning. Many people will use a gap year to volunteer, work, and acquire new skills or travel.
Traveling in a different country offers invaluable insight into different cultures. Perspective cannot be taught. It must be learned.
One of the best ways to learn about oneself is to embrace a diverse new way of life in another part of the world. Travelling also provides a unique opportunity to learn a new language and make new friends.
For those concerned about the financial aspects of travelling, there are many ways to raise the money and travel on a budget. I worked for five months before I travelled to Ecuador. I volunteered there for four months, learned Spanish and plunged into the South American culture.
Upon returning from my travels, I was even more excited to begin University. In fact, the majority of gap year students do return to school. These students even have an advantage over their peers. They are better rested and more self-actualized.
While most people use their first year of University to figure out what they would like to do, students that take a year off explore their possibilities while embracing their sense of adventure. Most gap year students return to school with their “What are you doing?” question answered.
I would not trade my gap year for anything. I had experiences that challenged and shaped me, but, most importantly, I made life-long memories. So, if you are faced with the uncertainty of life, consider grabbing a map and a guide book. There is a whole world out there just waiting to be discovered.