Taking a Gap Year after High School

The last year of school is a busy quarrel filled with questions and research as to what you’ll be doing in the year that follows. Going to a University or a College, where to stay, where to go? The list goes on and on. There is however an old yet still much recommended trend today: taking a gap year.

For me – finishing my final exam and knowing I’d never set foot in my school again was the turning point! The point where I knew I was no longer a kid but an adult. The paths I would be taking now were going to be the paths that dictate my future.

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I myself chose to take a Gap year Aupairing in a little town called Stäfa in the midst of Switzerland so it’s no secret which idea I support. However even with the pros in consideration there are a few downs to choosing a Gap year. In the end though for me personally the pros outweighed the cons but whatever you as an individual decide to do, do it for the benefit of yourself. Too often we take other peoples’ feeling into consideration, what will they think, say, how will my parents react? This is the time in your life where you are allowed to be a little selfish – it’s your future at play…

When talking to some college friends they all had the same thing to say: “It was the best time of my life”

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You up your independence level and become so much more self-reliant.

No matter where you are or what you do, facing the world on your own makes you independent. There’s nothing more rewarding when you realise you’ve gotten yourself out of sticky situation without anyone’s help – it was all you. It’s almost as if you have an epiphany, thinking “This must be what a peacock feels like when it shows off its fan of feathers”.

Self discovery.

College is not the place to “find” your inner you. It’s expensive and not worth wasting the time when you finally realise that the course you’ve been doing was not at all what you thought it would be. Taking some time off after school gives you a chance to take a breather, step back and observe the world from your perspective. You make your own assumptions about life – no teachers telling you that “the secret to life is…” or “This is the way it’s always been, no sense breaking tradition”. You’ll take time to form your own tradition and discover what drives you, what perplexes you and what challenges you.

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Learning vs. becoming wise

I met the most interesting man once. He speaks seven languages and has three Doctorate degrees. He was telling me stories about his world travels and how he learnt so much through doing. In the end I acknowledged him for all his wisdom. He asked me why I though he was wise and I replied with a simple: “Well you have three Doctorate degrees, so you must be wise” He looked at me and smiled saying “It’s life that makes you wise child – not the books, books just make you smart and help you know things about things but wisdom resides in the live we live” One thing that the people in your life will say – especially your parents is: “You’re not doing or learning anything what’s the point” This is the furthest thing from the truth. In the end however it’s all up to you, you can choose to either spend your time just “getting by” or actually make the best of the time that you have. You shouldn’t set a barrier just because there are no books on a desk in front of you – explore and get to know the culture and the history. We learn by doing!

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Getting back into the study of the things?

The most argued subject? – “I don’t think I’ll be able to get back into study mode after a year of gallivanting”. First of all, there shall be no gallivanting; keeping your brain active whilst taking your break is a requirement no matter what you do. Plus you’ve been doing it for the majority of your high school years – going on those long summer breaks and then returning for yet another year of straight A’s. If you allow your mind to whiter away then it will – remember you’re a grownup now so think smart and keep active.

Yes it’s pricey  

Let’s face facts finances have to be taken into consideration. Getting there is pricey and it takes planning, you don’t want to end up in some jungle in the middle of nowhere. Deciding what you’re going to be doing and where the funding will be coming from is something that stops most Gap year applicants dead in their tracks. There are agencies that specialise in these types of situations giving tips and advice but it costs money. One way of seeing it though is that it’s better spending the money on something worth wile rather than spending it on college funds and then realising that your studies aren’t going anywhere.

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No more Mom and Dad

Along with taking my gap year I decided do go all out – away from home and away from family! Home sickness crept up on me at the most unexpected times. Now however readjusting to college life and being on my own is so much easier. I’m standing on my own two feet and parting ways with my family when I pop in for a visit is not as heart-breaking.

Things and places to consider:

If you decide to brave the big open world it’s literally your oyster! There are so many beneficial programs to get involved in. You just need to know where you want to go and what you would like to experience. Volunteer programs, interning at Greenpeace, learning a new language or teaching English in third world countries, Aupairing, traveling (agencies literally find odd jobs where you receive an income. Enough to sustain you while you travel) the possibilities are endless and you just have to find them.

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Here are some sites to look at:

  • If you have a soft spot for kids : http://www.jcr.co.za (An Aupair company that comes highly recommended)
  • Dreaming of saving the world: Lattitude Global Volunteering
  • Student Placement Australia places students and young adults in jobs and training opportunities almost anywhere overseas.

One can pretty much search any sight and find something worthwhile no matter what your preference.

Coming to that fork in the road where we now have to think ahead and make adolescent choices can be scary and a little overwhelming. We as young adults are too easily influenced by friends’ choices and what the grownups say. Look at the bigger picture; if you feel that life is going your way and college is the road forward then don’t think twice and if you feel like you need a break there should be no hesitation. Life doesn’t just hand us lemons but an orchard – so take the path that seems the most inviting according to your standards. It’s your journey and one you should be happy with. Time is something that cannot be wasted so make the most of it.

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