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Thread: The Ever Enchanting Gap Year
May 20th, 2013 01:50 AM #6Senior Member
- Join Date
- Nov 2011
I didn't take time off to travel for much time between high school and college; my high school also celebrated a 100% matriculation rate to undergraduate or similar programs, and I did transition from one right into the next. That said, I road-tripped from VA up to Montreal and Quebec City with other graduated friends of mine the summer between graduation and orientation. I studied abroad in my junior year, and financial aid from my university followed me to help pay for my semester in Australia. I got there two months before the semester started and traveled, making friends with other travelers, but then enjoyed being in an Australian university where I lived with and met actual Australians, haha. And then post-college, I got a job for a year working at a school in Greece. I still look forward to traveling in the future; in my own travels, I met many individuals and couples who work for several years, saving up, and then take time off or quit to travel for several months before heading home and doing it all over again.
Long-term independent travel can be incredible. You learn to be independent, to be confident approaching and making friends, to truly understand the fact that people around the world not only live differently, but value different things, etc. But it can also be exhausting living out of a suitcase and washing your unmentionables in a hostel sink; it can be easy to start to feel "left out" while most high-school friends are doing traditional college freshman things; and it's expensive, particularly if one travels around Europe. You might be amazed (I say this not knowing the degree of research you've done) by how much just two, four, six weeks will cost to fly to Europe, Africa, Asia, etc. and then to stay in hostels, visit museums, eat out, etc. And traveling as an 18 year old can be tough because you aren't always allowed to rent cars, book certain hotel rooms, etc. because of age limits.
If you have no idea what you want to study in college and don't feel that 1-2 years of further education will help you figure out what major you want to declare for the remaining 2 years, then maybe it would be wise to take the time to explore options outside of going to college immediately. You could travel, shadow professionals in fields that interest you, get a job that bores you to tears and learn from that what you miss most, what you would much rather be doing. But I wouldn't make the decision based on a worry that you'll never get around to traveling--you could take two months of the summer between high school and college to travel a lot, and still make it to orientation in the fall. You could study or volunteer abroad during college, or do research with a professor whose work will take you to Togo or Vanuatu. You could use your being a student to qualify for discounts on museums passes, travel expenses, etc. You could work abroad after you graduate, whether trained to do a job that requires overseas travel, or just having a degree that will make you more desirable as an au pair or something less "permanent". Like the pp above me, I also don't think education and travel are mutually exclusive. If you make travel a priority in your life, you'll do it. You just don't have to do it all at once. That's just my two cents, though. Happy traveling, either way! I'm sure you're do plenty
May 20th, 2013 02:37 AM #8Senior Member
- Join Date
- Apr 2012
As a general rule I would never advise a gap year to a person between high school and university - with a gap year being when a person is definitely going to go to college after - rather than just a year off.
My parents had this rule - and I went straight into uni from school which has been a great decision - I have made a conscious decision to travel in the summer - I am from the UK and work as a summer camp counselor in NY which then gives me time to travel after, and experience a bit of american culture.
I firmly believe that if you are going to travel - school won't stop you it will only aid you.
On a gap year at the age of 18 you are limited, by money, your age, gender (gasp!) etc. The only way it truly works is if you sign up to a work/volunteer program - I have seen so many people effectively waste a year - you will spend months saving to the be able to travel for a couple of months. Which seems like a shame when you can work part time whilst studying then still do the same amount of travelling during the summer.
But yet it all depends on what you feel is right for you. I just personally feel that you should use your holidays during college wisely - and then at 21/22 you can always take a year off if you feel like you need to travel to somewhere for a prolonged period of time.
And ditto what everyone else has said about study abroad.
May 20th, 2013 04:06 AM #10
Good topic. I went straight to college and will be finished in less than a year. My considerations were money, my age, and security. I had (still have) the urge to travel too, but I knew I could never convince my mother to let her 17 (or even 18) y.o daughter travel alone. I knew I should be able at that age, but my mother has paranoia.. So I wait until I'm older. I'll be 21 at the time I graduate and I wish to travel in the summer of my 22nd birthday. In that way, I save my time, will have a degree soon, and won't be worried about the age limitation or some paperworks that need to be signed by my parents if I'm under 21.
My advice is, do the gap year only if you're not sure of what you want in college. I have friends who also went straight to college and soon regret their decision because they picked wrong majors. If your only reason is wanting to travel, I'm sure it can wait. And not to mention that you can still do it during all the breaks..
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May 20th, 2013 04:28 AM #12Senior Member
- Join Date
- Jun 2011
I didn't do a gap year after high school, but I did my senior year of high school on exchange in Norway and then did a study abroad program in Scotland my 3rd year of Uni. I did a gap year back in Scotland after I graduated from University before starting my masters degree. I think it was better that I was a bit older as I could get a more responsible job and was able to stay longer than just doing bar work or living off my saving or my parents' savings. I didn't get to travel as much, but I'm not big on those 6 countries in 10 days trips. I prefer to live some place for an extended time and really get to know the culture.
I fell in love with Scotland and ended up living there for 18 years, but also did a year teaching English in Greece and now live in Finland, so I think my early years of living abroad really set the tone for my life.
I would definitely recommend some time living/ travelling abroad, but I'm not sure if I'd necessarily financially support my children going right after secondary school. I guess it depends on how mature they are and whether they would really appreciate it. I think study abroad programs are brilliant because they combine both and you get a chance to spend longer in one place and make friends and get to know the country. I am still very close to people I met on my two study abroad programs.
Last edited by malk; May 20th, 2013 at 04:31 AM.Mum to Mousie, Foo, Bumptious and Pudding.
May 20th, 2013 06:57 AM #14Senior Member
- Join Date
- Jan 2011
I did go straight into college, but then ended up taking a couple of terms off while getting my undergrad to work in the opera and then backpack through Europe. Honestly, I did not have a ton of direction when I was younger, and I would definitely say now that I was more tooling around than accomplishing anything. But taking time off did not hinder me. Maybe things were more relaxed back then? Maybe my goals just haven't been all that lofty? I graduated high school in 1997. I did eventually finish my undergrad with high marks and went on to get a law degree. I managed to get scholarships the whole way through as well, so it didn't hurt me in regards to the cost. But again, possibly things were more laid back then.
BUT I have seen a lot of people taking gap years at 18 and I don't know- I hesitate to say that they are wasting time, but if you are taking a year off school and all you're doing is living in your parents basement, working at Red Lobster, and going to lots of concerts w. friends- I don't know what else you call that. I see lots of people making big plans, and then not following through. So you know yourself and your motivations best! Maybe you are the kind of person who can travel the world on her own and spin that into admissions committee gold. I do think that joining some organized young person centered volunteer organization (something like YWAM or similar) is a great way to travel, find some focus, and look amazing in college interviews.