Life can be scary sometimes. So many choices, so many decisions. It can be exhausting to find your place in this world. Sometimes the best way to do so is to take some time out from regular responsibilities and just hit the pause button – a gap year after, before or in between high school or college is one of the best ways to do this.
Even though it doesn’t have magic powers, a gap year is an extraordinary way to positively influence your life. The word “gap” is actually a bit misleading, because a well-planned gap year is actually one that is filled with experiences that could change your life and shape your future. You’re guaranteed to grow as a person, and learn while traveling and travel while learning.
1. You can become fluent in another language
There’s no better way to learn a language than studying it in the country where it is spoken natively. Putting your language skills to use on a daily basis with native speakers – be it the taxi driver or your new neighbor – offers the fastest path to fluency.
And being fluent matters. People who speak more than one language at a high level are in high demand job-wise, earn more and actually have healthier brains (here’s a whole host of other fascinating reasons why being bilingual really is better).
2. It can shape your future
The academic tunnel can be long and dark. Sometimes you need to take a step back, recharge your batteries and get new energy by leaving your books and essays behind for a while.
Exploring the world, meeting new people and even studying a new new language or a new subject – if you’re unsure about the academic path you’re on now – can help you become a more well-rounded person and may end up shaping your future in ways you can’t imagine right now.
3. It helps you expand your horizons
Every day you take the same route to school. You know every corner, every barking dog and every traffic light. Even though all of this can be reassuring, it might be a sign that it’s time for a change. Go beyond the familiar and try out life in a different corner of the globe. To help you decide which corner you want to explore, we’ve put together gap year guides to Europe, Asia, the US and Australia-New Zealand.
Staying in a new place for longer than a week or two allows you to get to know a new culture and a new way of life; it will allow you to really understand it instead of just sampling it the way you would on a regular trip. A gap year spent wisely can be one of the most meaningful and enriching experiences you’ll ever have and is guaranteed to open your eyes to new possibilities and new ways of doing things.
4. It allows you to learn valuable skills
Gap years can be customized with all kinds of activities, and with a few months or even a year to fill, you can combine lots of activities. Besides traveling the world and learning another language, for example, you could also spend your time volunteering or doing an internship. Volunteering – especially when longer-term, say, for 3-4 months or more – is an excellent way to contribute positively and gain valuable professional and cultural skills in the process.
Doing something focused – like studying or working for a cause – will ensure that your gap year will be anything but a gap on your CV: it will showcase your confidence, flexibility and ability to adapt and take risks in a way that will help you stand out from the crowd.