If you had no societal obligations, no parental pressures, no expectations from anyone, would you take a gap year?
A gap year entails a period of time wherein a student takes some time off from the routine studies and the normative-college-after-high-school scenario and ventures out to experience life rather than reading about it.
‘So…would you?’ I asked Beam who is a Bachelor’s Degree level student in Thailand. Her hesitant looks told me that this is not a question she often thinks about. But then she proceeded, “I might have: I think I would have gone to China or Europe to just experience a different culture and outlook on life.”
Then why didn’t you go off and see the world and be a part of something different? I pushed with my interrogative personality fully active.
“Because I think societies like ours expect degrees and certificates. The sooner you have these credentials, the easier it is for you to get a job.”
What I want to highlight through this conversation of ours is that most youngsters do consider taking a gap year after high school or before entering college, and the only reason they fail to acknowledge this want is for the fear of what the “others” might think.
Most dream to travel, and work, and intern, and volunteer. Whether it is Thai Beam or Nepali Bimala, most of my conversations with the younger generations spread across the globe echo Beam’s sentiments. They want to have the luxury of taking a year off, but…
Today, in the spirit of the approaching International Youth Day, let me encourage you to venture beyond the conventional wisdom and offer you another take on the gap year.
Danielle Wood, in her NBC article on whether or not students should take a gap year, writes that internationally acclaimed colleges like Harvard, Princeton, Tufts, and MIT encourage the idea of a gap year, or what she terms, “some much-needed downtime.” Moreover, our very own household names like Tribhuvan University, Purvanchal University, Kathmandu University, to name a few, might also be supportive of a gap year, given that it is used correctly.
Illustration: Sworup Nhasiju
The key word here is “correctly.” Many students can laze around and slack off during the year-off; however, it is necessary to have a strong resolve and keep your mind focused on the bigger picture. This way, even parents are reassured that their kids will eventually end up pursuing higher education.
So what should you do in a gap year?
Firstly and most importantly, you should plan. Taking a gap year should be opted out of a sincere desire to experience the “real-world” rather than a procrastination technique. You should intern, volunteer, work, and travel!
Besides focusing on building your CV with all the voluntary activities and internships, a gap year is also a wonderful time to travel, learn a language, and learn how to cook. For the more adventurous, I recommend crossing things off from your list of all the things you want to do or see in life…perhaps it is bungee or taking a salsa lesson.
David Rynick, Executive Director of Dynamy Internship Year – Dymany is a program targeted to students who want to take a gap year – suggests, “Taking time off before college gives you the gift of time to learn about two essential things: yourself and the world around you.”
From a personal perspective, I have found that people who take a gap year are more focused when it comes to their studies. They are willing to dedicate themselves to the rigorous college courses. And I feel this commitment stems from the fact that these students have had time to understand their aspirations better on parallel to the world.
William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, and Marlyn E. McGrath, Director of Admissions, both of Harvard College, along with Charles Ducey, Adjunct Lecturer in Psychology of Harvard Graduate School of Education, argue in their article, Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation, “Harvard’s overall graduation rate of 98% is among the highest in the nation, perhaps in part because so many students take time off.”
These are compelling statistics to consider in favor of a gap year. However, we need to realize that no matter whether we choose to take a gap year or choose not to, we always need to choose to carpe diem!
The writer is a student of Political Science at Thammasat University who enjoys exploring life and all that it has to offer.