The gap year was born in the ‘60’s, a revolutionary period for freedom of speech and independence. The idea for a gap year was discussed among governments as a tool to foster cultural and global understanding in an attempt to prevent world wars from occurring. More than half a decade later, the popularity of the gap year has spiked with students aiming to develop personally before committing to four-years of academic study. According to The Leap, 66% of students took their academics more seriously after returning from a gap year, and another 88% feel that their gap year added to their employability. This is probably because gap years provide context to usually mundane in-class lectures, and give a unique spin to the average resume, as participants gain experience and develop new skills along the way.
Live Global History & Geography
An academic course usually paid little mind to in the classroom is global history. Without connecting firsthand with a country in its current state leaves little context to understanding how and why history matters. Being lectured on Spanish colonization is much less impactful than standing in Guatemala, among indigenous Maya people, who speak the Spanish language, while surrounded by Spanish colonial architecture. Visiting the ancient ruins of Peru will transport you back to a time of Inca rule where you’re guaranteed to learn how they worshipped the Sun God, Inti, with lavish temples lined with gold and jewels until the conquistadores arrived in 1535.
Geography is another subject students often struggle with because, again, when will you ever visit Czech Republic?! On a gap year, that might be when. A year abroad allows for slow, overland travel using the bus or train system to easily, and likely cheaply, get you from one country to another. Travel planning will require a map–crazy, I know. Studying the map, you become familiar with which countries and cities are in any given direction. If you start in Czech Republic with the intention of eventually ending in France, will you go North through Germany? Or South for a stop in Italy? Your route will surely give you a much-needed lesson in geography.
Get Credited for Language Skills
Most students who studied in the U.S weren’t required to learn a language until 12 years old, and some not at all. In terms of international travel, U.S tourists are notoriously known for being at a loss when it comes to any language other than English. Even those required to study another language usually don’t progress much further than being able to string together a few basic sentences. However, about half of all U.S institutions require the study of a foreign language for at least two semesters. Taking a gap year will allow you to immerse yourself in the culture, while picking up a foreign language for survival; not studying it for a grade. But you’ll still have to study it once you return to University, won’t you? Not necessarily.
A gap year allows you the flexibility to study abroad, gaining University credits in the process. In all likelihood, traveling to a country where you benefit from the exchange rate will also see you benefitting from “price per credit”. Gap year students can enroll in a local, accredited language program which will require a number of hours studied in order to leave with a transcript that proves it. Some options include Maximo Nivel Spanish Program for gaining Spanish language credit in Latin America, or China Study Abroad for Chinese.
Impress on College Apps and Resumes
Academic recruiters, and employers alike, receive hundreds and thousands of applicants a day. A gap year abroad will peak anyone’s interest and they’ll be eager to speak to you about your experiences, what you did, and the kind of skills you gained. A great way to come back with a well-rounded experience is to include volunteer work to the culture and adventure you’re bound to find.
Volunteering matters in the eyes of recruiters because it shows that you are engaged in the community, have time management skills, and gave a helping hand where needed. Even better, when you engage in a volunteer program abroad, it allows you to connect directly with the local people of your visiting country. Connecting with the local people can help you to improve and strengthen your newly developed language skills, while gaining an understanding of the culture through a first-hand encounter. You learn what daily life for these people entail, their favorite foods, places to visit, and things to do. Guaranteed their responses will give you insight you couldn’t have learned otherwise. In addition, you may learn new skills based on the tasks assigned at your volunteer project. You’ll go home with new skills, new experiences, and a new perspective.