For many students, the prospect of a gap year is both an exhilarating and terrifying opportunity. Whether you choose to take your gap year after high school or after college, it may be the first time in your life you're truly in control of everything you do, see, eat, drink, and experience.
Unsurprisingly, it's an eye-opening opportunity that everyone experiences differently.
Here at Go Overseas, we deeply support the idea that gap years should be common for students from every country. Though it hasn't been widely studied, it's commonly believed that students from the United States take gap years at significantly lower rates than students from other countries. If Google Trends is any indication, students in countries like Australia, the U.K., South Africa, and New Zealand are far more likely to invest in a year of global education.
To help promote gap years, we are excited to partner up to promote the first ever Gap Decision Day. On Thursday, May 25th, we are encouraging students from around the world to declare their gap year plans, and share them with us using the hashtag #GapDecisionDay. You can learn more about Gap Year Decision Day on Facebook.
How Your Gap Year Can Change Your Life
We firmly believe that taking a gap year is good for students (and everyone!), but you already know what we think. We reached out to some fellow travelers to get their insights on the most meaningful parts of their gap year experiences. Read on for examples of how your gap year could change your life.
"For my gap year, I served as the Roots & Shoots Youth Leadership Fellow for the Jane Goodall Institute. In this role, I got to work with students and educators around the world, helping them create service learning curriculums and holistic service projects. The coolest part of my experience by far, however, was getting to work alongside Dr. Jane as she spread her message of civic engagement and environmental activism."
-- Pippa B., Writer
"My year abroad in Sweden took place during my grade 12 year, in 1985-86. I was seventeen when I landed in Stockholm, only knowing how to say yes, no, and I'm tired in the Swedish language. My year abroad taught me how to be capable, independent, and fairly fearless as a young woman traveler."
"I became fluent in Swedish, and even interned at the local town newspaper during my year there. My year abroad confirmed a good degree of self-assurance, and an ability to accomplish what I set my mind to. Several world-changing events impacted my year abroad, including the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (and fallout over Europe), the murder of Swedish PM Olaf Palme, and the explosion of the Challenger shuttle. Being away from my family during those significant times was certainly a challenge. But the variety of my experiences helped shape me as an individual, as well as influence my curious and exploratory world-view."
-- Claudia L., The Travelling Mom
"I came to Hanoi, Vietnam for my gap year in 2015. I had planned to stay for five weeks, but I fell completely in love with the country and moved here for the year. I was teaching English and had a great social group. I didn't want to leave!"
"Towards the end of 2015, I met the love of my life and I now live here indefinitely. I never thought that this would be my life's path, but if I didn't take a gap year, I wouldn't have had any of these experiences that I get to have and love each day."
-- Millie B., Writer
"I've lived overseas on and off all my life but it was this solo experience traveling the world that really changed me. It's a cliche to say that I found myself but I truly believe I did - at least, I found the confidence to be the person I wanted to be. I also realized that there was no going back to who I had been - the one who stayed at home and followed a career that really wasn't going anywhere. I knew that I wanted, no, I needed, adventure in my life.
I came home, joined the Foreign Office and the path of my life was changed forever: my first posting took me to Jamaica - here I met my husband and now we have two children and live in South Africa.
-- Clara W., The Expat Partner's Survival Guide
"In December 2005, I flew to India to begin a six-month odyssey that would take me across the length and breadth of the country – and to places within me that I never knew existed. After 11 months of planning, I really did not know what to expect. I had never done a trip like this before, had never been to India, and was trying to recover from grief and depression after a series of devastating personal losses. I found the experience of going – just doing it – to be incredibly rejuvenating. It gave me more confidence and resilience than I ever thought possible. And I was inspired by the beauty of India, the sensual stimulation, and the palpable spirituality to begin writing and dreaming again. That trip to India revived me in almost every way. Not only did I recover from my depression, but I found a new passion: traveling in India and writing about my adventures."
-- Mariellen W., Breathe Dream Go
"Normally, potatoes don’t make me cry, but once they did: on the first evening of my solo gap year between teaching and graduate school. I was sitting on the patio of a taverna in Delphi, Greece. Out the window next to me I saw a valley where mountains touched a certain shade of green and the Gulf of Corinth glistened. The waiter placed three large plates heaped with food and as soon as he turned to go, I began to weep. I'd ordered too much, and that moment invoked my biggest fears for that trip: would I be good enough company for myself? Could I enjoy all the meals I'd be eating alone?"
"Ten months and ten countries later, I could confidently answer with a resounding YES. That gap year of solo travel taught me to communicate better, engage with my world more deeply, and -- most importantly -- rely on myself."
-- Sara B., Writer
"The most life-changing aspect of my year abroad in Paris was probably how my view of the United States changed. To read the news in a different country, from a different perspective, about your home country is an uncanny experience. Also, to talk to people who don't believe 'America is number one' is an experience every American should have -- it is fatal to prejudice, as well as arrogance and ignorance about your place in the world."
"My life is divided into two sections, before and after living abroad. The other life-changing aspect of living in a different country that speaks a different language is you discover your own self-reliance. Living abroad broke and then built my confidence."
-- Alex C., Journalist
Tips for Planning Your Gap Year
If you're still in the process of planning your gap year, that's okay! We'd love to hear your ideas as part of #GapDecisionDay too.
We have a few resources that will help you finalize your gap year plans:
- Unsure what a gap year really is? It's more than just taking off for a year of travel. Your gap year should teach you humility, give you purpose and direction, and give back to the world. Read what else your gap year can be.
- Make sure you think through the logistics of your gap year. Here are six of the important questions you should ask yourself while planning your gap year itinerary.
- Need to get your parents on board? We have some tips on that in our article about ways to convince your parents to let you take a gap year.
- You'll also want to make sure you come up with creative and interesting things to do during your gap year. There are so many ways you'll learn and grow during a gap year, here are a few ideas to inspire your gap year planning process.
Where to Take A Gap Year
If you haven't figured it out, the sky's the limit when it comes to planning your gap year.
As part of #GapDecisionDay, we're especially excited to see where people are planning to take a gap year. We have a ton of helpful guides and lists of ideas for different regions of the world. Here are some of them to help you plan your gap year itinerary:
- Europe is one of the most popular regions where you can spend part (or all!) of your gap year.
- If Latin America is calling out to you, you're not alone! This region has become increasingly popular with gappers.
- Africa is an increasingly popular but still less-trodden region for gap year takers. Don't let that stop you!
- Southeast Asia is a well-known stop for many people during their gap year, so consider adding a few months (or the whole year) in this region. If you're more interested in Eastern Asian countries for your itinerary, those are within close reach too.
- Last, but certainly not least, you should definitely consider spending some of your gap year in Oceania. Australia, New Zealand, and the countries of the Pacific Islands are all great gap year stops you can make.
Share Your Gap Year Plans
Ready to shout your gap year plans from the rooftops? We're ready to hear them!
Join us on social media on Thursday, May 25th, 2017 to share your gap year plans as part of Gap Year Decision Day. On Thursday, use the hashtag #GapDecisionDay and tag us and we'll re-share your stories. (We're @gooverseas on Twitter or Go Overseas on Facebook!)
Even if you're just in the early stages of planning your gap year, we hope you'll join us and the community of fellow gappers for inspiration.