Making the Most of a Gap Year of Backpacking
From a desire to see the world to a need to recharge academic batteries, there are plenty of reasons to take a gap year. Many students find themselves taking a break between high school and college to grow personally and become independent, while others wait until the stretch between undergraduate and graduate degrees to take the much-needed time off.
If you’re considering a gap year, here’s a game plan on how to make the most of it:
Don’t do it on a whim. If you want to take a gap year, plan it out. Be adventurous during that year, but not by dropping out of school mid-semester. Without planning, it’ll be harder to get back into school, finding a good paying job or actually travel abroad. The Center for Interim Programs, a consulting firm that helps students plan gap years, is a good resource.
Make your plan and involve your parents and school counselor in it. Think about how you’ll fund the trip or who you’ll work for during that year. If you plan to travel, consider who if anyone will go with you. Research countries, vaccinations and costs. Are you interested in adventure travel or volunteer work? An organization like Peace Corps or AmeriCorps can provide fulfilling volunteer experiences for gap-year hopefuls, while GoAbroad and China Horizons offer ESL teaching positions and internships for college students to live over seas.
If you plan to work, research companies or opportunities that will meet your expectations. Are you only hoping to save money for the year, or are you looking for work that’s related to your area of interest? Don’t settle for something less than what you’re looking for. If you can’t find anything, sign up for another semester of school and keep looking.
Don’t let months slip by without following through with the other part of your plan: the part where you go back to school. It’s easy to get caught up in the new freedom of a no-school life but don’t let the gap year pass by without occasionally thinking about the future. Continue to lead an adventurous life, but throughout the year you’ll want to sign up for classes, seek part-time work through job-applications.com, find housing, check your upcoming course schedule, etc. Even if it means staying inside one day while everyone else is out and about, it’ll be worth it to have next year’s plan ready and waiting for you.
Make it Worth it
Not everyone enjoys the luxury of a gap year remember to consider it a blessing. If you ever get caught up in the day-to-day life of traveling or working, think about how the experience is shaping the rest of your life. Force yourself to learn a new language, accomplish something hard or take a risk. The result will widen your perspective and increase chances for internship and work opportunities in the future. Plus, it’s really fun. You’re getting to experience the world on your own for the first time making your own money, helping someone and maybe even riding a camel down a dusty road in India. When you return home, use a program like Blog2Print to organize and print your journal blog and pictures into a book of unforgettable memories.