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Once a child reaches the magical age of six, he or she is put into the education system that shapes almost all of his or her life experiences. Kindergarten to 12th grade, 13 years of nonstop education, all for the purpose of producing a successful human. The human will then have to make it through college and then the real world. While pretty much everyone complains about school, the school system it still is a necessary part of one’s life to provide versatile tools and options for the later part of a student’s life. However, wouldn’t it be nice to take a break? After so many years, books, and countless dollars invested in the school system, I believe everyone deserves a nice break after 13 years of work.
Over the past ten years, more and more teenagers have either taken a gap year or have been interested in taking a gap year. There are an infinite amount of reasons why teenagers are taking gap years; 51% use a gap year to explore study options, 48% for volunteer work, 85% for traveling and exploring new cultures, and 41% to learn a new language. The main reason, however, is more about personal growth and life experience, which 92% of students who took gap years claim to have gained. The main problem is figuring out how newly-graduated high school students will pay for a whole year or semester of traveling, volunteering, or learning, often spent without receiving a significant income. Some just use whatever money they have to go to a different state, country, or continent, get a job, and improvise from there. Luckily, there are plenty of programs that will help gap year students get a job or a scholarship, and each different program provides a different skill set. Rustic Pathways is the most popular amongst gap year-ees. This business has a branch for almost every personality possible, from adrenaline junkies to environmentalists. Rustic Pathways can take you anywhere: Costa Rica, Vietnam, Mongolia, or to Tanzania. You name it, they have it.
Collegiate’s own Upper School Learning Specialist Helen Markiewicz is a strong supporter of gap years and even took one herself. “The first year I attended a school called Huis de Lande, which was a horticultural school where I studied languages (Dutch, German, and English) along with science (botany, biology),” she says. She then went on to the Netherlands as a Rotary International exchange student and mainly studied Dutch, but also branched out to other languages and subjects. She did not have the benefit of the vast amount of programs that exist today but still considers her time away to be a life-changing experience.
While many parents question the validity of a year spent officially doing “nothing,” a gap year spent meaningfully can help prepare young adults for college and life beyond. Life experience is one of the most valuable experiences that a millennial can take into the world, as jobs and internships are harder and harder to come by.
Featured image: Will Ellis via flickr.