For me, I think of possibilities—an endless amount.
While having the world at one’s fingertips is undoubtedly a privilege, it can also be overwhelming: what to do next? Where to go? What major to choose? I hope I don’t choose the wrong avenue. Oh boy, what if I do? Then what? Ahh, I feel like I have to decide RIGHT NOW!
At this pivotal stage in life, many young people may feel pressured to secure their next move right away, to pick one thing and stick with it; however, if a decision as monumental as “what to do with my life next?” is rushed, this could result in a missed opportunity to expand one’s perspective of the world and themselves in it.
While it has been a popular practice in Australia, Canada, and Europe for quite some time, it hasn’t been until recently that young adults in the United States have started to explore this avenue for themselves. In fact, American students taking a gap year after high school has been on an increasingly upward trend over the last several years.
A gap year can be a full year or semester break after high school or college. It’s a time meant for exploration and self-discovery. During this unique period in your life, when you don’t quite have the full responsibilities of adulthood and time is on your side, you're given the time and space to explore different interests. This time can be spent traveling, volunteering, interning, exploring artistic endeavors, and more.
This time is also when you experience significant personal growth you learn important life skills like adaptability, being able to advocate for yourself, and decision-making. You get to find what makes you happy and find out what you don’t want (which are equally important).
In October of last year, I had the opportunity to join a cohort of EF Gap Year students as a EF Student Life Coordinator on a month-long journey through Europe. While working on-program, I was in the unique position of witnessing my students' transformation from recent high school graduates to independent young adults.
One of those travelers was Hampton.
She showed up every day with a positive, upbeat attitude and true appreciation and open mind for the adventure she was on. I recently reached out to her to see if she would be interested in sharing her perspective on her experience and on taking a gap year; here’s what Hampton had to say.
Why did you decide to take a gap year?
I chose to take a gap year because I wanted to have an opportunity to focus on myself and my independence, as well as be able to travel before going to college. This was my first time being away from my family and I was really hoping to gain confidence and become more independent, which now I can say I 100% have.
What was your favorite experience while on tour?
My favorite place was definitely London, which was our first stop. I loved how easy it was to get around on the Tube. There was an incredible number of things to do and see.
Were there any unexpected scenarios on the tour that led to opportunities for growth?
I would say the most unexpected experience was how fast we traveled. I knew it would go by quickly, but we were moving from location to location and it was somewhat stressful. There were definitely times when I was anxious; however, looking back, I am actually grateful for those moments because they reminded me to reground myself and relax through life’s stressful moments.
Why do you think taking a gap year is important?
I think taking a gap year, or even a semester, is important because it really gives you the time and space to independently learn about yourself and your interests. It gives you the opportunity for growth and maturity; I 100% recommend it to anybody taking a gap year before college.
Did taking a gap year change your perspective at all? If so, how?
Though it’s only been half of my gap year so far (in the spring I'll be traveling to to Japan and then to Spain), I can confidently say that my perspective on life is so much larger than it was before.
I am inspired to continue to experience and learn from other cultures and see as much of the world as I can. I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to. I’m much more open to just experiencing and enjoying the journey, rather than feeling the need to plan out everything before.
You get to marvel at unfamiliar new sights, people watch in cafes and airports (you will undoubtedly have one delayed flight... at least), and get excited when you hear another language roll off your tongue while ordering a unique local flavor.
By immersing yourself in other cultures and forming connections with people from all over the world, you’ll undoubtedly develop a greater sense of appreciation and a deeper respect for not only others, but also for life. This time and space allows you the opportunity to seek a life that excites and challenges you to constantly grow. What are you waiting for? There’s a whole world out there to explore!
Taking a gap year can lead you to places you never imagined and down roads you didn't know existed. Interested in pursuing a different path—your path? Click here for more information on EF Gap Year, Semester, and Short-Term programs.
After interviewing fellow traveler Hampton S. about her experiences abroad, we wanted to flip the script on Katlyn T. and interview her! Our travelers may…