We sat down with Rebekah L., EF Gap Semester Fall '18, to hear all about her EF Gap experience.
On her EF Gap Semester, Rebekah visited five countries: the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Spain, and China. She spent both of her modules improving her Mandarin in Shanghai and loved visiting Amsterdam on the European Immersion tour so much that she now studies Anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit there.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school, but I knew I wanted to take a gap year. My dad took a gap year in Ireland where he worked on a horse farm, which inspired him to become a veterinarian. He really encouraged me to take a gap year and travel.
I took Mandarin in high school so I knew I wanted to visit China during my gap year, so I looked for programs that would help me improve my language skills. I have lots of interests though, so I wanted to visit other places and try new things too.
I knew EF Gap Year was right for me because it’s so customizable. I was able to control which countries I did my modules in and I wasn’t tied to a big group the entire time. Plus, I had gone on an EF trip my freshman year of high school and had an amazing experience with the company.
After the gap year fair, my EF Gap Year Consultant sent me a warm message and gave me personalized guidance to help me design my perfect gap year. We tailored a program that was perfect for my interests. For example, on my gap semester I received college credit for an ethnographic research project I did, and it turned my developing interest in anthropology into my college major!
My EF Gap Semester started out with a two-week tour of four European cities. We’d get breakfast, then go on a guided tour or do an interesting activity as a group. In the afternoon, we’d have free time in the city so we could do whatever we still had on our bucket lists!
When I was in Shanghai for my language module, I would eat breakfast with my host family—unless I was running late, then my host mom would pack me dumplings to-go—then I would meet up with friends for coffee before my classes. There were so many incredible things to do and try in Shanghai, so before or after class was always dedicated to finding new things I liked—I went to the Donglin Temple, museums, parks, Disneyland—I could always find a friend to join me.
I went by myself one day to Qibao, an ancient water town with traditional shops, before I was comfortable speaking Mandarin in China. I ended up having an incredible conversation with a calligraphy shop owner and gaining confidence in my language skills!
I brought my friend back to Qibao the next day and the shop owner carved special brushes for us. We got dressed up in Hanfus and wore them to eat the best food: stinky tofu, sugar sculptures, and cotton candy.
Look for programs that are customizable so you can make them work for you. Work with a program where you get tons of support from actual humans who care about you having a great experience. From the Gap Year Consultants who help you plan your gap to the Student Advisors who support you on the trip, the EF staff care a lot.
My last piece of advice is to follow through with the inkling that a gap year is right for you! I cannot express enough how much it impacted with me. I visited Amsterdam for first time on my gap and fell in love with the city—now I go to university here! My EF Gap Semester is the best decision I ever made.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that in some places in Italy, the bus will not stop at your bus stop unless you tell the driver…