The concept of gap year comes from the western countries. Asian students generally have no gap year experience because they are very short of time. Whether it has to do with their parents, society or even themselves, they hope that the sooner they finish school, the better it is.
Without any special circumstances, it is almost impossible to spare a year to do other activities such as traveling and exploring the world. Nevertheless, it does not mean that Asian students do not need a gap year. In fact, some students can start to consider whether they need a gap year and what can they from it if conditions permit?
Due to COVID-19 this year, many schools have moved their classes online, causing many students considering taking a gap year. This is especially true for many international students whose goal is to gain more international exposure by studying abroad.
The Origin of the Gap Year Concept
The origin of Gap Year can be traced back to the hippie wave of the 1960s. The British hippies who would rush to India in droves were the first wave of gap year students. During this time, western countries experienced various unprecedented turmoil in the 1960s, and was under the impact of a few novel movements that emerged (anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, the assassination of US President Kennedy, anti-racial movement, London’s avant-garde fashion trend …). This contributed to the birth of the Swinging Sixties.
The hippies publicly opposed the Vietnam War and nationalism in a collective communal, advocated non-traditional religious culture, and criticized the middle-class values of Western countries. The classic hippie journey generally starts from Western Europe and travels across Eurasia to Asia, India or Sri Lanka in the cheapest way possible.
Tony Wheeler and his wife, the founders of the world-renowned backpacker travel guide “Lonely Planet”, wrote the first book “Cheap to Asia” after such a trip.
Benefits of the Gap Year
Having a gap year can broaden students’ international perspectives and cultivate positive attitudes towards life, learn survival skills, and enhance students’ understanding of oneself. This can be a time for them to think about their passion and goals in life, and to explore their career paths before settling on a major in school. Here are some of the activities students can participate during their gap year.
- VolunteerGo to developing countries, such as African countries, to engage in education, medical care and environmental protection. It is important to bear in mind that even though this may be volunteer work, commitment in your work is still highly appreciated and it shows respect to the local communities.
- Work, save up, travel
Students can choose to participate in working holiday programs where they travel abroad to work and earn money. At the same time, they are exposed to the local culture which will be an invaluable experience to them.
- Participate in a course of your dream abroad
Be it learning the German or Chinese language, French culinary or Yoga in India, students can sign up for a 1-year course to learn something they are passionate about abroad! Learning certain life skills can definitely improve the quality of their lives when they enter University. For example, feeling stressed in that project? Do yoga! Considering what to have for lunch again? Cook your own meal!
Do You Really Need a Gap Year?
Set aside some time to think about why you are interested and need a gap year, and how you will use this time to pursue your interests and goals. Although it is perfectly normal to want some time to recharge after a few years of high school, a gap year should not be taken if students cannot reap any benefits.
A gap year should include activities that allow students to seek opportunities outside of the classroom.
Before deciding on taking a gap year, it is important to plan what you will do in that one year. Once you know why you are interested in taking a gap year, do a research on the potential activities you want to participate in and the learning opportunities you may have. The possibilities are endless, but some options include language courses, overseas teaching, conservation and sustainability projects, volunteer teams, and internships. List the specific opportunities you are interested in, what each option contains, and what you want to learn from the experience.
If you have been admitted to a university and you postpone it for a year, then study their policy on gap years and extensions. Check if you need to pay the tuition deposit for the fall semester and when. If you plan to use your gap year to apply to other colleges, create a timetable that will help you with the application deadline.
Creating a gap year itinerary is a great way to stay organized and to maximize the experience. It is beneficial to create a schedule of the tasks you want to achieve in the gap year. If you plan to learn a new skill abroad, plan ahead in time in getting the student visa. If you plan to apply to a university, set aside time for each part of the application process to make sure you don’t miss it.