I Regret Taking a Gap Year, Said No One Ever
Malia Obama made headlines recently when she announced she’ll be taking a gap year before attending college at Harvard University.
Almost every major news organization picked up on this development and had something to say about the “gap year.” What is it? Why should young people take one? Why shouldn’t they? Almost every angle was broached.
So, without further ado, here’s our two cents.
The gap year is often discussed in relation to students who have graduated high school, about to enter college. However, a gap year is an excellent option for any individual, no matter their age, who need to take time away from their life for various reasons, whether it’s to get some perspective, recover from career burnout, or simply to take the opportunity to travel.
In this article, we’ll address a specific gap year geared towards young individuals who’ve recently graduated from college or grad school: the working holiday.
Firstly, what is a gap year?
Long story short, the concept took hold in the UK in the 1970s, when the custom of traveling between high school and college gained traction. The idea grew. Nowadays, independent travel as a young adult is popular – it’s almost seen as a rite of passage – in many countries from the gap year in the UK to the OE (overseas experience) for Australians and New Zealanders. (Obviously, there is a certain amount of privilege sprinkled into having access to gap year opportunities.)
While gap years have existed for American students since the 1980s, it has never really become ingrained in the culture. However, recently, there’s been a push to get more students on board with the gap year. (Take a look at the American Gap Association, if you’d like more info.)
The reasons to take a gap year are numerous. There have been many studies showing the benefit of gaining an international experience. Some findings include better academic performance, increased creativity, and greater career ambitious.
“Gap year” is a loose term though. It encompasses a range of experiences. In fact, the reasons why you would choose a year of volunteering are different from why you’d choose to do a working holiday.
So, the question is, why should you take a working holiday gap year experience…
It is a chance to get perspective, to take a step away from your life back home.
Think about it. You’ve been in school for your whole life! It’s all you know. And, let’s be honest, school does very little to prepare you for the real world (hand-raising, papers, and exams are definitely not the norm).
A gap year gives you a different perspective of the world. But, that’s not all. It also gives you another angle from which to view your own life. Sometimes, it takes stepping away from your daily routines and leaving your comfort zone to truly understand yourself, your relationships, and your place in the world.
The year isn’t focused on “getting ahead in the rat race” or “putting yourself in a better position on the career board.” It’s not about doing the next thing that society says you should do.
A working holiday is an investment towards YOUR personal growth.
It’s a year dedicated to YOU.
It is a chance for you to recharge your batteries.
Have you ever heard those stories of people who suddenly realize in their late 20s or early 30s that they’re tired of working a 9-to-5. What they thought was their passion was simply them riding a wave of inertia from one phase of life to another. So, they decide to quit their job in search of another path.
Burnout is a real thing.
Obviously, this might not happen to everyone. It’s not even guaranteed that taking a gap year would prevent burnout. But, a gap year definitely does give you a break from doing what society says you should do. It lets you take advantage of life after college, free of any obligations for the first time since you were a toddler.
It is an opportunity to live abroad and travel. (And, support yourself, financially.)
A working holiday gives you the chance to work overseas! Everyone with the dream of living in another country should take a look at these opportunities.
Most working holidays let participants stay in a country for up to 12 months. It’s essentially a chance to “try-out” what living abroad is like.
Living in another country also gives you the opportunity to do some traveling in another part of the world as well. For example, a working holiday in Ireland essentially opens the door to the whole of Europe. (Especially when there are budget airlines like RyanAir and handy accommodation options like Airbnb.)
Sure, this is all grand, but isn’t there a certain amount of privilege is necessary to have access to gap year opportunities. Yes, it’s true. For example, you need to be enrolled in higher education to even be eligible for a working holiday.
However, unlike most programs, a working holiday doesn’t break the bank (that much).
The ability to work throughout your stay means you won’t end up spending money out-of-pocket over the course of the year. (See: What type of jobs are available to working holiday participants?)
All things considered, a working holiday gap year is worth it.
It’s hard to regret doing an experience like this.
Let’s be clear. A year abroad is most definitely an adventure filled with moments of excitement, awe, and pure adrenaline. But, remember, it’s also very much a taste of “real life.”
A gap year isn’t just living in a magical green land. (Although, it’s a major part of it!) You’ll also be working, paying bills, getting taxed… the whole lot. At points, the shine of living in a new country might wear off. You might start to miss home. You might find it difficult to adjust to Irish culture. And that’s all OK. It’s all part of the experience abroad. (In fact, it might be weird if you’re not feeling any culture shock.)
But, whatever happens, it’s guaranteed that you’ll emerge from a gap year having learned something new about yourself and the world.