To Defer or Not to Defer?
When asked about why I decided to take a gap year I usually smile and respond that “it’s a long story.” It is a long story, so grab a snack and get comfy. When I was halfway through high school, and getting bombarded with questions from friends, relatives and complete strangers about what my plans for next year, I remember getting asked if I’d ever consider taking a gap year. I would usually scoff and say “no way.” I thought gap years were for kids who didn’t really know what they wanted to do in college or beyond. That was not me. I had been really self-motivated throughout high school and knew exactly what I wanted to do in college: I wanted to major in Economics, write for my college newspaper and do internships at different publications in the summers so that I could pursue journalism as a career out of college with a well-stacked resume. That was my plan until mid-July, the summer after I graduated.
I was in Europe for a month with my best friend. We had been planning and saving for nearly a year, and thinking of this trip had gotten me through those last few months of high school. We were a week into our trip and were on a train from Switzerland to Italy. I was having the time of my life and was staring out the window thinking about what an amazing time I was having.
I’m having such an amazing time! Yesterday I swam in a river that was turquoise it was so blue! I went on a hike to a literal castle! I can see THE ALPS out of my window! I wish life was like this all the time! I don’t want to go home in a month! I don’t...want to go to school.
That was the first time I had considered taking a gap year. A week later I talked with my best friend about it. I said that I loved traveling, being the master of my own destiny and that the thought of sitting in a 500-person lecture made me super sad. I told him that I wasn’t excited about college and that I thought I should be. “Yeah, you should be,” he said, and he was right. It’s completely normal to be nervous before going to college and also feel a little sad about summer ending, but I straight up did not want to go to school in the Fall. Talking to all my other friends solidified my feeling that I should be excited about going to school. Within a week of first thinking of taking a gap year I had already started researching programs and how to defer to my college.
My goals for my gap year were to pursue things that I truly loved without the stress of academics. I wanted to travel, learn a language and gain journalism experience. First semester I lived in Massachusetts with family, working at an ice cream shop and as a freelance writer for some local newspapers. I decided to do CIEE’s Seville Language & Culture Program so that I could learn Spanish, live abroad, and have time to travel on my own.
For me taking a gap year was, and is, a really good decision. I really needed this time, not to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but because I had figured out what I wanted to do with my life and needed a breather before I jumped in. I am more confident that I will prioritize self-care in college and not feel pressured to constantly stress about academics just for the sake of a grade. While I know my success in college won’t change compared to high school, my motivation definitely will have. This time for de-stressing and reflection has taught me a lot about how I view myself and my definition of success. I’ve become much more self-assured and have learned to be kinder to myself. I’m really excited for college now (partly because I am going to a different college which I will address in another post) and I’m excited to bring what I’ve learned abroad to college in the Fall.
Wow that was a long post. If you managed to stick with it until the end, I’m impressed. I don’t think I would have. If you’ve skimmed this until the bottom, welcome back. We’re at the part where I bestow my wisdom upon you. Here is what I think about gap years now: I think everyone should look into them. I don’t think there’s only one type of person who could benefit from a gap year and I also don’t think every person should take one. If you are feeling lost and don’t really know what to do with your life then a gap year could be useful in that it would give you time to explore and reflect. If (like me) you’ve got it all planned out but high school really did a doozy on you then maybe you need a year to breathe. If you or your family can’t afford a year off for traveling or what else that is totally valid. I should add that I know people who have taken a year off before college to work and save money who really enjoyed themselves and learned a lot. I worked half the year to save up some money so I could travel for the second half. If you are super psyched for college then that’s awesome and maybe you shouldn’t take a gap year! All in all, a gap year shouldn’t be overlooked and I highly recommend one!
Our GAP and HSA students got to visit these wonderful towns before they departed back to the States. Ecija is known as the City of Towers. Located in the centre... keep reading