The Gap Year: Why Haven’t We Caught On?

“I tapped the cold window with my index finger, ‘squashing’ dilapidated track-side farmhouses as my eyes focused then unfocused on each structure the slow train eased by. I leaned the side of my head against the glass watching my finger tap, tap, tap. There was a book in my bag, but I didn’t reach for it. I didn’t have to read it. I only had to read it if I wanted to, and I didn’t want to. So I gazed and wondered who lived in the large old farmhouses in this particular region of France my train wound through. I had plenty of time to learn–a year in fact. A year felt as long as the train as I was on. I knew where it begin but who knew where it ended. It didn’t matter and neither did the book in my bag. I was on the cusp of the infamous and much anticipated Gap Year.” –an excerpt from my Gap Year journal, if such a journal existed, if I had ever had one.

But I didn’t. A Gap Year, that is. No. Instead, I, as most of my American friends, applied like mad to colleges throughout the first several months of my senior year in high school. Began four years of undergrad the fall after my spring high school graduation. Applied like mad to various grad schools throughout the first few months of my senior year in college. Began grad school the fall after my spring graduation from college and began working my first real job before I even had my thesis results. I believe I took a ten-day break between handing in that beast of a paper and day one of the new job.

I forgot something: to take a breath. The Gap Year has been embraced by the culture I so frequently allude to in this blog. It occurs between one’s final year of high school and the first year of university, if one so chooses to attend, or a career. In my experience, it is more common in England to take a gap year than to not. Seventeen and 18-year-olds choose to spend that year in different ways: traveling, volunteering, aid work. The point is to experience a bit of life before throwing yourself into studies, which as it turns out is not real life.

What would this country be like if we all took a little time off to figure ourselves out in those oh so formative years of age 17 and 18? How many would ultimately decide to attend culinary school instead of a big state university? How many would live in another country and stay there to help out a while longer? How many would realize they actually want to major in art, not finance?

We might be a little happier, a little more at peace, a little more understanding of the world around us. Is it too late?

Never.

Me, really far away, in Norway during Study Abroad (a great second to the Gap Year)
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12 thoughts on “The Gap Year: Why Haven’t We Caught On?

  1. I wondered these exact same things when I was in Oxford discovering that other people my age had taken a year, not 4 months, to travel…and there was no “study” involved in their journeys abroad. I’m planning my Gap Year…or maybe 3 months…for the summer after I finish grad school 🙂 See ya there?

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  2. Yes yes yes. I totally agree with the concept of a Gap Year and wish I had had one…however…Study Abroad and then doing a master’s in Oxford was, as you know, Andrea, a great substitute. 🙂

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  3. I remember that. We called it “taking a year off” – but I didn’t take a year off either. I had a lot of friends who did, though – to travel, I suppose. I was always very envious of them. I went straight to college, too, and then right after graduating college, I got married and started working, too. I know some married couples who are taking Gap Years, like you’re talking about, away from their jobs. I know a couple who quit their jobs in August to go on a year-long mission trip and then I know another couple about to quit their jobs to go live in New Zealand for a year. Mainly, I think, they want to get away from the “American dream.” It’s definitely understandable.

    Maybe as young professionals we can have Gap Weekends?? 😉

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    1. That’s so cool. My cousin and her husband, who have four kids, just took several months off to travel the country in their suburban! They drove through Nashville and we met up; they were like the most fun and laid back family ever. I say the Gap Year can be any year (or weekend)!

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  4. gap years always make me think of our friends from cinque terre and i don’t even know if they were on one or not. i think i would like to take a gap year every other year.

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  5. oops, i’m logged in as Dre. that probably freaked you out:) this is jenna on mom’s computer as you:) teehee. hmmm…what else should i write as this new pen name? i could get you in a little trouble

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