A concept that was largely unknown in this part of the world until a few years ago. In the traditional sense, a Gap Year means a sustained period of time off taken by students either before beginning university or in between their college studies. In 2016, the concept of taking a Gap Year gained pace when the then President of United States daughter, Malia Obama decided to take a 1 year off before attending Harvard University in the fall of 2017.
In Malaysia, the Ministry of Education is currently considering implementing a “Gap Year” program in Public Universities in the near future. This was announced by the Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh in January 2017. (Ref: New Strait Time). It is primarily to allow students to prepare for the working world. Hence, with much buzz about Gap Year, let us explore 6 reasons why students should consider taking a Gap Year.
Gap Year can mean so many things for different people. At the very core, it is dedicated towards self-discovery! Many students who take a Gap Year find that they know more about themselves at the end of it. Why is that? This is because students get the opportunity to take on community projects, leave the comfort of their homes by travelling on a budget or even deep dive in meditation.
This may be the only opportunity student’s get to take a year out of their life and immerse in a community project. Give back to others by helping the underprivileged. It will allow students to experience the plight of others and thus, discover more about themselves.
The power of self-discovery and discovering what was previously unknown may lead to students making better decisions in selecting their degree major. At the end of the Gap Year, students should have gained a better sense of who they are and what they want from life.
2. Embrace a Global Mindset
The world today is one that is borderless, knows no boundaries and in many aspects, we can be regarded as global citizens. Being a global citizen would mean not being confined to “one way of thinking” and to learn, accept and practice it. How would students obtain this “global mindset”? One way would be to take a Gap Year and travel abroad.
Travelling abroad does not mean staying in luxurious hotels and going on city tours. Instead, students should stay with the locals through a cultural exchange program or a foster home program.
Living with the locals would allow students to learn how other people see the world, exploring foreign cultures and practices, and most importantly, actually communicating with people from diverse cultures. This would prove invaluable and will serve students in good heed for the many years to come.
3. Learning New Skills
Life itself provides a great deal of education and building new skill sets. In a Gap Year, students can opt to take on the challenge of learning new skills. This can even be learning a new language or learning a skill that is outside a student’s degree major.
The world is changing at a rapid pace. English was once a dominant language however other languages have risen to the fore in the past 10 years. This includes Chinese and even French. Students may consider learning a new language to either keep up with the rapid change or simply to engage the intellectual mind. Other instances could be learning to code. Coding is being touted as the “skill of tomorrow”. Hence, dedicating a year off to learn the “skill of tomorrow” will serve as an advantage when it comes to future job applications.
4. Planning The Future
Taking a Gap Year can actually help students to enroll in the university of their choice. If spent wisely, a Gap Year can be used to actively plan for the future. Students will have the extra time to decide the major that they truly want to work towards to once in university. Students may also opt to gain working experience in the field of their interest and hence, narrowing down the field of their choice.
It will allow students to come out standing head and shoulders above most other university applicants. Entering university with the increased sense of clarity invoked by the extra time spent planning will make a student’s academic and career decisions more pointed and intentional.
Internships are a form of gaining work experience before graduating. Many university degrees either allocate a specific subject for “work based learning” or provide a few months’ semester break where students can proactively secure an internship stint. However, a Gap Year is different from this traditional internship route, which tend to last just a couple of months.
Interning for a whole year would open up many more doors than one could imagine. For starters, it allows students to immerse themselves in the job for a sustain period of time. This means going through both the high season and low season with an employer in terms of the workload. This will enable students to properly assess if the field that they are interning in is something they want to do for the rest of the lives. If not, at least they are conscious of that decision and can immediately look for alternative career choices upon graduation.
6. Recharge before Sprinting Ahead
Life is indeed a marathon rather than a sprint. Students tend to take a Gap Year in the middle of university or before starting university. This would mean that the student would have gone through more than 17 years of their life without having much time to themselves. A Gap Year would essentially serve as a means to recharge the body and mind before sprinting ahead with university.
In the larger context of life, taking a year off does not a student behind their peers in life. Rather, if used wisely, a Gap Year would allow students to have the time to think life through, embrace new concepts and gain a greater clarity of what they want in life before re-joining the marathon again. The greater clarity in thought could potentially allow students to perform better in their university studies.