While pursuing a higher degree or entering the workforce after graduation is common, many people consider taking a gap year.

A gap year is a break that focuses on learning through experience. People typically take a gap after graduating from high school or college and before entering their career field or pursuing post-secondary education. Gap years have increasingly become popular as more people have openly shared their decisions to take the time off to explore alternative ways of learning.

Although a gap year is a break from schooling in a traditional setting, learning does not stop. Gap years are an opportunity for students or postgraduates to figure out the next steps of their lives or how they want to contribute to society. Some also use the time off to care for their mental health and recover from burnout

There is a purpose and intentionality behind taking a gap year, which is why experts recommend that those interested list what they hope to accomplish. The concept is meant to expand a person’s personal development and mindset while also encouraging a period of reflection. A gap year is not for procrastinating the next steps of life; it aims to clarify a person’s future. 

Taking a gap year looks different for everyone, but here are a few options to consider while embarking on the unconventional path.

Travel With A Gap Year Program

Traveling, whether solo or with a group, is high on the list of experiential learning. Seeing different parts of the world allows one to be immersed in various cultures, meet new people and observe how other areas operate. Traveling allows a person to deepen their perspective about the world and life. Other focuses include leadership development, learning new languages and international internship opportunities. 

With the increase of people taking a gap year to travel, programs have been created to provide additional structure if self-guiding travel is not a viable option. Gap year travel programs have curated destinations or participants can select where they want to travel upon acceptance.

A gap year program is an investment ranging from $5,000 to $12,000 or more, mostly due to travel expenses. Scholarships, fundraising, grants and other financial support options are available for students and young adults to apply.

Volunteer With An Organization 

Serving others is one way to make taking a gap year impactful for oneself and others. Helping and spending time with others widens an individual lens on different lifestyles. Habitat for Humanity is one organization that encourages young people to become involved with other communities by helping to build shelters for people. 

The housing organization works to provide affordable homes for low-income families. If construction projects are not appealing, Habitat for Humanity does advocacy work. People can advocate for change in policies to make housing more accessible and affordable.

Learning A New Language

One way to immerse oneself in other communities is by fully experiencing their cultural traditions, including their language. Language is important for communication and connecting with people. Building those diverse connections allows for personal growth and increases awareness of cultural differences. 

Researchers found that being multilingual positively impacts the brain. That impact includes greater test-taking abilities, improved cognitive skills and better memory retention.