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Exploring “The Gap Year”

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Malia Obama to attend Harvard in 2017 after a gap year’.

The Guardian headlines in 2017, once again brought to the fore the conversation around young adults taking a gap year or professionals taking a sabbatical.

The very phrase gap year sounds a little unsettling to the adult ear. How about we call it a search year? Decades ago, such a break from the established routine of systematic progress would have been unacceptable. The traditional household would have yelled on rooftops about their child’s waywardness or irresponsible ideas.

Thankfully, the scenario is different for Gen Z. Most young adults look to take a gap year after class 12 and the rest after their undergraduate course.

There are two distinct reasons for this:

  1. Those aspiring to crack competitive exams, generally take a year off to prepare thoroughly and in a planned manner.
  2. The next bunch, the ones who have had burnout or exhaustion with the academic grind and seek a breather to pursue their dream domain or interest space.

In this blog, we shall focus on the second lot, to help narrow down their choices on how to make the best use of this year in hand with no deadlines or choking schedules.

{Anyways, the first set of students has enough resources and centers to address their needs with packages and study plans.}

Suggestions for optimum use of gap year:

  1. Teach for India and Integrated Social Programs in Indian Child Education (iSpiice) are a few of the many social organizations that offer volunteering and fellowship programs to teach economically backward children basic academic subjects and various arts and life skills.
  2. Internship at 3 or 4 different places of interest, which may range from the hospitality industry, to finance, food, sports, and arts. This will keep you engaged and give you an idea of what you may choose as your subject of specialization.
  3. Learn a new language, get certified, and then see the avenues open up in front of you. As a travel guide, translator/interpreter/teacher of that language, and maybe even an opportunity to visit that country in a cultural exchange program.
  4. Pick up skills that are much in demand like coding, AI & ML (Artificial Intelligence &Machine Learning) Digital Marketing certification, Cyber Security certification, Graphic Designing, Technical writing, Culinary arts, Hospital Administration, Nursing, and Lab Technician courses. There is no dearth of variety available to the curious mind. Once you do a couple of these courses, you may find where your interest leans and do a detailed search of the colleges that offer it, the cost, and the possibility of placements.
  5. Pick up a sport and give time for it. The best part of a gap year is, you can juggle two or more skills/jobs and not tire or feel a burnout.

‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’ – (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

should be the driving force during this period of life.

Some warning signals here:

First, sit through this decision to see why you would want this break. Let it not be to avoid confronting the next phase of your life.

Do not be laid back and miss out on the accountability factor.

At the end of the year, there must be a soul-satisfied young adult who has a proud resume that reflects the reason for the break in education.

Remember it is a choice you have made and hence allow no room for criticism or relapse in the plan.

Make sure to use this time to bond better with folks at home and pitch in with chores you would otherwise escape doing. Eventually, you will thank yourself for your efforts.

Take frequent time checks, which could be every three months to see where you are headed, what is the takeaway, and how much joy and involvement is it bringing to you.

Avoid giving chances to your folks to question your decision of taking a gap year. If you do it well, your siblings will enjoy the privilege too.

Today, both corporates and educational institutions are open to people with a gap in their education/career as long as it reflects the purpose with clarity and has enough proof of time well spent.

The stigma around a break or a year missed is a thing of the past. So at the outset, make a plan, brainstorm all the options in hand, and zero in on a few skills to learn or upskill. Be in the moment, whether it is travel, work, or any other engagement. Record moments through interviews, and audio-video inputs. You never know, you may end up with enough material for a podcast on a gap year that will inspire many young adults, contemplating the same.

Reach out to the college counselor, your favorite faculty, or folks at home to help decide on, the break you wish to take. It helps to talk to people who have taken this break and benefited from it. The Alumni connect is another big network in colleges, to offer inputs and recommendations on this.

With an open outlook and the mindset to encourage students to enjoy their courses, most colleges are receptive to this idea. New Horizon College too is in sync with the same and stands to support or take in students after a year break without much interrogation or embarrassment.

The sky is the limit.