Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
Preparing to Return After a Difficult SemesterJennifer Sullivan
Note from the Editor: Outbreaks of the new coronavirus developing around the globe will impact travel decisions for 2020. As you and your student make plans, be sure to review the latest country-by-country information and advisories for travelers on the U.S. State Department website and also the website for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Is your high school senior interested in taking a year off to travel before college? Or are you the parent of a current college student considering a break from school to refresh themselves and focus on personal growth?
What’s stopping them?
We believe everyone should take a gap year at some point in their lives. Not only will your student make lifelong friends, but they’ll collect new skills they can apply to a career.
Still not convinced? My Baggage has laid out 10 reasons why your student should take a gap year.
While many of their friends will head straight to college, there’s nothing wrong with taking a year out to have some fun and novel experiences. Your student has worked hard to get where they are, so why not reward themselves with this opportunity to kick back, explore our wonderful planet, and develop some life skills?
The world literally is their oyster, with interrailing Europe, backpacking Asia and trekking Machu Pichu all being popular options for the ultimate gap year adventure. Now is their time to just pick a destination and go!
During a gap year, your student will meet people from all over the world and form bonds that may last decades. Hostels are the perfect place to meet like-minded individuals who may also be taking their first big trip solo. Everyone’s in the same boat and keen to chat, socialize and make travel plans.
Your student will not only learn about their new friends’ cultures and countries but a newfound friendship may also inspire them to visit their friend’s homeland one day, knowing that they’ll always have a sofa to crash on.
International travel is a golden opportunity to learn a new language. If your student is visiting South America, there are plenty of low-cost language schools that offer an immersive experience to learn Spanish. They will also be in the perfect place to put these skills to the test.
Visiting China? Mandarin is a popular language that could make your student’s CV stand out from the crowd. Encourage your student to spend some time attending lessons alongside exploring the Great Wall and hanging out with pandas.
When you travel, you need to know how to budget and keep costs down. Your student will sharpen skills on how to make their money last longer, from cooking their own meals in the hostel kitchen, to taking public transportation and haggling for bargains. This focus on frugality will come in handy when they transition to campus life.
In a larger sense, traveling teaches the value of things and your student may start to see their preferences change. Who needs the latest kicks when they can save those funds to put towards a flight or the ultimate trekking experience?
Why not combine travel with work experience? There are plenty of work experience opportunities around the world, with countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand offering working holidays that allow you to both travel and earn. If your student has a passion, or wants to acquire skills that relate to the subject they hope to study in college, there is sure to be a perfect project for them.
Gap year volunteer options are also plentiful and, although unpaid, are just as rewarding as paid work abroad. Volunteering in health, education, environmental work or conservation will give your student first-hand experience in the field and an extra insight that their peers at home will not have had.
If your student is considering volunteering overseas, it’s a good idea to chat with their school counselor to get some help finding the program that best suits them and the skills they want to develop.
A gap year adds depth to your student’s resume. Not only can they learn a language, but they can volunteer or undertake work experience that will make them stand out from the crowd. Employers appreciate a candidate who has followed their passions and dedicated time to their interests by volunteering or working abroad.
Learning to rely on yourself as your travel around and live in foreign places is a big achievement. After your student has battled through the busy streets of Hanoi or navigated the London Underground, there won’t be a challenge they can’t overcome!
Things won’t always run smoothly and that’s where their growing confidence in their problem-solving abilities will kick in. They’ll learn that, if you can travel independently around Europe, Asia or South America with just a backpack to your name, then you can do anything.
One of the most important gifts of a gap year is to discover what makes you tick. This is your student’s chance to try new things and take risks.
Have they dreamed of learning to scuba dive? Why not give it a go? Ever fancied a ride on a camel, or an elephant? Saddle up!
When you go outside your comfort zone, you learn about yourself.
Most important of all, a gap year is fun.
After studying hard and attending school for most of their lives, this is their opportunity to lift their eyes from their books and computer screens and get out and enjoy themselves. No more late nights cramming or essays due — just a one-way flight and rough itinerary. They are young and deserve to kick back.
Then, with a gap year under their belt, they’ll have renewed energy to focus on their studies and career aspirations when they move to campus.
College move-in is approaching! Help your student prepare by making sure they have everything they need for a successful freshman year.