“I’m not sure what I’ll do, but – well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
High school, that annoying period when you don’t know how to calculate simple equations but are expected to have things figured out. That’s what goes through every teenagers naive little heads when high school is coming to an end…
I had my life somewhat planned when I was 16 *some whaaaat?*, I knew what I wanted to study after high school but after graduation I took a little detour. I got a job in sales and telemarketing, fresh out of school, no experience in the corporate world and I had not found my voice or confidence yet and speaking to a hundred strangers everyday gave my timid little soul so much anxiety but this played a really important role in getting me to jump out of my shell. The result was amazing, I became a lot more confident and understood the difference between what, as a high school student, I thought was the real world and what the real world actually is.
I worked for a year and it made me realize that everything I thought I wanted in a career in high school was everything that would make me the saddest person on earth, I wanted something more than to sit in an office and stare at the faces of the same people everyday, I wanted to see new faces, to listen to a foreigner tell me a story in their thick accent, to take in a sight that no camera can capture, to use words that twist my tongue uncomfortably and to feel a culture that isn’t my own. The year of sitting behind that desk, staring at the names of people and hearing the same conversations everyday was everything I needed to ignite a light that I had dulled long ago.
I spent a year as a stay-at-home sister, I made that up only because
that’s technically what I was doing. I took care of my 1-year-old sister while finding every way possible on earth to satisfy the craving stirring my insides. It took a long year till I had confirmed what I’d be doing for my ‘third gap year’ and I found it through the au pair program and a year and a half later I have never felt happier. It took longer than I expected but it made it so worthwhile.
Here’s what every person trying to figure life out needs to know…
YOU DON’T KNOW.
I’m totally serious, you might have this fantastic idea of what life is going to be like and where you’re headed but it is a totally different ball game once you’re physically done with high school and have to deal with the big, scary world ON YOUR OWN. I had a fantastic support system but you have to realize that eventually you’re going to need to handle life independently and if I hadn’t taken that first gap year I wouldn’t have figured that out.
I had never really been a supporter of the gap year, but I’m definitely PRO-GAP now. If I didn’t do this I don’t think I would be who I am today. There’s so much one gains from taking a break and living a little, going on adventures, meeting new people and learning something that colleges probably don’t have a course on although I’m not in any way condoning skipping out on getting yourself some education, so don’t use this post in your “I don’t wanna go to college” speech to your parents.
I get a dozen questions from people wanting to know if I would ever go to college, we live in a society that expects you to attend college and then get a job that pays well so you can live this amazing life and yes, of course I want to go to college but I think right now, I love the thought of living out of a suitcase instead of a tiny closet in a dorm room. I love staring out the window of a coffee shop watching the morning traffic instead of staring at a whiteboard every day. College will happen, eventually… right now my classroom is the world that I am yet to explore.
Here’s what you can expect to get out of taking a gap year:
- You begin to understand your strengths, making you more aware of what career you will succeed in.
- Leaving your comfort zone makes you more confident in yourself, and confidence is very important.
- You become open-minded and understanding.
- You will meet people who will inspire you, make you happy and help you find yourself.
- You will learn to adapt in whatever situation you are placed in.
- You’ll learn to appreciate what you leave behind: I appreciate my South African roots a lot more after being in the USA for a year and a half.
- A year of gaining experiences is not a year lost and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You will find out what you are good at and maybe you might just find a way to turn your skills into a career.
- You’ll make friends and not the kind you hang out with and then forget. Authentic friendships that will last you forever. These relationships will help shape you during your gap year.
- What works for you might not work for your best friend back home or for anyone else and vice versa… find what thrills you and gives you peace of mind at the same time.
- Remember that it’s okay to take risks, and if it doesn’t work out that’s okay too. JUST KEEP MOVING.
Here are some links and options you might be interested in:
Being an au pair is one the greatest decisions I have ever made, I live with an amazing family and take care of two sweetest weirdos that I will never forget.
This program is popular in Australia and New Zealand. A great advantage is that there won’t be a language barrier (If you’re able to speak English that is).
Although this won’t pay, I can imagine it to be a wonderful experience. There are many programs that offer free accommodation and meals in exchange for some type of labor.
I’m considering doing this next, it’s a great way to learn a new language too by teaching in places like Spain or Japan. All you need is to get certified and some companies have a full package including the training.
There are so many options available, it takes a lot of patience but you will soon realize that the adventure that awaits you will be worth every minute spent waiting. The memories I’ve made are unforgettable, and I will tell these tales all the way into my old age. Everyone should have that feeling of being in complete awe of something new, even if it just once.
If you think you just want a short break before heading off to college or work, go search Contiki for tours and my favorite site right now, GoAbroad.com