My motivation for travelling the world is to discover new perspectives. I truly believe I learn the most when I explore new places and experience other cultures. Lately, I’ve been thinking of taking a gap year again after university. I love to learn other languages and really want to improve my French and Spanish speaking skills. Then again, I’m also attracted to the idea of starting a whole new adventure in a completely unfamiliar country. I joined a summer school program in 2015 and it is still one of my best travel experiences ever. Taking a gap year would be a bigger, but possibly even more fulfilling challenge. Today, in collaboration with EF Education First, I want to share 8 reasons to take a gap year at least once in your life.
1. You Learn to Speak a New Language
One of the most rewarding reasons to take a gap year abroad is the opportunity to learn a new language. Learning a new language helps boost your cognitive abilities, generates new job opportunities, and opens up your perspective to new ways of thinking. Spending time to learn a new language is basically the best investment you can make. There is so much to gain and almost nothing to lose. Multilanguage programs even allow you to encounter 2 or 3 new languages during your gap year. You could study the Spanish language in Barcelona, French in Paris, and German in Berlin.
2. You Learn to Adapt to New Environments
Taking a gap year can seem like an intimidating challenge. It’s always scary to move to a place where you don’t speak the language. Perhaps you’ve never even visited the country before. However, this is exactly why taking a gap year can be such a rewarding experience. You are immediately exposed to other ways of living and spend a lot of your time navigating unfamiliar spaces. I only got a taste of Chinese culture during my summer school program. It was such a different vibe than what I what used to, but I couldn’t get enough. Why not go back to Beijing for a gap year?
3. You Get to Know Yourself Better
Maybe you don’t know whether you should go to university, or maybe you are unsure about picking the right career. You should know that not knowing what to do is totally OK. You need time to explore what motivates you the most. Taking a gap year is a great way to take a little bit of time to think about life, but still do something productive. Living in a new environment forces you to find your footing and helps you become more self-reliant.
4. You Can Experience being a Volunteer
Taking a gap year is a great way to work on your own development as a global citizen, but it doesn’t just have to be about yourself. You can use your gap year to gain new skills while helping others as a volunteer. I personally worked as a volunteer in Cape Town and it made me much more aware of social inequality, as well as my own privileged position. It’s an amazing way to make a difference: you contribute to the places you travel to. Programs like the EF Volunteer Courses can even help you combine language-learning with volunteering, so you can make the most of your gap year experience.
5. You will Have a Second Home Abroad
Taking a gap year is different from being a tourist. It’s a kind of “slow travel” that allows you to see all the sides to a city. You don’t just visit the famous landmarks for a week and then hop on a plane to head back home. You build new relationships, you find your favourite places to hang out, and you learn to actually live abroad. This is the best thing about gap year travel: you start to make that city your own and will always have a second home abroad.
6. You Will Never Regret Taking a Gap Year
For me, this is probably the most convincing reason to take a gap year. I’ve never heard any of my friends say that they regret taking a gap year. Even if your gap year ends up being completely different from your expectations, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even if you end up going through a few rough patches, you will learn how to deal with difficult situations. No matter what happens, you always come out a better person.