The Validity of the Gap Year
In the middle of my senior year in high school I was presented with the opportunity to take a gap year. Jumping into something that I didn’t completely know the logistics of was very exciting, but also scary. No one in my family has ever done it and nobody in my graduating class was choosing the path I was, so it made it very difficult to explain the validity of taking a year off from school. However, stronger than my feeble explanations, was my growing passion for adventure. I wanted to experience life for all it truly is and not what a school scheduled it to be. Half way into this year long journey, I’m thankful that I am getting all the adventure I could want and more. Over the past six months I can attest the validity of the gap year as it has given me a deeper understanding of freedom, responsibility and myself.
Three of those six months I lived in a rougher side of the Dominican Republic. My experience there has given the word freedom a new meaning for me. Before I left freedom was something I would experience from a distance.The excitement of getting a small taste of freedom through reading a novel or about someone’s else’s adventure made me want to turn that feeling into reality. The attractiveness of freedom is the ability to let go of all the cares in your world and follow the simple passions of life. High school was all about meeting deadlines, doing extra curriculum activities to boost the resume and finally getting into a prestigious university. After four years of striving to meet goals and expectations, my desire to just let go was at its peak. Letting go for me meant setting aside the traditional, conventional and educational path to “success”. In doing this I’ve come to view freedom as a wilderness. There is beauty in the wilderness, but there’s also suffering and the unknown. In my case having to do without basic comforts, not always having peace of mind and wondering when I would sleep in my own bed again where all apart of experiencing freedom. In my desire to follow simple passions, I’ve found that life is complex and goes far beyond simply having a schedule. I’ve learned not to put absolute trust in my own plans or another man’s plans, because I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. There are seasons, but who is to know what will happen within those seasons? Having freedom has taught me to simply try to make the most of today. Living free is letting go of things that hold you and also persevering through the struggles and the unknowns of your wilderness.
There are a lot of opportunities for social interaction on a college campus. Whether it be through clubs, fraternities, recreational sports or other extracurricular activities, college campuses are conducive to socializing. In a self-designed gap year there is no provided list of things to do. The responsibility for getting involved and finding ways to be active is solely up to you. One of the ways I found to maximize my time in the Dominican Republic when I wasn’t working was by finding people who wanted to learn English and offering them free lessons. Learning how to be proactive in your social development is important. It is not uncommon for college graduates that move to new cities away from the familiarity of friends and their college campus to experience real homesickness and or loneliness. Also the responsibility for not growing “brain dead” once again is solely on you during a gap year. I spend a lot of my time reading magazines or books, and I’m always writing. I take the time to really search for opportunities to educate myself and continue to learn. Eventually, when I do get back into school seeing education as a responsibility instead of a privilege I believe will help me stay focus on completing all my academic goals. Having to take initiative and responsibilities head on builds character and a know how attitude.
In my gap year I have taken full advantage of the time to reflect, search and discover what I want to do, which has given me real vision for my future. In a time where the cost of college is only increasing it is very important to know who you are and what you want out of life. During my three months in the Dominican Republic, I worked in a call center. It was a valuable experience, because I learned a lot about what I didn’t want in a workplace. The work environment was very stressful, and the primary focus of the average employee was money. Obviously making money is important to live, but I am now aware how important it is to me to have a career that allows me to positively impact others. I also discovered that being in an environment that encourages meaningful relationships with others is essential for me. Recognizing what makes you fundamentally happy and passionate about life is important because through time everyone changes, but it’s the fundamentals of who we are that remain the same.The gap year allows people to take the time to find purpose and vision for the future.