Opinion: Gap years should be encouraged more

Taking one year out of your life to travel, become financially independent, or reassess your priorities is nothing in the grand scheme of life.


Kizzy and friends walking through Covent Garden, London, England. Photo by Kizzy Azcarate.

Kizzy Azcarate, Entertainment Editor

I had imagined that by the time I shook the hands of my high school instructors and shifted my tassel to the other side, I’d know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Instead, I felt more lost and confused than I had during my last statistics final exam.

Disregarding the fears and disapproval from family and friends, I made the decision to take a gap year.

As I watched my friends move to new places and make new friends, I stayed home. Seeing Instagram and Snapchat stories, I felt increasingly sure about my decision because I felt this enormous urge to want to be drunk and have a social life in places that I shouldn’t be.

While I needed to learn responsibility, gain more maturity, and honestly take a break, there are students who chose to take a year off to reassess their priorities and for financial reasons.

Rotchild Francois Jr., a junior, went back to Haiti after he graduated high school in 2016 after hardly seeing his family in the last two years of school.

“That year, it was very freeing because I had a chance to explore my interests and gather myself more,” said Francois. “Some people consider a gap year as [in] taking a year off and not doing anything. It can be that if you want to, or it could be about figuring out what you want to do or get an idea of what you want.”

In his year off, Francois worked at a radio station in Haiti and had his own traffic afternoon show.

Francois’ time at the radio station led him to switch his major from mechanical engineering to multimedia journalism.

“I was really set on that [majoring in mechanical engineering], but even me switching majors, it shows you that even if you figure something out during that gap year, it’s not necessarily that you’re going to stay on that path, but it’s a starting point,” says Francois.

Like Francois, I ended up switching my major one year into my health science program. When I was making that decision, I felt more sure of myself due to the confidence I had built during my gap year.

The American Gap Association with Temple University conducted a study amongst students who’ve taken a gap year and found overwhelmingly positive feedback. Ninety-eight percent found that it helped develop them as a person, 95% found a boost in their self-confidence, and 93% felt that their communication skills had improved.

Noadia Lindor, a sophomore, began her gap year after her first semester because she was unable to afford tuition and wasn’t eligible for financial aid.

“It was hard because I had got a taste of what college was like and I had to go back home and work,” said Lindor. “Seeing all my friends have the best time of their lives at school— they were taking great classes, loved their professors, it was hard. I had a lot of FOMO (fear of missing out).”

During her gap year, Lindor became concerned that she was going to fall behind in life and feared that she may not return. Once she came back to campus, she realized taking a year off was beneficial for not only her school career, but her mental health.

“I am glad that I was basically forced to take a gap year because if I had gone to school right after I graduated and been in school this entire time, I would have definitely been burnt out,” says Lindor.

Lindor recalled that her self-esteem was low when she began her gap year because she felt as if she was competing and racing against the clock to graduate.

“I don’t feel it [pressure] as much because I came to terms that everyone is on their own journey and everyone has their own timing,” said Lindor.

Lindor has made up for the time that she was not enrolled in school and is now able to graduate on schedule.

Gap years don’t have to be adventures in another country. They could be as simple as taking time for yourself to reconnect with family or create a work ethic.

Both Francois and Lindor agreed that a gap year should be destigmatized, as should the belief that college is the only way to have success in life.

For my gap year, I made the decision to save up enough money so I could afford to pay for my own apartment when I moved away for college. In doing so, I grew up.

I absolutely hated my job and found everyone around me to be frustrating, but I learned that I could save money, work with difficult people, and have a regular sleep schedule. For me, it was a necessary sacrifice to start later.

Throughout my gap year, I saw former classmates enter rehab, deal drugs to survive, and get arrested.

It saddened me to see people I had grown up with dealing with such heavy things due to the peer pressure and freedom that college laid out for an 18-year-old.

Returning to campus at 20-years-old, I felt more prepared and confident when it came to my studies, but I still had a rebellious side that felt the need to see the world.

During summer semesters I’d fly to Europe and create adventures on my own until I made new friends. From there, I visited my friends to surf in Spain, karaoke in Prague, and ski in Iceland. Being friends with them has opened my mind to new places and experiences that I could have never imagined for myself when I started out.

If you’re not comfortable with a full year, at least make time for yourself, whether that be two weeks or three months. It was humbling to see how big the world was and realize how easy it felt for me to find commonality with people from countries I’ve only read about.

The way I see it is: you are taking only one year for yourself and it may be the only year that you can guarantee yourself that you’ll be selfish, make mistakes, and gain responsibility with minimal repercussions.

Kizzy Azcarate is the Entertainment Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, tweet her @Kizzy_kinz or [email protected]