Should you take a gap year?

By Ahmed Wafi

What you gain – and lose – from taking a year (or a few months) off.

Every year, thousands of people around the world take a few months or even a year off in pursuit of a greater calling. Some opt for a gap year (as it is commonly known) after finishing their studies, before they begin their careers while others decide to take a break amid their professional careers. Basically, you take some time off to do whatever you want.

There are a growing number of organisations that offer gap-year programmes such as Habitat For Humanity where you get the satisfaction of building homes for those in need. Speedwing Malaysia gives you a chance to work and travel in the USA, while the New Zealand government offers a working holiday programme.

The question is how beneficial is a gap year? Is it worth it?

Here are some pros and cons of taking a gap year:

Experiences! Let’s face it, you’re more likely to learn things while traveling to a new place, exposing yourself to new cultures rather than sitting in a classroom or behind a desk. Exposing yourself to a brand new perspective of life, meeting new people and making new friends can be enough reason for many people to take that gap year!

Time lost: Going on a gap year will require you to plan things out and plan them well or you could be losing valuable time doing things that won’t have any benefit. Once you get back from the adventure, make sure whatever you did during that time was worth it. You wouldn’t want to waste it binge watching Netflix!

Pursuing passions: We tend to neglect things we really enjoy doing simply because life gets in the way. Whether it’s work or studies, our passions have to be put on hold. But during your time away, you will find more time to pursue the things you really enjoy doing, get good at them and who knows you could even choose to turn that into a career!

Money lost: Plane tickets are expensive and if you’re going to be spending a good amount of your time traveling, you’re going to have to fork out money to fund your travels, accommodation and everything that comes with it. Since you’ll be away from your job, you won’t have a stable income to support you! Even if you are on a work and travel programme, it’s very likely that you’ll be on the wrong side of your finances.

It looks good on your CV: Imagine having “volunteered building homes in Tanzania” or “spent one year traveling New Zealand” on your CV? The value that comes with the experience will increase your marketability tenfold!

Might lose momentum: You’re on a roll and things are going good for you when suddenly, everything comes to a sudden halt and you leave your job to take some time away. There’s a chance that when you get back, you might not continue the same momentum you did before you left and it’ll take more time to get back in the groove.

Learn more about yourself: Being away from home in a different environment will put you in situations you never thought you would be in and you could end up learning things about yourself that you didn’t previously know.

It’s a risk. There’s a lot to gain from taking a gap year and there’s also a lot to lose. Putting your career on hold to chase a bigger calling is something you’ll really need to consider before going for it. It’s a unique situation for every individual so you might want to tread carefully when making this decision.

Ask yourself “is getting away from life for a while worth it?” After that ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen?”

The answers will help you decide if that gap year is something you should do!

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

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