ON STUFF TO DO:
"CHOOSE A GOAL THAT MAKES YOU SAY, 'FUCK. I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to do it.' Do a bike trip, a hiking trip—do some sort of trip or activity that you don’t know if you can accomplish, because after it, you’ll get the best feeling ever." ~ STERLING D.
"PICK UP A HOBBY THAT'S PRODUCTIVE. I picked up knitting. Something to keep your mind busy. It is hard not being in school and not being in productive in [an academic] way for a whole year—and I think I really struggled with that during the first half of my gap year." ~ AESHNA C.
"If you do volunteering, DON'T PAY [a program] for it." ~ TOM K.
"[For programs], make sure to do a lot of research, read the testimonials, and BE SURE THAT THE ORGANIZATION'S ACTIVITIES ALIGN WITH YOUR PERSONAL GOALS." ~ SAM B.
"This year is yours. This is your year to not have excuses to be unhappy. What you do this year is entirely up to you, and if you’re doing something that makes you unhappy, that’s kinda your fault. IF YOU'RE LIKE, 'I'M HERE, I'M NOT HAPPY, BUT I HAVE TO STAY'--THAT'S NOT TRUE. LEAVE IT."
~ STERLING D.
"DON'T WORK AT an orphanage. Please." ~ TOM K.
"MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT is very important. When I compare my first few months to my later months, one of the big differences is that during the later months, as opposed to just receiving everything that was handed to me by the State Department and what they had set up, I actually started seeking out my own opportunities and places in Beijing. Really FINDING THAT SELF-MOTIVATION TO DO THINGS, RATHER THAN FOLLOWING ALONG WITH WHATEVER'S LAID OUT IN FRONT OF YOU, is a really good way to surprise yourself and engage in what you are doing."
~ CLARA S.
"I MADE A TO-LEARN LIST of everything I wanted to learn on my gap year—like “I want to learn how to bicycle tour. I want to learn how to work with leather. I want to learn Spanish, etc.” And for each item on the to-learn list, I thought about steps I would need to take to get to that goal. And then from there, I planned [my year]." ~ STERLING D.
"PEOPLE PLAN OUT THEIR WHOLE YEAR, and they do these guided gap year activities with programs and stuff—but I’d say YOU DON'T REALLY NEED THAT." ~ JAMES L.
"DON'T PLAN TOO MUCH! Sometimes the greatest gift of the gap year is giving yourself unplanned time and allowing yourself to come upon the right thing to do as you change. GIVE YOURSELF ROOM TO CHANGE! Definitely work a minimum wage job, try new things, go out of your comfort zone. It is natural to have some tough moments, especially when you see other people your age going to college while you may not have a clear idea of what you want to do. Taking a gap year was the greatest decision of my life, but I don't think of it as a "gap" year. It's not taking off time from anything or bridging a gap between one step and the next step. IT IS MAKING A CONSCIOUS DECISION NOT TO FOLLOW A PROGRAM IN LIFE but live your own way and it is just as real and just as much living as going to school would be, if not even more." ~ ZANNY M.
"I know it can be difficult, but plan as much as you can, as early as possible. But at the same time—be open to change something if you need to. IF SOMETHING DOESN'T GO THE WAY YOU EXPECT, THAT'S FINE. Just find another plan. You’ll end up feeling bored sitting at home more quickly than you expect." ~ SAM B.
"TAKING THINGS AS YOU GO is probably better. I’d plan loose things—know which countries you wanna go to, what kind of things you wanna do there—but [if you have flexible plans], you can just stay at a place that makes you feel happy without feeling the pressure to leave."
~ HANNAH N.
ON LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE:
ON TRANSITIONING BACK
"GO PLACES WHERE PEOPLE DON'T OFTEN GO. I feel like that’s where you’re gonna find the most rewarding trips." ~ AESHNA C.
"BE CONSCIOUS OF WHAT YOU'RE DOING. Don’t just go and get pissed somewhere. Places like Bangkok, for example—they are real cities that people don’t just backpack to. Don’t be really fucking dirty when you go to a mall, or whatever." ~ TOM K.
"WHEN IT GETS ROUGH and you’re homesick, you just have to change your lens and NOT COMPARE YOUR EXPERIENCE TO ANYTHING ELSE." ~ CLARA S.
"For those who are comfortable with it, I would definitely RECOMMEND TRAVELING ALONE. It’s a really good experience to form your own plans, carry them out, and get exactly what you want out of your travel experience." ~ SAM B.
"I would definitely say it’s good to start off your gap year with maybe someone you know, or a group. It’s a good way to ease into travel, especially if you haven’t traveled a lot… But it’s definitely important to SPEND A PART OF YOUR GAP YEAR ALONE, because you realize that you don’t need that other person for comfort, and that there will be people wherever you go who will be willing to help you figure out whatever you need to figure out. You gain a lot of freedom, and it’s also very reassuring to know that you can figure out things on your own. But I’d say it definitely gets lonely." ~HANNAH N.
"I think one of the better ways to develop yourself is by exposing yourself to different cultures and environments. Very often, this comes in the form of TRAVELING—ON YOUR OWN."
~ CLARA S.
"DON'T BE WEIRD ABOUT ASKING PEOPLE TO GO EAT FOOD TOGETHER. It’s normal. Even if you literally JUST met them, be like, “I’m just gonna get some food later, and I was wondering if you want to come.” You don’t even have to be that elaborate. You could just say, “Wanna get dinner later?”
~ TOM K.
"It might be BETTER TO GO ON YOUR OWN. It might be scary at first, but I think you get more out of your year that way, since you’re constantly pushing yourself to meet new people that you might have felt intimidated to speak to before. You also have just yourself to rely on, so you definitely become more independent." ~ ISABELLA B-J.
"LIVING WITH PEOPLE FROM THE COUNTRY YOU'RE IN really helps you learn a lot. Whereas if you’re with other Americans, you’re seeing it through their lens." ~ HANNAH N.
"Spend a bit of time BY YOURSELF." ~ TOM K.
"WRITE down words that you don’t know when you first get there." ~ STERLING D.
"Just EMBRACE FEELING A LITTLE SILLY sometimes." ~ SAM B.
"You’re gonna be embarrassed in the beginning. Just get over it. You’re gonna be like, “I’m terrible at everything.” HAVE PATIENCE with yourself, because you’re not the first person to struggle."
~ STERLING D.
Repeating stuff you did in high school isn't weird at all. In college, don't be afraid to repeat whatever you did in high school. - MINJI C.
Seek out as many resources as you can for help before you start, so that you know where to turn when you need them. -OLIVIA G.
If your gap year is intense and challenging, you'll be surprised at how easy college is -Hannah