Who Am I: Thoughts from a Gap Year Abroad


Most American high school students go directly to college after high school. There is too much pressure to have a “proper education” and to earn a degree, and many believe that taking time off results in laziness and an unwillingness to contribute to society in the future. There may be some truth in that, but for the most part, I disagree.

I took a gap year because I wanted to see the world. I wanted to be an exchange student, to learn another language and another culture. I wanted to find out that there is so much more than the small high-school bubble I had been living in for the past four years. I looked at many programs, most of which were way too expensive. I then found a few scholarships and decided to apply, not picky about where I would be heading. I heard back from the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, and the next thing I knew I was heading to Germany for a year!

There was one problem: I did not know any German. But I didn’t care. Either way, it was going to be a grand adventure and a learning experience.

Throughout the year I had a lot of time to think about everything. About my life, about my future, about my relationships, about who I was ... literally, about everything. There were many times when I was bored or lonely, and I would just think. I kept a journal throughout the year, which helped me organize my thoughts a little better.

This whole year affected me in more ways than I can even describe. It helped me figure out my identity and what I wanted from life. I found a path to follow, and learned that I need to take action to make my life what I want it to be. I learned lessons that I would never have learned had I gone straight to college; I might still be having an identity crisis or have no idea where I want to go with my life had it not been for my year abroad. All of my experiences changed me.

I know that any type of gap year can be life-changing. It doesn’t have to be a year abroad; it could be a year of volunteering, or simply a year of doing something important to you. For me, I believe that my phases of loneliness throughout the year contributed most to my revelations. It was really hard at the time having to deal with the loneliness, but it was very beneficial in the long run.

Take a gap year. Question your life. Learn something about yourself. These are things a formal education may not be able to do for you. I am not saying forget about college all together, but you need to find and reinvent yourself so you can make the most of your college years and life thereafter.

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