Want To Take A Gap Year Like Malia Obama? Read This First

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Written by  May 9, 2016

A quick primer to planning your gap year.

Last week, news spread that Malia Obama will take a gap year before attending Harvard in the Fall of 2017.

If you’re graduating this year and thinking about taking your own gap year, here’s what you need to know before calling the Registrar’s office to request a deferral.

1. Gap years come in all shapes, sizes and price tags.

While some skeptics claim that gap years are only accessible to more affluent students (and one can only speculate on the type of prestigious program that Malia will enrol in), at Verge we’re constantly compiling a wealth of resources on programs that will match any budget, dream or goal.

However, spending time exploring options on our Program Search is only one step in planning your gap year. We know that after graduating, you probably never want to hear this phrase again, but we need to say it—you’ll have to do your homework first. Your first assignment is to read “How to Plan Your Gap Year.” Then, move on to this additional required reading: "What would the boss say? Employers on gap years" and "5 questions to ask when planning a gap year."

2. You don’t have to have experience to get a job abroad.

While volunteer programs are a great way to gain new perspective and take a break from academic pursuits to learn practical skills, you could also spend the year working abroad to try and sock away some money against that soon-to-be student loan. If you are going to spend the summer serving coffee in your hometown, why can’t you do the same overseas?

From teaching English abroad, to WWOOFing, to working remotely, there are countless options available for recent graduates who would like to make money while travelling. Or, if you're just looking to break even, you could also investigate work exchange options. Finally, Verge’s Program Search also has thousands of listings that will help you envision your working holiday, but if you're looking for more inspiration, check out our Work Abroad articles. 

3. Aim to have fun, but learn something, too.

Think about what you really would like to achieve in your time off by reflecting on your career goals after university—no matter how incomplete they may be—and try to choose an activity that could assist in the development of those goals. Gap years are a prime time to build what has been coined as “identity capital.”

If, when you think about a gap year, your first thought is going to Europe because the drinking age is relatively non-existent, then you may want to reconsider the purpose of your trip. However, if you approach your gap year strategically, you can use your international experience to stand out from the crowd when applying to jobs or post-secondary. 

Of course that’s not to say that you shouldn’t have fun. Remember—it is supposed to be a break. Allow yourself to step off the treadmill of institutional education for a moment and find out what kind of person you are outside of that structured life. Don’t discount the “soft” skills you will inherit simply from moving outside your comfort zone and travelling independently.

So with these tools in mind you can plan for an amazing gap year—and who knows, maybe you’ll catch up with Malia on the other side of the globe?

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Emma Borg

Contributor, Events

Emma has lived and worked on four continents in as many years, jointly pursuing personal and professional development through international working holidays and long stay travel. She has diverse experience managing event portfolios in niche conference and corporate event sectors and developing marketing and sales strategies to drive growth for events and businesses.

Between these roles she has spent her time traversing many great nations enjoying adventure travel activities, trekking, historical sites, cultural hotspots and connecting with fellow backpackers.

About

Verge believes in travel for change. International experience creates global citizens, who can change our planet for the better. This belief is at the core of everything we do.

For more than a decade, Verge has produced quality resources and events to help people experience the world in a meaningful way, through opportunities to study, work and volunteer abroad.

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