Famous Gappers

Written by  April 14, 2011

Do you need some encouragement to prove gap year travels aren't just a waste of time undertaken by kids wanting to booze and party before returning to the world of academics?

Yes? Well, you're in luck!

I have just the thing for you: celebrity endorsements!

Yesterday, New York Times-columnist and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof, tweeted a photo that proved he picked peaches in France during his gap year, after suggesting that those who don't think they can afford the time away should teach English in China or Peru. (He also shared this letter from Harvard encouraging students to take time off.)

What other notable figures have embarked on their own travels between classes? I'm glad you asked! Here are a few examples gleaned from Wikipedia:

Che Guevera:

The Argentine, Marxist revolutionary best known for leading the Cuban revolution in the '50s also liked motorcycles. While studying medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, he took some time off to travel through South America for nine months, aiming to spend a few weeks as a volunteer at a leper colony in Peru. This trip opened his eyes to many of the social justice issues that plagued the continent. (This story might sound familiar to you if you've read The Motorcyle Diaries, or seen the movieof the same name.)

Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Before she was the U.S. Secretary of State, and even before she was the First Lady to former President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton was a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts during the '60s. After earning her degree in political science and before entering Yale Law School, she spent a summer working her away across Alaska, including stints washing dishes and working in a fish processing cannery where she used her strong activist leanings to get the place shut down after complaining about unhealthy conditions (they fired her). 

Princes William and Harry:

Even royalty see the value of a gap year. At the age of 18, after completing studies at Eton College, Prince William travelled through Africa and South America, including British Army training exercises in Belize and a 10-week programme in southern Chile with Raleigh International, where he taught school children. Afterwards, he returned to the UK and continued his studies at the University of St. Andrews. Little brother Prince Harry, meanwhile, spent a gap year working on a cattle station in Australia, vacationed in Argentina and worked with orphaned children in Lesotho with Sentebale, a charity he helped set up, during which time he produced the documentary Nubia: The Forgotten Kingdom. (Afterwards, though, he didn't attend university, instead opting to join the military.)

What other notable figures have travelled far and wide between their studies? Who have we missed? Let us know!

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Zalina Alvi

Zalina grew up in Toronto and began her career in journalism at the York University campus newspaper. Before joining Verge in 2010, she worked for a documentary festival, a non-profit organization and various magazines and newspapers. Zalina has had some eclectic travel experiences, including reporting for a newspaper on the island of Molokai in Hawaii.

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