Earlier this year, our Founder, Katherine Stievater visited several Gap Year programs in Europe. While with one of these programs, she spent time with a group of Gap Year students in Italy, and had the chance to speak with them over the course of several days about “Why” – why did they choose to take a step off the traditional path, and defer college for a year? This is not an easy choice for some students — as earlier posts have noted, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out!) is a concern, as well as simply the willingness to be viewed as “different”. The students Katherine spoke with each had their own reasons, and stories.
“I didn’t feel like living in the world that I was told to live in – I wanted independence, and to take a break from things.”
“I wanted to grow up a bit before college.”
“My degree is only 3 years but would have done a gap year anyway!”
“I wasn’t ready for college – I have lived in a bubble, and now am understanding different cultures.”
“I just didn’t want to go to college right away. I wanted to spend some time doing other things.”
“I needed more time to make my college decision – I was sick so didn’t graduate until after everyone else anyway.”
“I was completely burned out. I just felt like I couldn’t study anymore and needed a break.”
“I have never been apart from my parents. I am a bit of a homebody, and wanted to make sure I was comfortable living apart from my parents.”
“I didn’t feel the need to go right to college. I wanted to get some space and experience before university. Where I’m from taking this time is pretty normal.”
“Both my parents and my sister took a gap year, so I always knew I wanted to do this – and I love to travel.”
One of our Gappers, Hanna, working as a barista at Caffe Nero
While most people associate a “gap year” with traveling and Instagram-perfect pictures, that’s not always the reality, or the best option for many students. Many of our gappers choose to incorporate some kind of paid or unpaid job during their gap years. There are so many valuable life skills that many entry-level jobs can teach you, and most of them pay at least minimum wage! Check it out below:
Waiter or Waitress: Waiting tables at a restaurant, coffee shop, or even a bar can be a great option. In these jobs, you will learn to work effectively with people and serve others properly through customer service. Waiters also learn organizational skills as they navigate working with co-workers in such a busy environment. And a bonus: most waiters make a lot of money in tips!
Some gappers preparing a beautiful meal!
Prep Cook/Assistant Cook in a Restaurant: This is a job that doesn’t come to everyone’s mind when they think about life skills, but it offers opportunities to learn and even move up in a company. To my surprise, I learned that prep cooks can acquire entrepreneurial skills. A prep cook is an essential job in any restaurant, and in this position you must be responsible and entrepreneurial- able to think on your feet and be creative in a spontaneous situation.
Retail Salesperson: As a salesperson you’ll learn… sales! Not only will you be able to sell someone a jacket or maybe even a laptop, but you’ll begin to hone in on the way in which you connect with other people. If you want to learn interpersonal and negotiation skills, you may want to look into retail. Most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have held a sales position at one point in their lives.
Receptionist: This job can motivate you to move up in an organization. By working as a receptionist in any industry that you’re interested in (accounting firm, tech, retail, etc.), you can also gain networking connections to help you attain your dream job in the future. And lastly, receptionists are some of the best at time management – a necessary skill for college.
Camp Counselor: As a camp counselor, especially at a sleepaway camp, you’ll learn many necessary skills for college and beyond. Working with children can teach you patience, which is a great skill to master before all those group projects in college. Camp counselors also learn interpersonal skills with their campers, the campers’ parents, their fellow counselors, and even their older bosses.
One of our students volunteering at Community Servings in Jamaica Plain
Volunteer: Although volunteering is inherently an unpaid position, it is a great opportunity to further your passion for anything. Whether you’re an animal lover, interested in working with underprivileged students, or want to help homeless people, organizations are always looking for new volunteers. You can learn just about any skill, and more importantly connect with a worthy cause or charity.
Start-Up: Many start-up ventures are interested in hiring customer service or sales reps, depending on their needs. This can be a great opportunity to learn the inner workings of the startup and venture capital world, and to gain important networking connections. On top of this, many startup CEOs and bosses are young, so can teach you relevant skills like social media management.
At Gap Year Solutions, we want students to feel empowered by their gap years. And in many cases, this doesn’t involve a year full of traveling. Choosing a job, or multiple jobs, throughout your gap year can teach you a variety of skills and provide you with insight on your passions. Contact Katherine to learn more about what your gap year could do for you.