By Alex Berkman
When I chose this article assignment, the original question at task was “Should all students take a gap year?” However, it would be unfair for me to tell you that all students should take a gap year when I possess a certain level of bias in favor of a gap year. In reality, students should be able to exercise their freewill and make their own decisions. Therefore, for this article, rather than telling you that all students should take a gap year, I will simply be describing how its benefits certainly justify it being considered at all. Nonetheless, it is important to understand that taking a gap year is not for everyone, and if you are uninterested, that is completely okay.
A gap year is defined as a one year period, typically an academic year, taken by a student as a break between high school and college. During this period, individuals have the opportunity to travel the globe and utilize a year of freedom and opportunity to their advantage. Taking a gap year offers a multitude of benefits to students, including an opportunity to experience worldly cultures, prepare for college, and to make self improvements.
As many graduating high school students nationwide aren’t given the opportunity to explore the world due to various circumstances, these students naturally yearn to explore the world. For the individuals who have been fortunate enough to travel, most have not “really” seen the world, but rather have been secluded to luxurious resort hotels. A gap year, however, offers an opportunity to not only experience the remarkable places our planet has to offer, but the unique cultures and people in which we share it with. As a member of the Armonk community for my entire life, I understand what it means when people, including myself, call our community a “bubble.” Having the opportunity to both observe how people live and experience the fundamental differences within our separate cultures must be extremely eye opening, particularly pertaining to children raised in “bubble communities.” Ultimately, by submerging oneself into a new culture or cultures, an individual will be able to obtain an entirely new global perspective that otherwise wouldn’t have been impossible. It truly is difficult to put into words what a full year abroad, living amongst new people in different places, can do for a person’s attitude and approach to life.
For many first semester Freshmen, adapting to independent college life can be very overwhelming. From being driven to school each day to then being forced to make one’s own financial decisions, college life certainly can be a major adjustment in a student’s life. So, how can we manage to ease this transition? Perhaps we could begin practicing making difficult decisions and choices before we are sent off; we could take a slightly more adventurous, and a little less traditional route, by spending a year abroad .By spending a year away from home, one will be more than prepared for the college experience. Independence, maturity, problem solving skills, and being comfortable with ambiguity are all qualities that will be enhanced during a gap year. Remi Ziff, a former Byram Hills student and member of the 2015 class, took a gap year following senior graduation, traveling all over the world to the likes of Israel, India, Morocco, etc. She commented on the significance of her travels towards providing a smoother transition into college, stating “It made college a lot easier for me because I wasn’t as focused on the social or independent aspects of college.” Remi had already developed these necessary skills a year prior, and her level of maturity was therefore a full year ahead of her peers by the time she entered college. I mean just imagine: you were dropped off in a random country with little money nor guidance, you would be forced to learn some applicable life skills too, right?
I know it might sound cliché, but a year abroad living amongst strangers in an unfamiliar environment provides an individual with an opportunity to work on oneself as a human being. Especially for students who become active members of the communities they live in, seeing the impact that they can make on others must be truly special. Not only will this allow someone to develop themselves by becoming more responsible and confident, it ultimately promotes reflection on how big the world really is. Why is this important, you ask? By transforming one’s view of the world, we become more open minded, considerate of our actions, and accepting of the fundamental differences within people. Remi Ziff remarked, “Everyone always joked about the fact that people take gap years to find themselves, but it actually was incredibly eye- opening and I grew a lot.” Remi’s account represents a common theme amongst most students who take a gap year; they find themselves realizing that they really did “[grow] a lot.”
To reiterate, I, in no way am saying that you must take a gap year, because realistically, it will not fit the needs or desires of most people. I asked Byram Hills sophomore Owen Kirkwood on how he felt about taking a gap year. Kirkwood mentioned how he has seen people who have taken gap years “become completely isolated from their peers and friends while everyone is at college” and that “a year without school will not prepare you for harder courses in college.” Owen does make a very fair point. However, I do hope that after reading this article, you do evaluate why taking a gap year may or may not be the right decision for you. For me, I think its perfect. Why? I want to grow as an individual, become more worldly, and learn other aspects of life that are not necessarily taught in a classroom; a gap year is one of the few things in life that truly offers this opportunity.