5 Myths About Taking a Gap Year

SEPTEMBER 2018

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by Heather Reynolds Heather led the first ever 6-Month IMMERSION program back in 2012, and has been a full-time team member behind the scenes of the IMMERSION program ever since.

Although the exact number of Gap Year students in the U.S. is unknown, this non-traditional path is clearly widening each year. More and more young adults are committing to spend a year abroad to focus on personal reflection, spiritual growth, and deepening their knowledge of other cultures. But there are still a lot of unhelpful myths surrounding the choice to do a Gap Year. Here are a few common misconceptions:

Gap year mission trips

Myth #1: You’re on vacation.
A Gap Year isn’t about being in an exotic location or sitting on a beach somewhere listening to Reggae music. Your year should be purposeful with intentional reading, serving opportunities, time for personal reflection and rich cultural experiences. On an IMMERSION Gap Year, team members wake up early to work on the plantain farm in Costa Rica or spend afternoons leading kids programs in South Africa townships or learn about the history of the Middle East over coffee with a local professor. These kinds of out of the box opportunities challenge team members to see the world in a bigger context and spend each day in a meaningful way.

Myth #2: You’re avoiding school or other responsibilities.
As young adults consider pursuing a Gap Year mission trip, they often get pushback from family and friends. In fact, sometimes this season of pressing pause on academic work can be perceived as avoidance or escape or just plain laziness. But a well-planned Gap Year can actually inspire young adults to be more focused in college or their career when they get home. A study by the Gap Year Association sited that 90% of students jump back into college within a year of finishing their time abroad and some studies prove Gap Year students actually demonstrate higher grades upon returning to school, a trend consistent over the full four-year college commitment.

“The prevailing wisdom is that kids are going to lose their hard-earned study skills if they take a gap year. The opposite is true.”
- Dean of Admissions, Middlebury College

Gap Year Mission Trips

Myth #3: You won’t be taken seriously by future employers.
Often, people assume having a college degree and a high GPA is what will stand out to prospective employers. Although some career paths certainly require a relevant degree on your resume, many employers are looking for qualities that develop with time and life experience, not necessarily in the classroom. An article in Forbes magazine titled, “12 Qualities Employers Look For When They’re Hiring” mentions things like: ambition, problem-solving, teamwork, ability to learn new things, or knowing your personal goals and strengths. On a gap year, you take the time to develop as a mature, self-aware individual who cares about global issues. This will undoubtedly make you stand out from the crowd.

Gap Year Mission Trips

Myth #4: You’re not being smart with your money.
We know gap year opportunities can be expensive. But most opportunities are very comparable to what you would spend on classes, books and housing during a normal semester of school. Although a Gap Year might not be the traditional route (or one our success-driven culture understands quite yet) it can be a meaningful investment in your future. Many colleges and universities are beginning to allow students to defer their enrollment or place scholarships on hold for a year because they recognize the value in students taking time off for self-discovery. So, chances are you won’t miss out on major scholarships if you plan ahead and write a letter to your university of choice requesting deferral.

Read this article about How to Write a Deferral Letter so you don’t miss out on important scholarship opportunities.

Gap Year Mission Trips

Myth #5: You won’t be safe traveling abroad.
When choosing your gap year program, it’s important to consider safety and to travel with a reputable organization. Take time to research on the U.S. State Department’s website by typing in the country or region where you want to go. Experience Mission enrolls all Gap Year IMMERSION team members in STEP (Safe Traveler Enrollment Program) as a way of monitoring safety abroad before and during your trip. Although we certainly live in a time when the worst stories make it into the headlines first, we’ve seen over and over again how team members are welcomed into a new community and have a rewarding, safe experience. Do your research and be prepared, but don’t allow fear of the unknown to stop you from exploring new corners of the globe.

Interested in pursuing your own IMMERSION Gap Year experience? We’re already putting together teams for our August 2019 - June 2020 Gap Year programs, which will take you to 4 countries over 9 months with time at home for the holidays. Read more and apply now!

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