This is a guest post from blogger ElsieMila. Below she details why so many students take gap years and why they should spend it traveling!
A New Type of Gap Year: Studying and Traveling at the Same Time
In a previous post here on Escaping the Midwest, we shared with you our best reasons for traveling and exploring the world. In truth, traveling not only helps you expand your horizons, it also allows you to make friends all over the world. Traveling also gives you experiences that would have otherwise been out of reach. Although many like to wait until retirement to travel because of increased time and money, our post explains that there are no guarantees that we will live long enough to retire (a hard reality). Throughout adulthood, we find too many reasons not to travel — a stable job, a loving family, and other people depending on you — and we never can find the right time to see the world.
However, most young people (those 18-25) have freedom on their side and less responsibilities. Taking a gap year is becoming the norm while young students contemplate their next steps in life. In fact, CNBC reports that some 30,000 to 40,000 students take a semester or a year off before or during college. Remarkably, many of them manage to balance their education while backpacking across foreign countries. Traveling is one of the most common things young people do during these gap years. Getting an education is now often integrated with those travels. Listed below is more information about how and why you should travel during your gap year.
How to Combine Travel and Studies
One way to combine travel and learning is to become a foreign exchange student. The New York Times explains that most colleges offer these types of programs and will send students abroad to partner universities. They attend regular classes, participate in community service, and will most likely live with local host families. This is a great way to learn the culture, history, and language of the country while cultivating cultural sensitivity.
Another very similar program is a study tour, which is generally shorter than most foreign exchange programs. Study tours typically range from 2 to 8 weeks in length (normally during the summer break), while exchange programs last for an entire semester or longer.
Meanwhile, some students find that what works best for them is taking up distance learning through an online university. With a stable internet connection, students can enroll into a legitimate online programs that offers everything from short-term courses to post-graduate degrees. This allows the student to take that gap year of travel, while incorporating at-home learning. However, Maryville University lists some factors to consider when choosing an online degree such as flexibility, reputation, accreditation, statistics, and support. Here are a few things to consider:
- First, you want to check how the program will fit in with your schedule. There are some courses that require online attendance to live lectures, which might be difficult if you are from a different time zone.
- Make sure the school is legitimate and has good reviews. This should be a top priority. Read up on the qualifications of its professors and the legitimacy of the school.
- Check for the school’s graduation rates and other trends related to its performance, as this can tell you more about how successful they are in producing graduates.
- Consider how you will be able to pay for your studies. Will you have the financial backing of your parents? Will you have to take a part-time job to support your education?
These are just some key points to think about if you really want to make studying and traveling work.
Why Should I Travel as a Student?
The best reason to take a traveling gap year is that there are things about the world that you simply cannot learn inside a classroom. While teachers can try to teach you about South American tribes or wild animals in Africa, there is no better way to learn about them than by experiencing them firsthand. For example, one can only really learn about the nuances of the regional dialect if you visit the place in person. By traveling as a student, you will also be presented with countless opportunities to network, which may come in handy in the future. In addition, you will learn how to manage your time if you want to strike a good balance between studying and traveling.
Along the way, you will learn to be more independent and develop social skills as you interact with other people. Amanda Machado writes in an article on The Atlantic that traveling alone in her teens helped her become more appreciative of the luxuries she was able to enjoy. But more importantly, it let her realize that not everyone in the world craves for the newest technology. Cultures and societies are different the world over and traveling can give you new lenses for which to see the world.
Traveling teaches students to mature, to seize opportunities, and make things happen for themselves. Seeing things you’ve only read about in textbooks up close deepens your understanding and in turn, enriches your life. Traveling can indeed be one of the greatest teachers you’ll ever have.
Many thanks to ElsieMila for our guest post this week. How many of you have taken traveling gap years? Are you glad you took the year off to travel? Let us know in the comments!