Why You’re Wrong About Gap Years

Amanda Langan - Ecuador


July 17, 2013

When I tell people I’m taking a gap year, or bridge year, instead of going straight to college, there are two types of responses I receive. Some people bombard me with questions; others give me a blank stare, not sure what taking a gap year really means. People often ask, “Why don’t you want to go straight to college?” “What about basketball?” “Isn’t it dangerous?” I’m sure some people also think of the stereotype that a gap year is just an expensive trip for the ultra-wealthy. And then there’s my dad, who wonders how I’m going to survive in a country with bugs everywhere, since I scream when I see a minuscule ant.

While some of those are valid points, I would like to set the record straight for myself, and the many other students who plan to take bridge/gap years. 

While there are an infinite number of things you can do on a bridge year, I will be traveling to Ecuador with Global Citizen Year, where I will be living with a host family for about eight months. Through Global Citizen Year, I will be placed in an apprenticeship where I will work in the community and improve my global understanding and Spanish skills. The possibilities for an apprenticeship range from teaching kindergarteners to working on a potato farm.

Coming from an affluent suburb where the hardships range from no free Wifi to missing an episode of Mad Men, I am looking forward to opening my eyes to a new type of hardship.

If you are still not persuaded that this is a good idea, allow me to address the question, “Why wouldn’t you want to go straight to college?”

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been counting down the days to college freedom for a long time. However, by taking a bridge year I hope to gain a better insight into myself and will be more focused during the next four expensive years in college. Plus, I don’t think Indiana University, which I plan to attend, is going anywhere in the next twelve months.

“What about basketball?”

Although basketball was my life for…all my life, I am ready to slowly detach myself from the commitment of the sport. Although I do hope to share some of my experience and enjoyment of athletics with my host family in Ecuador.

“Isn’t it dangerous?”

When I think of dangerous things, Ecuador doesn’t pop up on my radar. Yes, I will be in a foreign country, with a foreign language, and foreigners, but that doesn’t scare me. In fact, it excites me. Bad things can surely happen in Ecuador, but they can also happen here, or anywhere. And they usually don’t.

As for the gap year stereotype, I understand where it comes from. According to Urban Dictionary, a gap year is one which “posh kids spend traveling the world using daddy’s money after leaving their expensive private schools.” And while there are some posh kids out there, there are also public school kids like me. Global Citizen Year is helping to change the gap year stereotype by offering financial aid to over 80 percent of their Fellows, me included. Over one-third receive full scholarships.

So if you were someone who thought like Urban Dictionary, or even if you didn’t, I encourage you to follow me on my blog–and maybe your perspective will change as well.

Amanda Langan