Bridging the Gap

“The world is a book and all those who don’t travel only read one page”. –St. Augustine

During a recent self-examination I realized that I am not yet ready to make life-changing decisions. The reader may interject. “You’re only sixteen! The only decisions you make are whether or not to eat Lucky Charms or Frosted Flakes for breakfast!”

Seemingly so, this is not true. The decision I make not to take Physics could hinder my chance of becoming an Engineer, Architect or Doctor. I am certainly not mature enough to decide on a profession, most teens aren’t. The question is, “What can be done to confront this issue!”

To many teens the answer is a concept called the “Gap Year”. A gap year is simply a year off from school, most often taken upon completion of secondary school, before entering a university, college or the full time work force. The stress of leaving home for the first time can be enough of a blow, even when not combined with a full course load. It gives us time to build experiences, learn, develop street smarts, travel, mature, adjust and decide what the heck we want to do every for the rest of our lives.

There is such an abundance of benefits to gap years both personal and professional. Universities are beginning to embrace the idea. Diane Crocker, Registrar and Director of Enrollment Management at the University of Toronto said, “A gap year can prepare students for a more meaningful university experience”. York University in Toronto passed a motion to allow students that took a gap year to defer admissions.

While taking time off it is most critical to stay active, in every way possible. Upon return to school, it would be humiliating to not remember the second language claimed on the lengthy application. In order to save oneself much grief it is important to review scholastic notes, to read and to keep the brain used to making connections and retaining information.

For an unfortunate few, some youth become overwhelmed with the amount of spare time that they possess. In a disconsolate attempt to fill this time they end up spending an unhealthy amount of time in front of a screen. Texting, facebook, video games, television, web browsing, fishville; the list goes on and on.

This may seem difficult to believe when you realize the opulence of other activities available to youth! For instance, travel. Travel is simply the most efficient way to discover who you are by observing the world and finding your place in it. It can change perspectives and opinions, build friendships and wisdom and open narrow-minds. Thus travel is a marvellous way to prepare for a university experience.

Volunteering is an unparalled way to travel. It is inexpensive, involved, structured and very interesting, never mind how it looks on a resume. Spend a year in Thailand doing wildlife rescue, lion rehabilitation in Zambia, and orphanage work in Mombassa or community projects in Guatemala. The opportunities are innumerable.

The only decision we have to make now is where!