The most common path people take after graduating high school is heading to college, but some opt to take a gap year instead. What is a gap year exactly? According to the founder of the Gap Year Association Ethan Knight, it’s the time usually taken before embarking on a career or postsecondary education to further develop someone’s practical, professional, and personal awareness. You can gain incredible learning experiences by going abroad before continuing your education. If you’re considering spending this time of your life internationally, we put together a list of reasons why working abroad during your gap year can be a great opportunity.
You get immersed in the culture
If you choose to work abroad, you’ll be staying in one place for a while, and that’s a great way to get to know and experience the culture there. Museum-hopping is one fantastic way to learn more about your host country’s history and art, and you’ll have plenty of time for it if you’re not working on the weekends. Other ways of absorbing culture are consuming local media, eating local food, visiting cultural landmarks, and befriending locals. Taking a gap year abroad can open yourself up to new cultural perspectives while satisfying your sense of adventure.
You open yourself up to opportunities
Sometimes recruiters won’t be satisfied with just your academic credentials, and your dream job might be out of reach because you lack work experience. A gap year would be perfect for building skills and know-how for future careers. Business writer Daniel Ling highlights the importance of continuously sharpening one’s skills while acquiring new ones along the way. As the professional landscape evolves to address new issues with new technology, you can also take on opportunities to help equip you to keep up. Seasonal employment and short-term work can give you new skills to work with, and score you good points when seen on your resume. Volunteering is also a good option; you can go to Spain or Italy and volunteer in creative technologies with NGOs, or you can go to Greece or Belgium for their community support and outreach programs. On top of being a bonus in your CV, these experiences will broaden your worldview.
You can earn more money
Many people who go straight to college after high school might miss out on having an additional source of funds, but working abroad will give you an advantage. Through paid internships, casual employment, teaching opportunities, and more, you can earn a living that can help support you during your time abroad or help you save up for your future studies. European countries like Luxembourg and Switzerland offer high pay for work and excellent quality of life, so this region might be an ideal place to do your gap year.
You can learn a new language
If your work destination has a different language than your mother tongue, it can be daunting to put yourself out there. You can take online classes or brush up on the basics, but the best way to learn is by being there yourself. Working in a country with a different language than yours will allow you to interact with locals, be it customers, clients, or coworkers, who can help you learn more relevant conversational speech and slang. If you’re a native English speaker, you can also teach locals your language. Teacher Katie Ruby decided to teach English in Poland before taking on a 9-5 job. She was able to teach children and adults through one-on-one sessions or company-wide lessons. The experience gave her more confidence and a better understanding of herself. International ventures can be an awesome chance to learn something new, and allow you to share your own knowledge with others.
You can gain independence
Working in a different country during your gap year will mean that you will most likely be living there without parents or guardians to help you. Even if you have peers around you, you will have to cultivate your routines and make your decisions. It could be a daunting experience, but the freedom will teach you much about independence. As we mentioned in our post called “Why Work Abroad?”, working away from home can be great for personal development. You get to learn about new things and gain new perspectives as you go around on your own. If you’re still worried, countries like the Netherlands offer additional guidance and support for foreign workers so that you won’t be completely alone on your journey.
Authored by: Jessie Burnham