My name is Vita, I come from Croatia and at the moment I am the President of EFPSA. I often hear my colleagues considering whether they should take a gap year or not. Some of the arguments I hear are “I am too old for a gap year”, “I don’t have time to waste”, “It’s too complicated”, “I don’t have money for that”.
The thing is none of these obstacles is that big. I decided to share with you my experience of taking a gap year and several reasons why you might consider doing it yourself.
Why it makes sense to take a gap year?
A gap year is a time to explore who you are, to find what interests you and take a step outside the formal education you have probably been a part of for more than ten years. A gap year gives you a chance to get out of your comfort zone so that once you get “the job” you know exactly why you are there and what you’re worth. A gap year is a time to learn everything that university never teaches you and to get new perspectives that are not visible from the comfort of your room.
Society tells us that we need to complete our education by this age, get a job until this age, get married etc. (you know how the story goes).
And then what?
The truth is, something will always seem more important than learning who you are and giving yourself a chance to experience what you have dreamed of.
So, if not now, then when?
For a long time, I had a desire to travel and explore, but I always thought I do not have the means to do it. I had no guidance, no money and I had no idea where to start. I promised myself, I would do my best to find a way to move abroad after completing my bachelor studies. I still was not sure what I wanted to specialise in, which country I wanted to live in, and I did not want to rush and apply for any programme.
This is when I decided to take some time to explore what this world has to offer, so I took a gap year. Today, when I look back at it, it was the best decision I have ever made. I have packed my bags having no idea where this journey would take me. I did not have any money saved, so I researched my options and first decided to work abroad for a few months.
Throughout this one year, I lived in three different countries, I visited more than 19 countries, learned a new language, completed an internship in HR, did a lot of volunteering and working, met some of the most influential people in psychology, hitchhiked and couch surfed to save money, developed several new hobbies, and met hundreds of beautiful people whom today I call my friends.
In the end, I did find my way and I knew exactly what I wanted to do for my master’s degree. Now I am pursuing an international joint degree between three universities in the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain, specialising in research and work and organisational psychology. The gap year gave me enough time to explore, experiment and gain skills that helped me in getting accepted to the master’s programme.
Yes, you can do it without having extra money!
There is an enormous number of opportunities for young people, and the sad part is that students just do not know about them. It did take me some time to research all that is out there, but it is worth it! I will not go into explaining every one of them, but I will list some that made my gap year extremely affordable.
Erasmus has several opportunities. One that students mostly know about is studying abroad for a semester. In addition to this, Erasmus will fund you for having an internship abroad (check out Erasmus Intern), you can also volunteer abroad and receive money for you living abroad (check out European Solidarity Corps) as well as travel for short term youth exchanges and training programmes where your stay and travels are paid (check out Erasmus youth exchanges). Other options also include working abroad (Work and Travel) or volunteering in exchange for accommodation (check our pages such as Help Stay). If you just want to travel a bit and save money on accommodation, a great option is also to couch surf, which gives you a chance to meet amazing people from all over the world. There are a lot more opportunities, so I suggest you do some research before you pack your bags.
Yes, it is worth it!
I have never heard anyone saying that they regret taking a gap year. Of course, if you just pause your studies and stay in your routine, you might think twice. The gap year did not only give me a chance to explore the world but truly explore myself and embrace the things I love and enjoy.
If you are still not sure if this is the right decision for you, or you still have a lot of questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I would be more than happy to share what I’ve learned and help you embark on this amazing journey.