The Benefits of a Gap Year Experience
I’m often asked about the benefits of doing a gap year and while I can talk about the changes a student may undergo, I decided to ask someone who had done a gap year about what it had done for her.
My wife’s sister, Audra, is a TV, Radio, Film grad from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She is currently living in Brooklyn working as an associate producer for The Molecule where she wears numerous hats in an effort to help individuals and companies tell their unique stories through television and film. But, before all that came to be, she spent a gap year in Australia. A while back, we had some time to catch up and I asked her about what she learned from her gap year experience that changed her as a student and a person.
Here’s what she had to say:
“I’ve learned that the best experiences have always been the ones that have initially scared me. I take more risks now because going away for a year and succeeding has made me feel like I can do anything. Therefore, taking a semester abroad in Italy felt like no big deal. Spending two months in India working in Bollywood felt like a mini-vacation. Moving to New York City to pursue a career in television right after felt like just the next step. Yes, these subsequent endeavors frightened me a little, but mostly they felt like adventures. You start saying to yourself, ‘If I can spend a year in Australia, I can definitely do…’ If an experience scares me because it’s new, different, or far from home, I know that it will push my limits and make me a stronger and more interesting person overall.
Because of my Gap Year, I started college knowing that the world was so much bigger than Syracuse University. For four years I never let college become the only world I knew, or what some people called a “bubble.” I took more risks. I took classes that people questioned me for. I was a TV, Radio, Film student taking two languages because I wanted to travel more. I became interested in geography because it had a global skew. I took environmental classes, graphic design classes, and learned SCUBA diving, all because I knew that an array of knowledge and skills would make me more well-rounded going into a television-related career. Sometimes college students pigeonhole themselves into the requirements of one major. They don’t think about the possibilities that exist beyond college until it’s too late, and instead they go to class because they have to and they party because they think that’s what it’s all about.
Having a gap year behind me made me a more curious and risk-taking student right from the beginning. I went into college having seen how enormous the world is and how many opportunities there are. College became not something I had to do, but a collection of experiences that would make me a smarter, more versatile, and more capable person. In other words, I made myself into a person that someone would want to hire, and most importantly, I became a person that I was proud of.”
Outside of my personal bias – let’s be honest, Audra’s one of the most interesting people I know – there’s a lot to take away from Audra’s story. Especially where she learned to take risks and diversify herself through additional courses and experiences which fell outside of her major. These complimentary pieces have prepared her for a career that changes by the day. I’d like to think she’d be able to adapt and adjust regardless of whether or not she had done a gap year, but it’s pretty clear that the experience has helped her in so many ways.
There’s a lot to like about that.
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