July 18, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
The beauty of a gap year is that it is so versatile. Although it is called ‘gap year’, the duration of this break does not necessarily have to be a year. It can range anywhere from as little as 3 months to as much as 24 months, depending on your ultimate goals and what stage of life you are at. During this time you basically gain an unconventional but practical education out of the normal traditional classroom. This education should preferably relate to the career you are interested in pursuing.
The fact is, many of us do not know about the many different opportunities or specialties that are available. Taking a gap year and travelling or working with others can trigger off so many ideas and can open up a whole new world to us.
The most important thing to know about taking a gap year is that it should not just involve booking cheap flights and drifting around the world for a year just soaking in the different cultures and cuisines. Taking a gap year means making a well-researched plan about where in the world you would like to go and what you would like to do during your time there. It also means doing a whole lot of homework and behind the scenes work such as fundraising, working, saving, budgeting and taking care of insurance and visas formalities in order to make it all happen. It can be time-consuming and tough just to make it happen but the education you would have obtained is invaluable.
When you’re on the cusp of completing school or university, or you’ve taken up a job that is just not doing it for you, it can be difficult to decide what to do next. You’ve got some major decisions looming ahead and you are not sure where to get started. Should you just enrol in the most convenient academic stream or plunge headlong into a lifelong career without first exploring the other options that are available to you? If you are 100% sure about what you want to do next, that may not pose such a problem but for those who are not sure which fork in the road they should take, a gap year offers the best opportunity for self-exploration and for making informed decisions.
Finishing school is a unique time in anyone’s life. You have limitless options available for you along with relatively fewer responsibilities, which means you can choose anything you want to do feeling guilty about shirking your commitments. A gap year is the perfect time to pursue some if not all of those things you’ve always wanted to do. You could travel, teach in another country, learn a foreign language or do conservation work. The possibilities are endless. For some career streams such as medicine, time spend doing a medical placement or volunteering with an international organisation can give you invaluable firsthand experience of what being a medical professional really is like and whether this career path really is for you.
With so many irresistible options out there, it’s not surprising that more and more people are deciding against following the traditional educational or career path and choosing instead to take some time out for themselves, gain some life experience, do some exploring, and find out where their interests and aptitudes really lie.