So you just graduated high school and you’re ready for a break. You have just spent what feels like a lifetime hitting the books, taking tests and slogging through homework. You have decided that you need a break from the academic world now what? For Jewish school-leavers, the gap year in Israel—is a long established tradition. You have heard of taking a gap year in between high school and college and even some of your friends have even done it. This blog will focus on all of the benefits from taking your gap year.
“Explore Your Options”
There are so many life paths to follow, and so many careers and academic majors that you might have never considered. There are career fields out there that high school doesn’t even touch on, international development, anthropology, dramaturge, snake milker (that one sounds dangerous…). Spending time abroad can teach you about these careers and academic majors that are outside the rote replies of doctor/lawyer/teacher. Exploring expands options and passions! Without a gap year, how will you know whether or not you love being a festival volunteer around the world? How will you know if you love Tel-Aviv street food? What if you are really good at teaching art, but you’ve just never tried? Take that year and try out new things!
“Learn a New Language”
Learning a language can be a great thing to do on your gap year, even if you hated learning languages at school. When I first arrived in Israel I already “knew” Hebrew from school, but, I soon realized that what I had learned at school and what I needed to know to really get around were not even on the same page. It took me some time to acclimate to Israeli Hebrew, but, once I did it was an amazing experience—I was able to hang out with so many more people and get around with more confidence and ease. As soon as you arrive, you will be able to actually put your Hebrew to use and before you know it, you will be ordering your coffee in Hebrew, making new Israeli friends and fearlessly getting around town.
“Get to Know Yourself”
This could be the first time away from the family nest, and without the stress and structure of college, it’s the perfect time to get to know yourself more. What do you believe? What does a happy life look like to you? What are your passions? What do you secretly hate, but pretended to like because everyone else did? Maybe you pretended to like punk rock just because that cool guy in your math class did, but secretly you always hated it; time to let that go!
A gap year is the time to ask yourself those questions. While you’re getting to know the world better, get to know who you are outside of you home space. Being out of your comfort zone lets you test your limits in ways that home never can, and can reveal hidden strengths. Are you someone who pick up languages quickly? Do you rise to the occasion when the group is lost in a foreign city?
“Let Yourself Go with the Flow”
A gap year can challenge you in an entirely new way, rather than the academic or extracurricular challenges you found in high school, a gap year could mean cross cultural and language challenges. Maybe you’ll be challenged to help save lions or patch a roof in a construction project; it will definitely a bit different from your calculus homework!
All these new challenges will help make you more flexible. Being able to simply go with the flow is handy in any career! Yes, even if you pour cement or study ancient history or whatever.
Many students experience burnout, and get to college exhausted from a senior year spent cramming in standardized testing, college visits and applications, extracurricular, prom, late nights wondering why they decided to grow up…that level of stress is no fun. Taking time to refresh and recharge before making the big life change of going to college is a good thing for you. A gap year will teach you and stretch you and challenge you, but in entirely different ways than your physics class. Give your poor brain a break from cramming, your body a break from the desk, and your emotions a break from the highs and lows of the high school scene.
“Make Lasting Friendships”
Making connections with people around the world is a core component of traveling. Being able to build lasting friendships on your gap year comes from communicating. Becoming friends with someone you would never meet if you hadn’t taken your gap year.
In my own experience, seize the day and explore! Whether that means traveling, taking a salsa class and just embrace new experiences that will fall into your lap. Take your time to reflect on your goals, plan for college and reflect on your goals. This is your time to find out what inspires you, dream big and pursue your ambitions.
All too often, it is the fear of failure that prevents us from accomplishing our goals. Yet if we only realized the value of a single action or experience, we would likely achieve a great deal more than we could ever imagine. Most of the time, all that stands between our greatest successes and our most dismal failures is the bravery to take (and celebrate) one step at a time.
In many cases, a step toward the unknown can allow us to impact the lives of so many people and, in turn, provided us with the tools to not only maximize your year, but to elevate your outlook on life. A cause for celebration, indeed. Keep me posted on how your year in Israel is going. Please feel free to post pics, blogs etc..looking forward to your upcoming year.