The White House recently announced that Malia Obama will be attending Harvard University but has decided to take a gap year before beginning her college studies. Generally, a gap year refers to the year in between finishing high school and entering a college or university. Interestingly, more colleges and universities are encouraging students to explore the benefits of a gap year before beginning their academic studies.

Here at AFS-USA, we understand the value of participating in a gap year, as it will enhance the student’s learning and provide them with a firsthand experience at interacting with individuals from a different culture. A report from Harvard, The Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation, stated that students who opted to take a gap year felt that the experience was “so valuable that they would advise all Harvard students to consider it.”

As we move towards a more interconnected globalized world, more students are not only recognizing the need to explore the world as their classroom, but the great impact of developing college and career readiness skills through cultural exchange. While there are a number of benefits of studying abroad, here are 3 benefits of a gap year, and reasons why it may just be one of the best ways to begin the path to global citizenship.

Top 3 Benefits of a Gap Year

1. Gaining A Firsthand Experience

After graduating high school, students are often eager to dive into a new learning environment. Participating in a gap year, can be one of the best ways to experience the value of service learning, or simply learn more about a specific topic or subject. A gap year can provide you with practical skills and knowledge to set you apart from your colleagues.

In fact, the gap year programs at AFS-USA are aimed at providing participants with a firsthand intercultural experience through an experiential learning approach. Whether students are interested in community service, humanitarianism or learning more about sustainability efforts, a gap year may just be the experience you need to learn more about your passion, while exploring the world.

2. Finding Your Passion

Whether you are preparing to enter college or the professional world, a gap year program can help you develop skills from personal transformation, to interpersonal communication, to intercultural knowledge and global awareness. By exploring the world, you will not only gain a global perspective, you will also learn more about your passion to help you think about what personal interests you may want to pursue in the classroom and beyond.

3. Learning A New Language

The need to learn a foreign language is becoming more essential to thrive and succeed in a global economy. In fact learning, studies have shown that learning a different language can “rewire the brain”. In addition, more colleges are promoting language learning as a key factor in what they look for in incoming applicants, and depending on the career, employers are looking for candidates who can speak another language. All great things to think about when taking the next step after high school.

We hope you consider these great benefits of a gap year as a means to succeed both in and out of the classroom!