By Frantzia Theodat
I’ve been in Senegal for the past month, and I’m loving it. I’m challenging myself and growing in ways I never have before. Before taking this gap year I was questioning my ethnic identity and perception of the West African region. Senegal (specifically Dakar) is known as the hub for connection to West Africa, allowing me to understand more of West African culture, all under Senegalese teranga.
Teranga means “hospitality” in English; welcoming generosity is a core part of Senegalese culture.
Within the right context, gap years help people straighten out their priorities and strengthen their skills. They’re also valuable in the eyes of employers, because they view you as someone who is intentional in what they pursue. When you apply for an employment opportunity, they’ll believe you’re serious about their company. Gap years can help you gain life experience before going into the workplace.
Maybe you know you want to take a gap year, but you don’t know how to talk about it with your parents, extended family or guardians. Many become hostile to the idea and think of it as wasted time. How do you approach the topic? First off, know the benefits of taking a gap year for yourself and the outcomes you’re looking to get in your life. Also, inform your parents of the cost effectiveness of a gap year. It can be better than forking over tuition fees to your post-secondary institution or going blindly into an employment opportunity you don’t know you’ll like. Finally, get a trusted adult on your side. It can be a coach, a teacher or someone who’s in charge of a program you volunteer for. When your family sees that people from the “outside” see value in a gap year, they could be much more likely to take it seriously. Ask these adults advocate on your behalf and talk to your parents/guardians/family about why they think this is a good idea for you.
This past month in Senegal has prompted me to consider the benefits of a gap year. So, I’ve compiled a list of reasons why I think people should take a year off after high school.
1. To delay education
Ask any post secondary student about how many times they, or someone they know graduated with a degree/diploma they didn’t like, want or need. Many young people struggle to get the job they want because they aren’t able to transfer their skills to a new profession, or they don’t have experience in their field. A gap year allows you to take a step back and look at what you want in life. You have time to analyze, reflect on, or take a break from what you want to do so you have a better chance of being happy with your choices long-term. Before investing in more education, ask yourself this: are you ready to put your money on the line to pursue this career in university?
2. Earn money
Here’s good life advice: don’t make a major life decision without knowing how to fund it. If you see yourself going to school, moving somewhere new or taking a huge trip, but are unable to fund your venture, consider taking a gap year. Taking a year off to make money can set you up financially to thrive in whatever you want to do.
3. This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity
They’re more difficult to come by the more your years of life pile on. As you grow older, your responsibilities change and increase. Think of your change in responsibility from Grade 9 to Grade 12 and multiply it by 10. Gap years give you the freedom to see where opportunities take you.