People in America had a lot of opinions when Malia Obama announced that she was taking a gap year before beginning her time at Harvard. Hot takes sizzled across the internet. Although Malia is taking her gap year before college, you can start a gap year almost any time — junior year abroad, before graduate school, before you start your career, mid-career, tomorrow morning, etc. The point is simply to break up the linear progression of your life.
Across the rest of the post-industrial world, gap years are pretty common–like free education to a tertiary level, unlimited paid sick leave, comprehensive health insurance, six weeks paid vacation, limited work hours…you know, all things that make life better and leave people feeling more productive. But rather than go full bleak, let’s look at some of the great things you can do with your gap year. Malia, feel free to take these reccomendations!
WORK IN AGRICULTURE (WORLDWIDE)
Manual labor is passion. Working from sun up to sun down is a chore for the body and the mind. When you feel the pain in your muscles from planting seeds all day, pulling beets, or tilling land, you know you’ve accomplished something. Working in agriculture for a year will assist you for the rest of your life in making valid and conscientious decisions about what it takes for your food to get to your plate. Suddenly you will truly understand the lifecycle of the things we consume.
WORK IN ANIMAL CONSERVATION (WORLDWIDE)
The Holocene Extinction is upon us. Many, many species are not going to make it out of this century. We can save others if we try. Education, money, and feet on the ground are the way forward. You can spend a year working with people and animals to help stop the loss of some very important species worldwide.
The WWF is a great resource. Or you can get super specific and head to Borneo and help Orangutans. There are so many organizations out there in need of people to donate their time. Find one that suits you and go for it!
TEACH ENGLISH (WORLDWIDE)
Hey, here’s a handy guide for moving abroad! Okay, not everyone can afford to volunteer on a farm or in a park. That’s just reality. Teaching English for a year is a very rewarding way to get into a culture and new environment. Plus, you actually make some money doing it. There are some places where a teaching certificate is required. Fear not, that only takes a month to get. After that, the whole world opens up to you.