Adulting, College Life, Lifestyle

Gap Year Programs That Will Help You Reset and Feel Inspired

by Megan Pavek

gap year programs

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s spring editorial intern Megan Pavek. Find her on Instagram at @megan.pavek. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at thezillennialzine@gmail.com.

To say that I didn’t feel ready for college is an understatement. Recalling my senior year of high school, I was floating through the motions and following blindly in the majority of my peers’ footsteps. I didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue, but still applied aimlessly to a couple of 4-year universities because that was the thing to do. Feeling ill-equipped, I attended a school out-of-state and while I learned a lot, I decided to take a step back after my freshman year. Taking time to solidify my priorities and learn more about myself and the world around me was exactly what I needed before recommitting to a degree.

Gap years occur in all shapes and sizes and mean different things to each person taking them. Essentially, it’s the decision to step away from post-secondary education or formal employment during a transitional period in life. Whether you take a gap year before starting college, after college before entering the workforce, or anywhere in between, gap years can be very beneficial to reevaluate your life goals. There are many gap year programs designed for this period of life that are not only fun but can also help add some structure to this time.

Turn Your Gap Year Into A Service Year

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AmeriCorps provides the official service year experience for those who want to spend their gap year giving back to other communities. The organization offers a number of federally funded programs to individuals who are 18 years or older. Two of the more popular programs are AmeriCorps NCCC and AmeriCorps VISTA. NCCC involves more traveling around the U.S. and between different organizations while VISTA is partnering with one organization for the duration of the service year. 

Personally, I completed the NCCC program back in 2017 and was based at the Southwest campus in Denver, Colorado. From there I traveled, lived, and worked in Arkansas, New Mexico, and Arizona for months at a time which was an amazing experience. During the gap year programs, AmeriCorps will give you a living stipend and provide housing. It’s not always as glamorous as it sounds, but it is a way to travel for free, experience other parts of the country, and a way to feel like you are making an impact in other peoples’ lives!

Seasonal Work and Apprenticeships

There are many online resources to help you find seasonal opportunities at some of the most beautiful places in the U.S. Hop on Wanderjobs.com to review your options. Tourism businesses are looking for camp counselors in California, retail associates in Alaska, and adventure guides in the Smoky Mountains. While many of these postings are for the summer, this still provides a chance to travel around the country and meet new people! Some positions can run longer, depending on the nature of the work. 

If you’re feeling more career focused and ready to explore a certain industry, an apprenticeship may be a better fit for you. Traditionally, apprenticeships are common for trades (such as electricity, plumbing, welding, etc). However, people enter into apprenticeships for all kinds of reasons. Whether you don’t feel ready for higher education or opt to skip that step altogether, apprenticeships provide a hands-on learning experience and in most cases, full compensation for the time worked. You are also likely to make connections and benefit from mentorships in your field of choice. Visit www.apprenticeship.gov/career-seekers to explore your options!

International Programs

Traveling abroad is a dream for many, and a gap year program may be the perfect opportunity to make that happen! Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a great option for those trying to save some money. Through the WWOOF website, you can connect with a host overseas who needs help on their farm. Hosts typically provide free housing and other necessities as needed. This also gives you the unique opportunity to interact with a local who can help guide you around the area!

If manual labor isn’t your thing, you can opt for a paid language or cultural immersion program instead. Founded in 1947, the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) is a reputable nonprofit. Choose from high school or college study abroad programs, which run anywhere from a couple of months to year-long programs. Already have a college degree? Apply to work abroad with CIEE through teaching or explore their internship options.

Have you or anyone you know taken a gap year? What gap year programs would you recommend? Share your experience or any advice you may have with us in the comments below!

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