What is a gap year?
“A gap year is a structured period of time when students take a break from formal education to increase self-awareness, challenge comfort zones, and experiment with possible careers. Typically these are achieved by a combination of traveling, volunteering, interning, or working” – American Gap Year Association. I would also add sabbatical year as another name for gap year.

Why Professional Gap Year?
I purposely added the word “Professional” given that I have a stronger opinion that working in a company (regardless of the size) is both objectively and subjectively more valuable altogether. The idea of work can be daunting to young people, and honestly, it does have the same effect on most adults, globally. From my personal experience of taking two gap years (of 7 months the first time and of 4 months the second time), I realised that working at the pre-university stage opens one’s eye on the value of money.

I broke down the gap year period into 3 stages: pre-university (about a year or less enrolling in a tertiary institution), during university (after 1-2 years of university) and post-university (right after graduation). But somehow, they are all the same except that at each stages and subsequently over the years, you would have eventually acquired more experience. My points are therefore applicable to all, maybe with a focus to those at pre-university stage.

What I Think?

  • Growing your people network:
  • Travel and stay in a hostel where you will meet other fellow travelers like you. Work in a company (in your home country or in foreign lands) and you will meet new people (unless you’re working for a company on a remote island by yourself – you might still meet people, virtually), volunteer in a summer camp in Vietnam or Mongolia, you will still encounter people from all walks of life.

    Taking a professional gap year is fundamentally about the people you meet during your journey. It is in my opinion the number one reason why a gap year adds value to your growth as an individual. Of course, just meeting might not be enough. Engage in random yet real conversations about just anything with a stranger and you might be surprised by the whole new sharing being unveiled to you.

    Regardless of the stage at which you’re at, the need and the value of growing one’s people network is plain important.

  • Emphasizing on learning:
  • Agnostic of your stage, learning is hell of an important constant in life. At pre-university level, a lot of young people who go for temporary work can learn to appreciate the value of money, at least a bit. It can also benefit to young people during their gap year if they take a slightly more structural approach, which would be to have a clear goals in mind on the achievements they would wish to achieve. Here is one of the many frameworks: S.M.A.R.T. If you’re travelling overseas to work and live, I am always encouraging people to go to country where they don’t know the local language. Here are the 5 keys things to learn: (a) Local language, (b) cultural heritage & history, (c) living like the locals, (d) eating, enjoying and learning to cook their local dishes, and finally to (e) leave a legacy.

    I have enjoyed so much my time in Hong Kong (and did all the above 5 steps) – but honestly, I couldn’t really learn to cook their local dishes although I did enjoy the food every single day of my life. Learning is what makes human’s grow and fulfil their needs for betterment.

    Learning can also be more formal…attending classes in a university or workshops or anything else actually.
    For myself, I go through MOOC like Coursera for a broad range of topics and Treehouse for coding classes. I’ve also audited PhD classes, attended cooking class both in a school and by watching youtube videos.

  • Exploring yourself from within:
  • Inevitably, by connecting with more people and learning about just anything, you get to discover more about yourself.

    My gap year in Hong Kong turned out to have had multiple eye opening experiences…through hands-on experience, discovered that I was not meant to pursue a PhD, there was no need for more financiers in this world when your [my] talents could be applied to solving other [business] problems….

    There are some aptitudes that you might developed, hopefully, which are well-valued in the global workplace: Independence, patience, resilience, team spirit, an opinionated mind, an ability to make sound judgement under harsh conditions (Stress, pressure, danger) and muc more.

    General Data:
    This infographic gives you a quick idea in numbers of gap year in UK.

    Gap Year Statistics to Broaden Your Mind
    Courtesy of: The Leap

    Value of gap year
    A gap year is just 1.25% of the average Singapore man/woman life expectancy. However, for an 18 years old – 1 year is worth 5.55% of this person’s life so far, and the difference can be translated on a greater scale. Consequently, the value that can be derivated from such difference (approx 4.30%) can have a life changing impact, or at the very least, bring new perspectives to a young individual on life, people, and the world. What’s more, it is just a small % of your life and the opportunity cost of money and time, can only be rewarded with fun memories or fantastic life-altering experience.

    Intrinsic value of gap year will skyrocket with him….I believe that taking a gap year every 10 years once you hit 18/20 years old can be amazing. Benefits can’t be measured – but should be felt from within your own self. An example, although of slightly different context, is this talk from Stefan Sagmeister (View Here) and he has a couple more in the area of design worth having a go, here and here.
    All in all, this should help you to see more than meets the eyes.

    Mauritius – Is the Gap Year concept picking up?
    In Mauritius, the education system follows that of U.K and hence, there is usually a 6-9 months break between completion of high school and entering university. Of course, some would go for part-time jobs, short-term internships, and the list goes on. yet, there is a lack of developmental opportunities for young people during that period of time.

    What my next potential gap year would look like: To spend a year working on a programme to enable hundreds of young people to maximise their potential through a sabbatical year and later on, give back to the programme by mentoring the future batches…creating an amazing circular sharing of experience, learning and opening doors to a brighter tomorrow.

    Share Your Thought