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News - Youth For Understanding USA

Latest news about Youth for Understanding USA student exchange programs worldwide – Events – Partnerships.

YFU: Why you should consider taking a gap year to study abroad

Jennifer McKendree

Finishing high school and entering college is a big, oftentimes confusing transition. Students have studied and worked for the big event, graduation; and after marching across the stage in cap and gown, many students wind up feeling exhausted and even overwhelmed by it all. That's perfectly normal. Yet, the majority of kids going on to college do so the very next fall semester, without stepping back and assessing what they really want out of life. Taking a gap year between high school and college to study abroad is just the fix for that.

What's a gap year? It's time off between stages of life. A student defers college admission to travel the world, volunteer or study abroad. It's very common in other countries like the U.K., less so here. It's also known as a 13th Year Program.

Taking a gap year to study abroad is a great option for graduating seniors. Here's why:

Students get a break in the action before jumping headlong into college. Even though they're still technically in school, the whole experience of living in another country makes it fresh and new.

Students get time to reflect. High school, especially the last few years of it, can be hectic and competitive for top students. A gap year allows students to take a breath, free from all of that competition (whether it's with him or herself or others) and take stock in who they really are and what they want.

It prepares students for independence. Living away from home for the first time can be a jarring, even traumatic experience. Many college freshmen are homesick, feeling pulled away from everything that's familiar and safe. If they've spent a year living abroad, going away to college is no big deal. It's crucial that they are affiliated with a program like YFU. We give students the tools to succeed with a full orientation program before they embark, and a safe environment with a vetted host family.

Living abroad changes people for the better. Living with a host family in another country, and just going about the daily business of living in a country that is not your own, opens your mind, expands your view and broadens your horizons. It's an education in itself. A student will grow and evolve as a person, learning norms of a different culture, and will come home with a new perspective on life.

It looks good on a resume. After a student returns home and attends college or trade school, there will come a time when he or she is ready to start looking for a first real job. At this stage of the game, resumes can look a little flimsy. But a year of study abroad tells prospective employers that the job candidate in front of them, who might not have any work experience, is a self-starter, independent, responsible and reliable.

Intrigued? Find out more about YFU's 13th Year programs here.