Gap Year Reflections from Ben Casnocha
Ben Casnocha, a student at Claremont McKenna College, was recently asked to weigh in on our site about his own a gap year experience. He happily obliged, and provided the following 'thoughts' about his gap year experience. Ben has helped popularize the gap year concept in the US with his Gap Year Travel Blog. He is also an entrepreneur and author.
When I turned 18, I asked dozens of my adult friends what they regretted NOT doing when they were 18. I posted some of the answers here: http://ben.casnocha.com/2006/03/friend_of_ben_w.html. The single most common answer was “Didn’t travel enough.” I didn’t expect to stumble upon such a widely held regret. But there it was, and as someone who hadn’t much traveled, it struck a chord. When I started exploring the idea of taking a gap year, I asked people I knew who had done such a thing whether they regretted it. (Yes, I find the “regret” question pretty revealing.) Not a single person said they regretted taking a year off.
With this information in tow, I took the plunge. I traveled overseas for three months, worked for three months, did a USA road trip, and wrote a book. Now that it’s behind me, I, too, have no regrets about taking a gap year. In fact, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Maybe most important is it takes you off the formal education treadmill — if only temporarily. Most educated people have schooling for 18 or 19 years straight. When you take a year off, you acquire experiences that give you a unique perspective on your education once you take it up again.
Of course, even though you’re not in formal schooling, you still get a hell of an education. International travel does this the most. Especially for a young person today growing up in a globalized (read: interconnected) world, it’s hard to think of anything more important than understand how the different parts of this world work together. Or if you decide to work, work is a form of education. Any kind of work. Menial labor or high brow internship.
Ultimately, how you decide to spend a gap year is up to you. Unlike formal schooling, you have total control (well, for the most part – your parents might have a say!) on how you spend this time. Let your imagination run wild. There is no single way to do it. Sample widely. Travel some, work some, volunteer some, just hang out and read some. Spend some quality time with yourself. Spend some quality time with others, both familiar and foreign.
As Mark Twain once brilliantly said, we regret the things we DON’T do more than the things we do.