How to Enjoy Your Gap Year

You made it: you get up from your seat, fall in line, wait for your turn, and finally go on top of the stage to get that diploma you spent countless all-nighters and consumed cup upon cup of coffee for. You get down the stage, back to your seat, wait out the rest of the graduation ceremony, and party! This is until you realize, probably after just a few days when the excitement has died down, that you do not know what to do after college. Do you get a job, maybe? But you just came from school. It is just stress after stress. Is this what life is about?

Fortunately, you do not have to get a job right away. It is okay if moving from school straight to the office feels a little bit too hasty. That point of time after graduating is somewhat like a hangover: you had a raucous night, and now you have to find your bearings. This is what a gap year is about. It is a full year from your graduation where you free yourself from any professional commitment.

The whole purpose of the gap year is to allow you to recover and grow: recover from the physical, mental, and emotional strain that built up over your years in college, and grow from the exploration and soul-searching that you will immerse yourself in throughout the year. Of course, it does not mean that you will let go of everything that needs effort, because you still have to exert some on your part.

This is because the main theme that you have to use in the gap year is exploration, which means traveling the world and experiencing life like you never did before. How you explore it is all up to you. Whether you are already an adventurer by heart or someone who prefers to stay at home, perhaps you can try things that you never got to try before. 

Whatever you want to do with your gap year, keep these things in mind to make the most out of your gap year.

Your life beyond college

You just stepped out of a hot fire where you had been staying for years. Obviously, the first thing you will notice is how cool you feel after you left!

The first thing someone feels when they graduate from college: "Oh, joy! Oh, freedom!"

Your college life was one heck of a roller coaster: you had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of moments of glory and just as many moments of failure. Remember when finals week felt like all of your professors worked together to give you the worst time of your life? Remember when you learned that printers can sense if you are rushing and jam in the middle of an important print? It felt like the bad times just kept going.

All of the inconveniences and mistakes you once experienced will never be your concern anymore when you graduate—you are now free from the pain! When you used to have a hard time setting your priorities—Netflix, or final exam?—now, you have full control over what to do next. Hang out with friends? Sure! Watch the premiere of the latest Marvel movie? Why not? You do not have to worry about college anymore, only about not spending your time well. 

Then, it dawns on you: you have a life outside of college. Throughout the past couple of years, you eventually defined college as your life, surrounding yourself with the words “requirements,” “deadlines,” and other school-related words. Granted, you spent some time hanging out with your friends and family and even had some “me time,” but you planned these around your class schedule. Party at a friend’s place at 8 PM? Sorry, you need to study for an exam tomorrow.

When you are free of the tiring schedules in college, you are now able to set your schedule at your own terms. Gone are the inconveniences of 7 AM classes—gone is the horror of running to a morning class when your alarm clock failed to wake you up.

Your life

Free of all commitments, even for a moment, you suddenly feel every fiber of your being glow. Now that you do not define your life as college anymore, you can now see the world right in front of you, ready to be explored. No deadlines, no format—you are free to set your own course.

As said before, this means that you have to exert some effort on your part. Yes, you have exerted so much effort in your college years, but nothing really goes about without effort.

First of all, there is some careful planning involved, starting with your current resources. Gap year: 365 days, 24 hours each, minus about 8 hours of sleep, that is 16 hours. You also have some financial concerns to deal with. How much money can you set aside for particular activities? 5 dollars for a movie, 25 dollars for the newly released, LEGO video game, and so on—with bills and expenses considered.

With your planning done, you can now move, move, move. Again, this does not mean that you have to leave your home. To “move” does not just mean to change location. It also means to change what you usually do. Gamers who prefer to stay at home, for instance, can change from playing shooter games to playing puzzle games, instead. For college graduates, to “move” is to move on from college—from a life committed to college, to a life uncommitted to it.

Moving on from college means, well, literally moving. To “move on” here, however, does not mean to forget everything that you learned. You may remember the “terror professors,” or perhaps the times when your Wi-Fi fails you on the night of a deadline—the bad times. Likewise, you may also remember the good friends who helped you through rocky paths or the time you got a high grade on a difficult exam—the good times.

Because of these challenges that college hurled at you, you were moved to adapt. It set you to a trajectory in your life where you have to make choices that can be difficult. It taught you that no matter the endeavor or adventure you embark on, there will always be challenges and joys—but both are the treasures of the entire journey. It made you into the person that you are now, forged in fire, and the gap year is the cooling stage of your forge.

When college set you free, it handed you the torch of setting your own trajectory—your own commitment.

Greatest freedom is the freedom to commit.

Your commitment

During your college years, your commitment was to graduate. You followed it by accomplishing requirements, getting passing grades, and being on time for your classes. But ask yourself this question: “Was this really my commitment?” You did have requirements for classes, limits on how you behave in class, and parameters in homework. You would be punished if you did not do them, your ultimate punishment would be being expelled—a waste of time and money. Is this really the commitment you chose?

Yes, it is. Before college, you had little freedom when during your time in preschool, elementary, or high school. You had to take a school bus, or be driven to school by your parents, forced to follow a strict schedule from morning to afternoon. You did not have much choice when it came to classes—you had to take what everyone else was having.

In college, you were virtually, completely free. Your parents left it all to you on how you deal with your matters in college. After all, you are no longer a minor. You are old enough to make your own decisions. And what did you choose? You had every chance to ditch school, to go out and have fun every night. Yet, you chose to finish your college education and earn a degree. No matter how difficult it was, you knew or at least realized at some point the importance of college. It is vital in the future: no degree, no job, no stable income—unstable life.

When you graduated from college, you were given control of choosing your next commitment. To be free from a commitment means to be not committed to something at the moment. There is no such as life as one that never had a commitment. Even the simplest person in the world is committed, at least, to keeping himself alive. With the knowledge and experience that you had in college, you should now be well-equipped to set your own trajectory—your own commitment.

This should be the whole theme of your gap year. Earlier, it has been mentioned that the goal here is not to tell you what to do—you are the one behind the wheel. But what you should remember about your gap year is that you must always set a trajectory. No matter what you do with your gap year, be it going to another country or just staying in the comfort of your bed, always do it with a trajectory in mind, because after the gap year you are back to commitment. At least, when you are done with the gap year, you have cooled down enough, shaped perfectly and ready to take on the next challenges that life throws at you in the commitment you choose.

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