A gap year is defined as 'a break for a year from school, work and any other activity'.
Gap years were traditionally taken by Europeans but nowadays people from all over the world are doing the same.
The traditional gap year was one year, but many people have shortened it to 3 months due to other commitments. This three month period is also referred to as a gap year. People who take gap years, 'gapers', normally vary in age from 16 to 40.
They are either students or people who are working. Students make up the largest percentage of gapers, as it is harder for employed people to take a year out. Some students take their gap year before starting college or university or graduate school; in between studying at university; or during their summer break.
The reasons people take gap years vary but include travelling the world; taking a break from work or school; learning a new skill; taking time to reevaluate their lives; and experiencing new cultures.
The benefits include the individual becoming a more rounded person and acquiring or enhancing their life skills. There are many activities that a gaper can involve him/herself in.
Volunteering abroad is the most common activity. This involves going to another country and working in a community to help in any way they can. The work can vary; it could be working in an orphanage, teaching in schools, wildlife conservation work and community development work. Volunteering abroad gives most gapers direction and purpose during their time abroad. In addition, it is both challenging and fun, and can be done anywhere in the world.
Communities welcome anyone who is interested in helping.
Gapers could decide to spend their time travelling. They may choose to travel across a continent to visit places they haven't been to before. Many gapers take the opportunity to visit ruins, archeological sites, and visit less common tourist paths in a country.
Travelling during a gap year gives the person more time to see the sights and sounds of a country whilst enabling them to do more challenging adventures like trekking, climbing mountains and deep sea diving.
Some gapers spend their time working. This tends to be different from the kind of work they left behind and something they really love doing. Common jobs include teaching English as a foreign language; working in ski resorts; diving instructors and many other activities.
Lastly, gapers can take the time to learn new skills, or a new language.
If the person has always wanted to be a better cook, taking a year out means they can do that in countries such as France, Malaysia, and Italy. Gapers who are learning a new language can benefit from going to a country where the language is spoken to help fast-track their language skills.
All in all, gap years are a great idea for anyone who wants a break from work or school.