Gapper Series: The Value of Learning a Language on your Gap Year with Sandy

When we think about exploring different cultures, oftentimes we think about places outside of our Canadian border, places like Santorini, Greece; Tokyo, Japan; or even Sydney, Australia. However, taking a step back, there are so many places that are enriched with fascinating experiences, delicious food, kind people and amazing festivals, like the Quebecois culture!


In today’s episode, Sandy shares her experience with the Explore Program, where she was able to learn the French language through experiential learning in Quebec!



Sandy Chao


Why a Gap Year?

After completing her undergraduate degree, Sandy was planning her next steps, would it be pursuing her Grad Degree or entering the workforce? There were many things that Sandy was interested in and wanted to further explore, thus deciding to take a Gap Year to learn more about herself and explore the world around her.


Also, is it completely viable to take a gap year after undergrad as well!! The idea of taking a gap year ONLY after high school has been drilled into our heads, but the truth is, anytime in your life you need to step back, to recharge, to learn more about yourself, or explore your passion, YOU CAN!


Sandy’s Gap Year Adventures

Throughout her Gap Year, Sandy was able to check off some of her bucket list items and get involved within her community. She took on a Summer Internship in Taiwan, volunteered at a local community organization, and was immersed in French culture through the Explore Program.


What is the Explore Program?

The Explore Program is supported by the Canadian Government and gives citizens the opportunity to immerse themselves within different cultures and lifestyles. Sandy chose to explore the Québécois culture. While there, she significantly improved her French speaking skills as she was surrounded by fluent and native Francophones. In addition, Sandy experienced their everyday life, different holidays, festivals and the best part - the FOOD! “Every aspect was incredibly fascinating”!


Michelle commented that “self exploration is so valuable, often in life we are on this fast track, we have to go fast and achieve things, and oftentimes we lose ourselves, our curiosity, our sense of exploration and adventure. By taking a gap year we gain that back, and you learn so much about yourself”.


Skills Sandy Gained

“Listening, communicating, learning and unlearning”, the four things Sandy kept in mind while in Quebec. Listening goes beyond just with your ears, it is about listening with your heart, seeing what the environment is saying around us. Next, Sandy was constantly communicating through her body language in order to get her message across.


Even though Sandy was in a neighboring province, some rules and laws vary, for example, in Ontario you are able to turn a right on a red light, however in Quebec, you are not allowed to do this. Being aware of your surroundings and learning from others will help develop your skills set.


These global competency and intercultural communication skills is something that employers are constantly looking for, putting this on your resume will help you stand out!


Sandy’s Advice to her Younger-Self

  • Take time to learn about yourself!

  • Be prepared for the upcoming life changes (post-secondary, explorations)

  • And, be flexible with these different changes.

  • Allow yourself time to grow!

Check out the Explore Program