No travel. No problem.
Everything right now feels uncertain, and many people thinking about school are feeling that same uncertainty, deciding if it’s right to go back to school or not. While many may be unsure if going back actually is the right choice for them, many will default to school because there don’t seem like a ton of alternatives available. Which is fair – travel is a no-go right now, and there are a limited amount of summer jobs. If you can’t work or travel, you may as well continue your studies, right?
Well, that depends. What kind of learning experience do you want? Consider the very real possibility that you won’t be able to be going to a classroom for this semester, and a lot will be online. If that style of learning works for you, it still may be the right choice.
But consider if you are just looking to complete your education and move onto the next thing – do you want the experience that goes with it? So many people remember more the experiences around the learnings, not just lectures. Meeting new people, the first real taste of independence, developing life skills, and getting involved in extracurricular activities are what differentiate an undergraduate experience. Sure, you can take all of these away and earn the same piece of paper, but will you have gained as much from the experience?
The truth is, your school will be there next year or next semester. And you know what? Universities will have had a chance to work through all of the hiccups in the wake of COVID-19. They will have figured out proper funding, your RESPs will be in a better position, and curriculum may even be updated to include COVID-19 related studies – after all, this pandemic has touched every industry.
So, if you decide that you want to take the time off, what do you do with that time?
Planning a Gap Year During COVID-19
Right now, the biggest barrier to taking a gap year next year is the confusion as to what you could spend your time doing. There’s such a limit on what people can do right now, so does that mean your time off school would look like a lot of the same? Netflix, sleeping all hours of the day, and five family walks a day? Absolutely not!
It does, however, take some research or guidance to figure out how to make it a year that will push you forward in life.
This is what I do for a living. I curate experiences that are meaningful for young people in a time in their life were things are uncertain and confusing. For over 10 years, I have been providing families with gap year suggestions tailored to their interests, budgets, geographies and life goals. COVID-19 hasn’t changed that. I want to help you see what is possible even when things are uncertain. I want you to see what you could possibly do on a gap year if you couldn’t travel or work.
So if you need some inspiration, keep reading. This list isn’t an extensive list, but it will get your brain firing up to see what you could do with that time and hopefully spark some ideas.
Start a Business or Work on a Major Project
Remember those annoying independent projects that school forced you to do? This isn’t that. This is taking that idea you had and testing it out. It is a great time to try these things out – call it a “risk free trial” on things that have always interested you but you haven’t been able to prioritize.
What does this look like? Here are some ideas:
Are you passionate about kid’s access to arts programming? See about developing a campaign to raise money to purchase instruments for your local public school
Have you been working on your coding skills? Take some time to see what you can program – you have time to test your skills!
Started making your own jewelry? Whip up an Instagram account to sell your creations
Have a home project that has been staring you down? Tackle that!
Save the Planet
If you ever need some good news during these times, look up some stats on the environment. People staying home has done some good!
The environmental changes we have seen during the global slow down of COVID-19 is strong proof that there is a lot we could be doing to help. Join forces with a local Climate Action group and start to tackle how we are going to bounce back with a stronger ecological-conscience.
There is no shortage of things you could do from your home. Influence environmental change through politics, product or process research and development, developing policy or legal systems, exploring inequalities based on socioeconomic factors and intersectionality, working with industry in waste reduction or carbon offsetting. If you have an interest in ANYTHING, the planet could use your help.
Naturally, politics has been a huge part of coronavirus. Different parties are in power at different levels, and are all tackling the issues differently for their people. This is a great opportunity to critically look at how our government is handling these issues It will help you realize what party you may align with in the future – and where you can step up to support now.
Is there a role you can play in Canadian politics? How can you step in to support and lead as a young Canadian who is impacted by the outcomes of COVID19 and political decisions of all kinds?
Build Your Network and Get Clarity
With so many people working from home now, they may have some extra time back in their day that they got back taking a commute out of their day. See if you can do some informational interviews with people in the jobs you think you want to get in. This will be super helpful in ensuring the program you do go to will help you enter an industry you’re actually interested in. Who better to speak to the industry than somebody currently in it.
Do you think you want to be an engineer? Do you even know what one does? Did you know that engineers, even with the same degree, can do a huge variety of different jobs? Did you know that non-engineers do engineering-like work? It’s a lot.
Get out there and start talking to people. Explore the jobs that you think might be interesting, learn what their day at work looks like and discover the education and career path that got them there. Not only are you learning about the job, but this could turn into a valuable contact in an industry that could potentially help you find a job!
Learn a Skill – Language, coding, photography, investing in the stock market
Want to learn a language? Dream of coding? Ready to kick your photography interest up to the next level? Now is the time!
Not all skills need to be taught in a formal school setting. There are so many resources out there for learning new things right from home – many of them are free. The great thing is that you can pick and choose what you want to learn, from whom and what medium of learning you want to use. Let’s use photography as an example and look at the different ways you could learn this skill.
The same idea can be applied to any skill – the possibilities are endless!
Did any of these spark some inspiration? These projects could take center stage for you if you decide to take some time off from school, as things start to settle down. Sure, you won’t get a university credit for these projects, but you will:
Get more clarity on what you do and don’t like – maybe this will influence the program you go back to
Develop skills for the workplace, like project management, communication, and budgeting
Build your community network when you find people who can support your projects (remotely, of course)
Develop your foundational skills. Not sure what those are? Take a look at the graph below!
I have always said that in order to take a gap year you have to be bold. The same holds true this year. With a little planning and some extra support, we can create a gap year that will do more than bridge your COVID experience into post-COVID studies. You’ll have more clarity for your future, more connections in your community and skills that will support you in your studies and in your career.
Be bold with me. Reach out to find out what might be possible for you. Let’s design together.
At the end of May, I am hosting an online workshop on designing a gap year in COVID times and I would love to share some more tips and tricks with you.