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  • Michelle Dittmer

What is a gap year anyways?

When people hear about the Canadian Gap Year Association, they start by asking if we make clothing... Then we have to start from the beginning - so here it goes…

Gap years are as unique as the person taking one so the definition is often changing. Historically, gap years were a year in between high school and university when a young adult would leave home to explore the world for an entire year. It was very common in the UK and Australia for decades before the idea came to North America.

In Canada, a gap year is a bit different. we define a gap year as:

An intentional step away from normal routine to pursue personal, educational, professional growth through work, volunteer, travel and interest activities.

Let's break that down:

Intentional Year: A gap year is not meant to be spent sitting on the couch and playing video games - it is a purposeful time to explore new ideas, places and activities. It is a time to discover who you are, who you want to be and how do you get from one to the other. The gapper will then return back into the more common path of education or work.

Away from Normal Routine: Many gappers come to us through the traditional pathway of right after high school graduation but we also see many coming after a year or two of post-secondary studies, after graduating college or university or even mid-career (sabbatical).

Personal, Educational Professional Growth: Imagine a year that you could do whatever you wanted! Things you have put off because you were too busy studying or working. Things that you have been too scared to do. Things you always wanted to try but never had a reason to. Things that you might want to pursue with further education or career trajectory. Gap years provide opportunities to do all of those things in a meaningful way when you are not rushed or stressed by other pressures in your life.

Work, Volunteer, Travel and Interest Activities: Gap years give you space to test the waters, to try things before committing to them long-term. A variety of activities makes for a strong gap year and lets you flex lots of different muscles and skills on your journey!

With such a broad definition, it allows for lots of freedom and flexibility which can also be overwhelming. Planning good gap year is a lot of work but the memories and skills that are made and developed will last a lifetime and will truly shape who you are!

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