Traveling is wonderful and living abroad is undoubtedly an amazing experience. One popular way to go abroad is by taking a gap year after high school. Over 230,000 young people between 18 and 25 have taken a gap year, so you won’t be the first one to take a break before university.
Taking a gap year may have some benefits. You have a year more to think about your university and career goals and use the time to travel and grow personally. However, I don’t think you should take a gap year to go abroad. Read below why and what I think you should do instead.
Gap year programs are expensive
A lot of gap year programs are incredibly expensive. Only 10% of the people that have taken a gap year, were able to fully fund their year abroad themselves. Traveling abroad is usually a lot more affordable without these programs. Still, many people choose to go through a program because it seems the safest and most sensible way to go abroad. However, chances are that you will travel quite a bit during university and you will probably even study abroad. This way, you will have gained some travel experience once you graduate from university and will be more prepared to go abroad without a program.
Studying abroad is cheaper
I recommend studying abroad for your first experience as an expat because it’s one of the most affordable options to live abroad when you’re young. This is especially true if you manage to get a grant for studying abroad, which may be surprisingly easy (especially Erasmus+ if you’re from a country in the European Union or European Economic Area). Many universities have partnerships with other universities abroad, without the interference of any third party for-profit organizations. Also, many university mobility programs are subsidized. This way, any application fees stay low and often tuition is waved when going abroad to a partner university.
If you really want to go abroad right after high school, you should consider doing a full undergraduate degree abroad. Depending on tuition costs in your home country, you might even save money if you’re studying in a country with affordable or even free education.
Gap year lacks value
One of my biggest reasons to advice against a gap year is the lack of value it has compared to studying abroad through university. In Europe, most programs that offer a gap year in the United States of America or other countries outside of Europe will be based around going to high school or doing a language course.
In my opinion, going back to high school after you’ve just graduated from it is not the most sensible thing to do. That’s why I recommend going abroad when you’re in university. When you’re going abroad during your undergraduate or graduate degree, you will actually be able to use the credits earned at your host university abroad towards the credits you need for your degree at home. You will also be educated on a level that is helpful towards your academic and personal development. On top of that, when you’re abroad during your studies, you will be exposed to your new language anyways, so that’ll be the best free language course!
You can save during university
When I graduated from high school, I was really bad at saving. I also didn’t earn that much until I was 18 years old. During university, I did an internship and got offered to stay with the organization after I finished my internship. This job earned way better than any side jobs that I’ve had until that moment and I was able to really save up for the semester abroad that followed my internship.
If I had done my gap year right after high school, either my parents would have to pay for the program or I would have been in debt even before starting university. Having been able to save up before my study abroad experience, I was able to pay for any and all costs myself. These costs were a lot lower than the average gap year program anyway, so I was able to graduate without debt and with the amazing experience of living abroad. I’ve also found some great ways to save while studying abroad.
You’ll have time to clarify your goals
During university, you will have so many new impressions that change your view about your life. Also, your study subject will probably contribute to a shift of goals, too.
If you go abroad during or after you’ve graduated from your undergraduate or graduate degree, you will probably have a clearer vision of your goals for the future. This will help you choose the right way and place to go abroad.
More opportunities after university
After university, you will have a degree and probably already quite a bit of work experience. This will help towards finding a job abroad. Most countries do not issue work visas to applicants without a bachelors degree, even if you manage to find a company willing to sponsor you. Getting a degree and having work experience will make finding a job and moving abroad easier. With the right degree, you may even find remote jobs. This will enable you to work wherever you please!
When you go abroad during or after university, you will be old enough to live abroad independently and not be obliged to live with a family (even though you still could). You’ll be able to move abroad with friends, go solo or even find a shared apartment with locals your age. Options are endless when you organize your trip or move abroad yourself.
You’ll know yourself better
University has changed me in so many ways. While working on my degree, I’ve traveled loads, moved out of my parents’ house and got my first ‘real’ job. I am so much more confident with myself now than I was when I graduated from high school. And even almost two years after graduating from university, I still learn about myself and the world every day, change my goals from time to time and doubt my choices on the daily. However, one thing I’m sure about is my choice to not take a gap year.
Traveling and moving abroad during and after university has brought me so many amazing experiences but also saved me so much money. It’s definitely true that you should travel while you’re young. But even better so, travel while you’re young… and mentally, physically and financially prepared.
I didn’t take a gap year before university, and I’m glad I didn’t. Traveling and studying abroad during university allowed me to save a lot of money. I was able to go independently and had amazing opportunities I wouldn’t have if I went abroad when I was younger or without a degree. Now I finished my undergraduate degree and I’m ready to make another move abroad. How about you? Did you take a gap year to go abroad?