Gap Year Abroad

Should I take a gap year abroad? Why take a gap year? These are common questions that people ask themselves when initially considering a gap year abroad. If you love traveling but want to take that experience to another level, you should seriously consider taking a gap year abroad. Living abroad for an extended period will allow you to gain valuable life experience while planning ahead for the future. 

Get real experience

If you talk to anyone who has done it, living abroad is by far one of the most life changing experiences that a person can have. Just about anyone can travel. But it takes someone with an adventurous spirit to leave everything behind and create a new life from scratch in a new land on the other side of the world. Thus, if you choose to take a gap year abroad, you’ll be launching yourself into an exciting life with countless opportunities to nurture your intellectual curiosity and further develop cultural sensitivity

For example:
  • Learn a new language or skill
  • Visit historic sites with national, cultural, political, and religious significance
  • Meet a wide variety of people from all over the world
  • Learn about local customs, traditions, and trends
  • Try new products, foods
  • Develop and expand your culinary skills
  • Challenge yourself to try new things

Since a lot can happen in a year, the cumulative effect of these experiences in their totality shapes you into a different person, in a positive way. Most importantly, your view of the world becomes far wider after living abroad, which greatly heightens your cultural sensitivity. Moreover, you’ll become more grateful for the luxuries and conveniences that you enjoy back home, but learn that you can survive just fine without them. 

One important thing to note is that I’ve seen a lot of people become more creative while living abroad. For example, I’ve had friends who get deep into photography, drawing, painting, fashion, and the culinary arts. Part of this may be due to the personal growth that some people go through while living abroad, and another part might be the community aspect. As a foreigner, you make tons of new friends and meet people with diverse hobbies and interests, which can rub off on you. Plus, it makes the experience more enjoyable by making memories through activities in an unfamiliar environment. 

Think more clearly about your future

Taking time off in another country gives you the chance to think deeply about your future and what you want to do with your life. As it is, many students have no clue about what job or career they want in the future. Hence, far too many people hastily choose majors or career paths that are not in line with their skills or long term goals. Since taking a gap year abroad exposes you to another universe of foods, languages, cultures, designs, and music, you could very well discover a passion or dream that you never even thought about before. In the long run, this saves you time and probably money as well. That’s because it’s better to more wisely select the correct college major or career path, instead of rushing into the wrong one. By taking a gap year abroad, you’ll have a much clearer idea of the path that you want to take in life. 

The decision to take a gap year abroad can change your life forever. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who regrets living abroad for any measure of time. Usually, once people live abroad, they end up becoming big-time travelers and make travel a central part of their lives. And while moving to another country might not be for everyone, it just might be the perfect thing for you. 

Before graduate school

Make money while working abroad

If you have graduated from college, a gap year is definitely something to consider. There are countless opportunities to work abroad. And doing this can greatly impact your career and future earning potential. Also, it allows you to travel the world while making money and building up your resume. It’s a win-win situation. How much money? Well, it depends. English teachers in Korea, for example, can save upwards of $1,000 per month, depending on the employer. And many companies offer subsidized housing, so the cost of living is relatively low. That’s potentially $12,000 at the end of your gap year to kick start your graduate studies, or pay down your student debt. There are other jobs available, too, for people with writing, financial, and technical (e.g., coding) skills, but those positions are a bit tougher to get.  

Grad school 

A gap year abroad markedly strengthens your graduate school application, and it sets you apart—far apart—from the competition. By taking a position, for instance, teaching English abroad, or as a writer at an international publishing company, you can demonstrate to administrators that you add tremendous value to their graduate program with your unique international perspective. This could also be a game changer for people who might not have had perfect grades or maybe did not do well on standardized tests (e.g., GRE, GMAT). Your experience abroad gives your grad school application a giant boost. Moreover, some people enjoy living abroad so much that they decide to undertake a graduate program in a place other than their home country.   

Study another language

Another exciting way to capture a huge amount of value from a year abroad is to study another language. And I don’t mean just learning a few words or phrases. I’m talking about conversational fluency in a foreign language. And, yes, one year is enough if you undertake an immersion program and study diligently. Will you be perfectly bilingual? Maybe not. However, you will likely achieve a level of competence to function in most social settings. Can’t do a year? Even three to six months is enough to achieve moderate fluency, and there are plenty of programs that provide shorter study options. So it’s very convenient to find something that fits your specific goals and budget. 

For those of you interested in learning Korean, there are plenty of programs to choose from. Many of them offer classes in the morning and the evening. Therefore, there are various options to accommodate your preferred schedule. 

Korean language programs:

Konkuk University Language Institute

Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

Korean Language Education Center, Sogang University

Adding another vital skill to your repertoire increases your marketability in the workforce. For example, the ability to speak another language broadens your job prospects and puts you in a position to take advantage of international job assignments and projects. In today’s global, skills-focused job market, language skills are invaluable. 

In sum

  • A gap year abroad enables you to gain unique experience that could very well change the trajectory of your career and life. 
  • You’ll have countless opportunities to develop new skills, make new friends, and broaden your perspective of the world. 
  • Taking a break after graduation gives you time to clearly assess your life and your career plans. This mental clarity facilitates the formation of long-term career decisions, and may even reroute your path. You might decide on another major for graduate school or perhaps a totally different career altogether.
  • Teaching ESL in Korea is a great way to get international work experience and earn money. Teaching jobs also have great savings potential, which allows you to prepare financially for graduate school or reduce your student debt.
  • International experience on your resume is like rocket fuel for your graduate school application. 
  • Achieving conversational fluency in another language during your gap year abroad not only enriches your life but also your career. Being multilingual makes you competitive for various international job opportunities.