9 reasons to follow in Malia Obama’s footsteps and take a gap year

Instead of heading straight into her first year at Harvard, Barack Obama’s daughter Malia will be postponing her studies in order to take a gap year. Though the first daughter has received some criticism for the choice, many have praised her bold decision to spend a year before university traveling, exploring and learning in the real world. Harvard, in fact, encourages all of their incoming students to take a gap year because of all of the known positive effects.

Malia’s decision sends an important message to all incoming freshmen – gap years and international experience are no longer reserved for foreign studies students or adventurous Aussies. Taking a gap year to learn about a new culture, gain valuable work experience and grow as a person will help you to get more out of your education and boost your career.


take a gap year


9 reasons to follow in Malia Obama’s footsteps and take a gap year:


1. You’ll become more mature

Taking a year to discover different aspects of adult life before continuing your academic career will make you a more mature student and better equipped to soak in your impending studies. Having some real-world perspective grounds you and shifts your lens so that you can see the world beyond academia. Whether you’re starting university, finishing school or entering the job market, you’ll be doing it with a better sense of the big world around you and from a much more mature perspective.


2. Greater employability

Statistics show that students who have completed a gap year have a better chance of getting chosen for jobs, internships and other programs. Taking a year out of school can really open your eyes to what comes next – the working world. The earlier you prepare for your future career, the better decisions you’ll make throughout college and the more experienced you’ll be when you’re looking for your first job.


3. You can test drive your career

One benefit of a gap year is that you can explore different professional interests through internships or volunteering. Not only will you develop more passions and interests, get a better idea of what you might want to study, but you may also get a taste of your future career.


4. Increased adaptability

Students who have completed a gap year abroad have also mastered the art of going with the flow. Adjusting to new circumstances helps prepare a young person for the curve balls to come (and boy does life throw you lots of them!). Students that opt for a gap year also tend to see opportunities within challenges. They see challenges as a chance to grow rather than a frustrating inconvenience.


5. You’ll be more open to soak in cultures and experiences

If you use your gap year to go abroad, the experience will play a major role in opening your mind to new lifestyles and customs. It’s a great way to learn how to thrive in multicultural situations and better understand people who come from different cultural backgrounds. Going abroad also makes you more aware of what’s going on all around the world. That increased global awareness will open doors up, both personally and professionally, for years to come.

6. A greater sense of independence and self-confidence

Taking a gap year and spending a year abroad in the real world means a lot of brand new experiences – and sometimes not being sure what to do. However, making mistakes and learning in a foreign environment is exactly what makes young people more independent, confident and ready to handle new challenges.


take a gap year


7. Improved job satisfaction post-university

Gap year students tend to be happier with their post-graduation jobs than students who didn’t take a gap year. Students who head straight to college after high school often don’t know what awaits them on the most common graduate career paths. Exploring the real world before making important academic decisions that affect your career choices saves you a lot of time in the long run.


8. A better university career

It’s hard to argue with the math. Gap year students tend to earn higher grades than their less adventurous peers and are also likelier to be involved on campus. Plus gap year students are actually more likely to attend university, which makes the rumor that a gap year is for lazy students who don’t eventually study completely bogus.


9. You’ll learn a foreign language

Taking a gap year can also lead to the kind of language immersion experience that will actually leave you speaking a foreign language. The benefits of knowing a second language are numerous. Not only do foreign language skills come in handy in professional environments, but they can also alter your brain, making it sharper and more resistant to Alzheimers.



Apply now to boost your career during your gap year!


Sources: http://www.americangap.org/benefits.php, https://www.ciee.org/gap-year-abroad/parents/benefits/, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/malia-obamas-gap-year-is-part-of-a-growing-and-expensive-trend.html?_r=0

Photo 1. based on 20120409-OSEC-RBN-4268, by U.S. Department of Agriculture, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2. based on US-EASTER-OBAMA, by St.John’sFlowerGuild, CC-by-2.0

Photo 3. based on Central America Ethical Adventure Trail 2012 by Mirlah Thornley, by Frontierofficial, CC-by-2.0


The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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