What is a gap year? This is a vacation between study and work, which is most often taken after school before entering the university. Many use it as a possibility to travel abroad, work as a volunteer or learn a new language.
It is important to understand that if you take a Gap Year it wouldn’t be considered as a waste of time. It is not a shirking from school, not laziness and not an attempt to give up higher education. It's time to figure out which direction to go next, choose a suitable profession and prepare for the upcoming study.
I studied for an interpreter and was in the second year of university when I decided to take a Gap Year. I could easily speak English, but with German there were some problems ... This language seemed too complicated for me: strange pronunciation, complex grammar and THE articles. I mean, have you seen it? Well, why do they really need to be THAT difficult?
Already at the beginning of the semester I understood that I hate German language. So the best decision that came into my mind was to go to extreme measures and send myself to Germany to learn it and at the same time get acquainted with the culture. This decision supposed to help me to choose whether it is worth to stay in a group of German language or better to go to another group.
Approximately at the same time, I found an Au Pair program and after reading its terms decided that this is the ideal way to spend a Gap Year: in a family that speaks German, provides accommodation, pays for language courses and gives pocket money for small expenses.
I must clarify that the level of my German left much to be desired: honest to say, it was really terrible. But who could stop a young girl student with her heads in the clouds? I was determined to conduct a Gap Year with benefits and after preparing documents flew to Germany. Gap Year which I conducted as an Au Pair in Germany was one of the most memorable experiences and greatly influenced my life in the future.
The most important thing for this year was an immersion in a completely new environment. A foreign country, people, language, culture... All this should have been scary, right?
But in practice it turned out that the Germans are very friendly people, their language sounds melodic and beautiful - in case, if it is correctly spoken - and its nature and cultural heritage are incredibly fascinating.
The second, no less important, was that I got the opportunity to travel and meet with completely different people, learn their lives, listen to their stories and look at the world with their eyes. We exchanged experiences, found similar and different in our cultures. I believe that it was the Au Pair program that allowed to look at the life of the Germans from within: for the whole year I had a chance to attend family celebrations, national holidays, I was at a wedding and even at a funeral. I compared traditions and learned that where there is a bright side, someday there will be a dark side, and that the most important thing in your life is the family.
Also decisive was the fact that I - ta-da-dam! - finally learned German! My host family paid language courses, two days a week I attended a German language school and by the end of the year I was able to speak freely without any accent. The language, which was hardly given to me and evoked sacred horror and awe, turned out to be very beautiful, melodic and understandable. Again, it was easier for me to learn the language not only because I attended the courses but also because of the communication with the children. As an Au Pair I spent enough time caring for them and they helped me at the very beginning with their simple words and suggestions.
Gap Year passed by very quickly…
Do I regret that I missed a year of study and went to a foreign country leaving everything behind?
Not at all.
I went there with the desire to learn the language but I got much more than I expected. A huge feedback of this year helped to look at the surrounding world and itself in it from the other side. It helped me to set new goals and become stronger to achieve them.
Would I recommend to take a Gap Year to my friends?
Try it to understand your dreams and - what is more important - yourself.