Why You (Yes, You) Should Consider a Gap Year

Check out this article I wrote for Keystone Edge.  It is just the first of a series I am writing that will be published in Keystone Edge and Flying Kite.  Enjoy!

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June 30, 2011 at 1:42 pm Leave a comment

Adjusting to the gap year lifestyle

Life will be much different during your gap year.  Living situations, spending, free time, and being around different people are exciting and sometimes troublesome adjustments to make.  You might have to share a room or somewhere to live, be more frugal with spending, spend more time cooking than eating out, and be more social than usual.  These are all great learning experiences, regardless of what happens.  City Year added posts to  their blog about what life is like for some members who moved to Chicago to serve for a full year.  Check out their suggestions and be sure to look at other websites and resources for more first-hand stories of what a gap year can be like.

June 30, 2011 at 12:43 pm Leave a comment

A Friendly Reminder

Perhaps this is common sense, but survey findings provide proof.  99.7% out of the 329 employers surveyed agree that important life skills can be obtained outside of the workplace.

A gap year is an excellent opportunity to create and develop new skills, whether in a working, learning, volunteering, or traveling environment.  This is just one positive finding from my survey.  However, I will be blunt: not all employers are in favor of job applicants taking time to have a gap year.  More findings to come.

May 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

College is over, now what?

Well, actually I have one more paper to write by next week.  I gave a fantastic presentation of my research about gap year opportunities.  I also finished the draft of the handout for Career Services, which will be fixed up soon and used.  All of the personas are done, and the survey I developed and distributed resulted in some interesting findings.  Look forward to more posts soon about all of those things.

In the mean time, I just applied for a gap year opportunity.  I am interested in devoting time to AmeriCorps and found many positions that are relevant to my field of interest, which is social media and communications.  This is great because I am a rather professional type of person and want to receive solid experience from my gap year for my future career.  I am going to briefly explain a few things about applying to an AmeriCorps program.

Before perusing the positions, register with AmeriCorps and fill out your profile and an application.  Once that is done, you can start to apply for positions.  I did this backwards so it was a mad scramble to apply to a position which has a deadline soon.  Instead of submitting your resume, cover letter, and letters of reference to the AmeriCorps system, you must go through their system to input your information and receive new recommendations.  This takes time, so plan for that.  There are thousands of positions at AmeriCorps, so it is likely you will find one that interests you, although it can be in any part of the country.  I am glad that I applied to the position, even though it is just one application and I should not put all my eggs in one basket.  Even though it is not a traditional post-graduation job, it is still competitive, as with most jobs.

After my Ethics paper is finished, I will post more personas like the Bohemian one from before, findings from my amazing survey, updates on other gap year opportunities and reviews, and eventually an edited version of my presentation.  GET EXCITED!

May 6, 2011 at 6:22 pm Leave a comment

Exciting things are going on

First thing’s first.  My last day of class is Thursday, April 28.  Then I will be done college–thank goodness!  I can’t believe I accomplished four years of undergraduate study.  It really blows my mind.  I am presenting my capstone project on Wednesday, April 27 at school and have some neat ideas for my presentation.  I am quite excited and will be very impressed if I am able to make it through these next few days.  However, even though I am finished with school. I am going to continue with this blog because I have grown attached to it and am excited to have more time to spend to it once classes are over.

Second, all of the persona icons are finished and look beautiful.  I will publish future posts for each one.

Third, I developed a survey that was sent to 4000 employers and, as of last night, there were already over 250 responses!  So I will have some great findings for you all to consider.  I am also making great connections to people who filled out the survey.  Future posts will be based around my findings and connections.

Even though I am very busy right now, I just wanted to post an update about how great things are going.  Working on this blog makes me so happy, and while I try to refrain from emoticons on here I think it’s time 😀

April 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm 1 comment

Remember when I mentioned personas?

Well I sure do!  It was in my first post.  I am creating personas explaining how a stereotyped person might spend her/his gap year.

The personas I am developing are:

  • The Bohemian
  • The Advocate
  • The Teacher
  • The Brain
  • The Adventurer
  • The Professional
  • The Faithful

Each persona will have the following:

  • Quotation
  • Motivation for taking a gap year
  • Interests
  • Scenario
  • Resources the person might look into to develop her/his gap year plan

These are very stereotyped ideas to get you to start thinking about your gap year in a more focused way.  There will probably be overlap between interviews and personas, so I will try to tag them together.

I am collaborating with a graphic design student, Allison, from my school to develop icons to go with each persona.  I will be adding a page about her on this blog.–she is doing fantastic work.

April 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

Interviewing a WWOOF participant.

WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) offers volunteers a chance to work on an organic farm to learn about organic growing, country living, and ecologically sound lifestyles.  Volunteers do not pay for their stay and hosts do not pay their volunteers.  It is an exchange of work for knowledge, housing, and accommodations.While it is a worldwide service, each region has its own website.  This means you must join the individual page for the area where you are interested in working.  The websites are networks providing volunteers with opportunities, but the volunteer must contact and make arrangements with the farm.    A small fee is required to join each WWOOF network, but judging that the fee for WWOOF-USA is $30, it can be a general assumption that none of the sites charge a substantial fee.

I had the opportunity to interview Ray Fallon, 23, who graduated from TCNJ in 2009 and is currently volunteering through WWOOF.  He explains how he chose to spend time with WWOOF and what he plans to do with his experience:

Above: Ray with a cow.

Describe what you are doing during your gap year (location, a day in the life, etc.)

I am traveling to different farms for different time periods.  I learn what they do at the farm, how to do it, and a lot of different things: how to sustain yourself, living off food you grow, how to profit from the work.  I have been on a farm in Spring Mills, PA for a little over 2 weeks now, with one more week to go.  Soon I will be going to Europe for a month to travel and I will be Couch Surfing, then spending 2 months doing WWOOF in Germany.  I had to sign up separately with the German website and pay a separate registration fee.

Why did you choose WWOOF?

In the future, I want to be a farmer.   I thought for a while I would like to either be a farmer or an actor.  I didn’t go to school for farming and didn’t know much about it, so this was an opportunity for free education and practice.  This is also a chance for me to figure out whether farming is something I want to do long-term.  I heard about WWOOF through word of mouth, maybe years ago from my brother .

How do you finance your time with WWOOF?

Food and housing is covered by the farms I work for.  This works by communicating with the farm you’re going to work for and coming to an agreement.  Sometimes more experienced workers or people staying for longer periods of time might agree to being paid a stipend, and while that might happen, it is not standard.  To contrast, if someone wants to stay but there is not a lot of work to be done then the host may want payment for housing.  It really varies by case.

There is a minimal registration fee; I think $25 for the U.S. and maybe $30 for Germany.  I have some expenses like going out or if I want to buy something, but I use my savings for that.  I worked for a year straight after college, so I lived modestly and saved as much as possible.  I knew I would have to provide for myself if I was acting and definitely for my trip through Europe, which I planned to take either way.

What is a memorable experience you have had so far?

Well, one day which was pretty funny, on another farm, I had to milk a goat, wrestle another goat, and carry the other goat.  I was giving water to the goats and cows, and the goats got out.  I carried the female goat, but the billy goat put up a fight and tried to charge and buck.

How do you think you will benefit when you are finished?

There are a lot of benefits.  The knowledge from each farm is different because they raise different crops and use different techniques.  I also learned networking is surprisingly important in farming.  The lady I’m working with now works with some sort of PA organic certification board.  She has a large network of farmers she’s in constant contact with, and I got to go with her to different types of meetings.  One girl I met helps people get into new farms, and she told me about different programs of people who aren’t farmers but what to try to do something like a work-study.

What are some final suggestions or reminders you would give to someone interested in WWOOF?

It really is a case-by-case sort of thing.  It’s worth trying if you’re at all interested because you can just try it for as little as 4 or 5 days and decide if you want to keep going, or if it doesn’t appeal at all you can stop.

April 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm 1 comment

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