Editor of online travel news site Skift, Dennis Schaal, once called traveling to other countries “the ultimate form of higher learning.”
According to the American Gap Association, around 90% of students who take a year off college do return to their studies and actually obtain higher grades than their peers.
Gap years are still far more common in Australia than in the U.S., yet even a decade ago, Time noticed that several top level schools, including Harvard and MIT, have seen a big (33% and 100%) rise in entrance deferral rates, by students wishing to take a one-year gap. If you’d like to expand your horizons before starting your course, these are just a few benefits you can look forward to.
Lowering Your Stress Levels
A 2015 study by researchers at the Suomen Academy in Finland found that young people who to straight to college after high school are more stressed than those who take a year off for travel. They found that far from losing out in terms of commitment, those who take a year off catch up quickly with their peers when it comes to motivation and effort.
There is just one proviso: don’t take more than a year; this will make the transition back to student life considerably more challenging!
Educating Yourself by Seeing the World
College will take up a good four or five years (maybe more) of your full attention and that means you will be highly focused on one area of study. Research published in the Journal of Travel Research stated that some of the many benefits of independent international travel included personal growth, an increase in life skills, and greater knowledge. While traveling, you not only pick up interpersonal skills, but practical skills that can stand you in good stead at college.
Bringing along your student portable computer will enable you to sharpen your editing skills – which may be useful if your course centers on marketing or media studies. Of course, you can also keep updated on your studies by taking an e-learning course, completing your coursework from abroad. Working part-time while traveling, meanwhile, will hone different skills, ranging from customer service right through to mathematical calculations.
Honing Your Language Skills
If you are traveling to immerse yourself in a second or third language, you could reap big rewards when you return. Research by Wharton and LECG Europe found that studying a second language is linked to earnings of 2% higher in annual income. Of course, this percentage could rise depending on how well you know the language, how many additional languages you master, and of course, the demand for (and difficulty of) the language you are learning.
Sharpening Your Creativity
As noted by Professor Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School, travel results in enhanced cognitive flexibility. He noted: “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation.” In other words, if you want to receive the biggest cognitive boost possible, mix with the locals, use the local language, and really experience everyday life in your chosen destination.
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In a study published in the Academy of Management Journal, Galinsky and co-researchers found that brands whose creative directors had lived and worked abroad produced more consistently creative work than those whose directors had stayed put in their own respective countries.
If you feel like your brain needs a creative charge, there are few more engaging ways to achieve it, than through travel. Studies have shown that travel educates students in many skills and that ‘non-study experiences’ are the most impactful feature of study abroad. Many researchers recommend free, ‘objectiveless’ travel as a way to boost cognitive creativity. They also suggest authentic immersion in the local culture as a way to make the most of your time abroad.
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