Eighteen is an exciting age to be. You have the freedoms of adulthood without the responsibilities of a career or parenthood. It's the time to explore the world and test your potential. But being 18 isn't just about exploration. It's the first major fork in the road for your life, where you have the opportunity to choose the direction you want your life to take.
Will you opt for the safe choice, transitioning straight to college along with most of your peers? Or will you take the road less traveled, taking time off from your academic career to get some life experience out in the real world?
Don't waste it
When weighing your options, consider this: you've been sitting in classrooms nonstop for 14 years, from age 4 until now. You've probably never lived away from your parents or done much on your own before.
This is the first time you get to choose your direction in life. It's an exciting age, a time ideal for new experiences and faraway places. But some of the doors that are opening for you now will be closed later on. At 18 you can try everything, see what the world has to offer and explore your own potential. After college you'll begin settling into adult life, continuing down whatever path you've chosen.
Take a year off to grow
That's not to say that college life won't be enjoyable. But campus life is cushy and artificial. Today's self-contained college campuses are detached from the real world and the experiences they offer are more an extension of childhood than the first steps into adulthood. Spending some time after high school exploring the world instills the kind of independence that kids transitioning directly into college typically lack.
In fact, the maturing experience of the gap year abroad is a major selling point. Gap year programs provide a safe, structured environment outside of the participants' comfort zone, teaching them to care for their own basic needs, such handle their own banking.
Making the right choice
The hard part, of course, about taking a year off before college - typically referred to as a "gap year" - is that it sets you back a year academically. That's hardly the end of the world, but it's a legitimate consideration.
But today, if you plan it out properly, you can have it all: the gap year abroad experience coupled with college studies keeping you on track with your studies. That's the idea behind the academic gap year.
In the Academic Gap Year in Israel program offered by Lirom Global Education, for instance, you can get the full gap year package of discovering new places and people while keeping pace with your peers in college. Along with touring the country, "Tikkun Olam" community activities, and foreign language studies, participants earn college credits toward their degree.
And if you're unsure of which direction to go in academically, the Academic Gap Year program offers a language immersion track so you can gain a command of Hebrew. That means that aside from becoming bilingual, you'll have fulfilled the foreign language requirement demanded by most colleges.
The Academic Gap Year blends the best of both college life with the gap year. It's structured and safe, making sure students get the most out of their year. At the same time it encourages personal growth, maturity, and instills independence in participants and shows them life outside of the bubble.
Today, you don't have to settle for either real world experience or the safe route of keeping up academically. The right choice is to do both. Don't spend the rest of your life regretting lost opportunities.
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