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Making the Most of Your Gap Year Experience

  • Keep in touch with your support network from Columbia University and friends doing similar work. Keep family and friends informed about the nature and purpose of your position so they can be advocates for your work.
  • Keep an open mind and expect the unexpected – you will most likely be challenged and stretched. Use these as opportunities to learn more about yourself and to see the world in an entirely new way.
  • Try to learn as much as possible about the population with whom you work, including culture, history, geography, customs, language, and beliefs.
  • Network with people whom you work with during your time.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to learn new skills and keep a record of what you’ve accomplished and learned. This can be very helpful in the future as you consider graduate school and/or other employment positions.

After a Gap Year Program, what's next?

Consider ways your volunteer experience might connect with future plans. You could select a program that prepares you for subsequent work in the same or a similar field (e.g. a teaching position for an aspiring teacher). You might also consider selecting a position quite unrelated to your intended career field, especially if the field will allow little flexibility later on for such opportunities. For instance, future physicians, who will be spending the next 7 to 10+ years in medical training, might use this opportunity to pursue an unrelated interest, e.g. be a music instructor, art teacher, or environmental advocate.

Keep in mind that there are many paths to a given career as well as many ways that various volunteer positions can assist you in achieving your career goals. The best way to figure out how a potential volunteer program would complement a given career path is to consult professionals already working in that field for advice and guidance.

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