Last year in November I ran The Kudu Classic; a 2-day stage trail run in the beautiful Baviaans River Conservancy. I feel blessed to have met two impressive young adults whose behaviour, manners, confidence and communication really astounded me. I found the opportunity to chat to them and found out they were part of a Quest African Gap Programme and I was blown away by the stories they shared with me about the programme.
What is a gap year to you? Have you been begged into giving your 18-year-old into a gap year, only to find them lazing around on the couch with no purpose for the year whatsoever?
Let me tell you a secret – you have been conned. This is not a gap year. All you’ve done is extended your child’s stay at home and have been put in a position where you are forced to mollycoddle your, now adult, child.
A gap year isn’t a new thing. It’s a concept that has been around for many years but only became ‘a thing’ in the ‘70s, where students would pack up a backpack, kiss mom and dad goodbye, and hit the road for a year of travel and wild shenanigans.
Nowadays, a gap year is so much more than just hitting the road for a year of wild parties and adventures. It is a year where your child can:
- earn some work experience
- volunteer, locally or abroad
- have an incredibly meaningful travel experience
- learn valuable life skills
- adjust to real-world living
- gain an understanding of what they want to study
My gap year came once I had finished my tertiary education and for my 21st birthday was given a ticket to London with enough money to last me a week to start my two-year working holiday. Five years later I returned with plenty of work experience to show on my CV, a whole new level of independence and maturity, a lifetime of adventure and global experiences and of course the love of my life.
Times have changed, and the two-year working holiday visa is no longer available, so it has become even harder to gain global experience. I understand parents don’t want to waste money on studies that their child will possibly drop out of or change their minds on the route to take. So should you agree to a gap year I encourage you to as a minimal enrol your child in The President’s Award (link: https://www.presidentsaward.co.za/who-we-are/a-development-tool-for-young-people/) to give them purpose and ability to gain experience and skills during this time, while of course our community benefits. The enrolment fee is as little as R440.
A gap year can be incredibly valuable and can set your child apart as an even more competitive candidate on their CV when applying for a job. There are so many formal gap year options in South Africa:
- Volunteer groups
- Surfing Programme
- Hillsong Africa Foundation
- Ubuntu Surf and Swim School
- Year of Your Life
- Beyond Adventure
- Go Overseas
- Volunteer work around South Africa/Overseas
You can go ahead and look for the ones best suited to your child, but make sure that the gap year your child is taking will bring them home with new skills, a changed outlook on life, and better prepared for university, the world of work and the real world.
Did you take a gap year? If so, what life lessons would you pass on to the next generation about this year in their life?