How Gap Years Help Build Relationships

By: Allison Herman | July 22, 2018
Topics: Life Skills, Education, Travel Skills
Gap year programs teach students immensely about both interpersonal communication and introspective reflection. This in turn is reflected in how students build relationships with others, and how they can improve their engagement with the outside world.

The bond created amongst students who are traveling on a gap year together will foster lifelong friendships. Author and President of the Board of the American Gap Association, Joseph O’Shea’s book: Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs, outlines ways a gap year can impact relationships otherwise:

Engaging with other age groups. 

Most students admittedly spend a majority of their time at home with peers. During a gap year, students meet and interact with people of all ages from very young children to seniors. Generations of people become their network, and they’re more likely to want to continue to engage with older/younger people after their years abroad.

Reflection on strangers. 

Students react differently and change their attitude towards strangers. For many, there is a distrust of strangers; many are “positively disposed” to people they do not know. While traveling, almost everyone is a stranger. After taking a gap year, students report having more faith in people and understand that for the most part, people are genuine and friendly. Approaching and interacting with strangers becomes second nature and a must, especially when traveling independently.

Gender roles.

Many countries have differing viewpoints on men’s and women’s roles, especially in regards to their household responsibilities. Acute awareness of these differences helps students appreciate the challenges of family and gender equality overall, and influences how they will develop their own family dynamics back at home.

Changing ideas on family and their relationships back home. 

In many developing countries, extended family often plays a larger emotional role (living together, caring for each other, etc.) than in the United States. Many students recognize the need to reconnect or make more effort to spend time with their own relatives. And if they didn’t have a close family growing up, it may also become a bigger priority for them when they return home.

In these communities, students see the importance of strong parenting in a child’s life. This encourages students to be an influential role model for their own future children. Many young adults say they dislike children until they actually spend time with children from all of the world and in different cultures. It helps broaden their perspectives, as well as connect with people in a different way.

Students took a closer look at how marriages work and what makes them work beyond living with their own parents.

Parent/child connection. 

Students often feel that their parent-child relationship becomes one of mutual respect as adults. And after a year abroad, they tend to be more grateful for their parents, especially if they helped to fund their gap year.

Students benefit in so many social and emotional ways while traveling on a gap year and then once home. Gap years encourage students to engage with their world in ways they never had before. And we think that’s pretty cool.

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