By Contributing Writer Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, faculty member and Diversity & Inclusion Manager at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) ; photograph courtesy Deborah Sussex/NOLS
So far my blog posts have kept to more practical advice for outdoor enthusiasts, but I figured every once in a while I would be entitled to a soapbox. See, I have a bone or few to pick with “The Gap Year.” By this, I mean what we’ve chosen to call the time students spend traveling, volunteering, adventuring, and playing between their primary schooling and higher education.
To me, “gap” evokes images of nothingness, emptiness, space in between substance. But a Gap Year is anything but empty! My Gap Years have been the most fulfilling experiences in my life. It’s a plain misnomer. Folks in the U.K. have got it right: They call this experience “The Sandwich Year.” And for good reason, too. Think of all the meaty goodness that can fill this time in between conventional academic pursuits! Your wallet may not be bottomless, but finances aside, you can do anything: Work for a nonprofit aid organization in Africa; teach English in Southeast Asia; go to Antarctica to research glaciers; pick fruit through Europe; be a nanny . . . in the Riviera; or go on a semester or yearlong backcountry expedition with NOLS almost anywhere in the world. Maybe by the time my four-year-old is in college, he can go to Mars! No “gappiness.” More like an all-you-can-eat sandwich buffet.