Excited to present Andrea Wien from GaptoGreat.com this week. She has quite the story and is on the move to change the way we think about life, career and what it means to do ‘the right thing’…literally (she’s really on a cross-country road trip spreading her message!).
What do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I’m the author of “Gap To Great: A Parent’s Guide to the Gap Year” and the founder of Gap to Great, the first global gap year community. The book was published this past January, and the community started in late-2015.
What inspired you to pursue this line of work?
I think it’s ridiculous that at 18 before we’ve ever had to do our own laundry that we’re expected to choose a college major and decide what we want to do, every day, for the rest of our lives. I love the gap year because it gives students a space to pause and actively think (maybe for the first time in their lives) about what’s important to them and how they want to structure their lives. It’s also a beautiful time to start asking important questions about how you relate to yourself and the world around you.
Where has your global career taken you?
I went to journalism school in southern Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. From there, I moved to a career in digital media in New York City, where I worked for three years. Then, I backpacked through Europe for four months before transplanting myself in Seattle, Washington where I worked as a travel and food writer. After 13 months, I moved back to New York City, where I freelanced for clients big and small. In 2014, I traded the city in for the beach with a move to Sydney, Australia. It was there that I found out about the gap year and dove headfirst into writing the book and meeting the movers and shakers of the industry. Now, I’m in the midst of a 6-week road trip across the USA, promoting the gap year and the book. I’ll end the trip in New York City. From there? The sky is the limit!
Ok, so you keep referring to ‘the gap year’. What exactly is it?
The gap year can be defined a number of ways, but someone I interviewed in the book said it is structured and intentional time away from formalized education or work. I love this because, in order to get true benefit out of a gap year, I think a level of intentionality (and planning) is critical, and having a structure — even if it’s loose — can help to shape the experience into something richer and more fulfilling. Of course, there’s also benefit in handling the unexpected, and anyone who has traveled understands that the unexpected should be expected! But having a set of goals (ie. setting an intention) and checking in on it periodically throughout your travels is a powerful gauge for progress.
Sounds great! Who can take a gap year?
Anyone! The gap year is often thought of as a “young person’s” journey, but there’s even a trend now among retirees. The media is calling it the grey gap year. The most important thing when you’re planning a gap year is to make sure you’re doing something that aligns with your interests. There are plenty of independent counselors out there to help you if you’re struggling to identify the type of gap year that would be best for you.
How much does it cost to take a gap year?
This varies so much based on what you’re doing during gap time. If you’re working with an organization like AmeriCorps or City Year, gap year can be free. Some of the more hands-on, immersive and supervised programs can run upwards of $30,000. And of course, if you plan a gap year on your own (say hiking the Appalachian Trail, or interning in New York City), your costs will depend on your environment, lifestyle, etc.
What is the impact of a gap year on one’s career?
I’m of the belief that experience trumps all, but not all employers feel that way. That said, I think more and more employers are looking for well-rounded candidates who understand different cultures, can think creatively and bring something unique to a team environment.
Gap year has also been shown to increase maturity and self-confidence, boost leadership abilities and increase willingness and ability to work with others — all skills that are highly transferable to the job market. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to talk about your gap experience in the context of a resume, there are plenty of career counselors and resume pros that can help you out. Seek them out!
What would you say to someone exploring the idea of a gap year?
I think everyone should take a gap year at some point in their life. For students, it’s a great chance to expand their horizons and see something different than what they’ve grown up with. For adults, research has shown that the number one driver to creativity and innovation is exposure to unrelated experiences. So if you’re trying to be more creative in your work, taking a gap year is a great way to stretch your brain. The one thing other thing I would tell someone is to plan as much as possible. Failing to plan is planning to fail, as they say.
Where can readers go to learn more about gap years?
- The Center for Interim Programs – it is the longest running gap year counselor in the country and they offer free 90-minute consultations on the gap year for all ages
- American Gap Association
- USA Gap Year Fairs – these fairs travel the country in Jan/Feb so families can meet gap year providers in person
Andrea Wien is the author of “Gap to Great: A Parent’s Guide to the Gap Year.” She’s also the founder of Gap to Great, the first global gap year community. Find her on Twitter @AndreaRenee or at andreawien.com.