Delay the Real World, Take a Gap Year. Or Two.

If you’re anything like me you probably spent the month before graduation and the few following having a quarter life crisis. After I sat through my college graduation ceremony, I suddenly had a realization, I had a plan that would bring me through December, and then absolutely no idea what I was doing with my life. So, I did what every recent college graduate would do, I freaked out!

In March, I accepted a four-month internship in Ireland, and I was beyond excited. Yet, after graduation I wasn’t sure if my non-traditional path was a good idea. I was convinced that everyone around me had entry-level jobs secured and surely this meant they would be more successful in life than I would. If I didn’t take a full-time position at a Public Relations agency would I ever be able to break into a career I eventually wanted?

Well, after two or three months of constantly going over the  positives and negatives of accepting a short-term internship I decided it was the best thing I could do with my life. While there are many drawbacks to choosing a non-traditional path and often it’s financially impossible to fund an unpaid internship abroad, I’m going to lay out a few positives that outweigh any negative.

First, choosing to put off graduate school or applying for entry-level positions in order to travel will make you a smarter person. The moment I get into Dublin I’m going to have to hit the ground running. My flight comes in early in the morning and instead of catching some shut-eye I’m going to have to get myself to my hostel, take a quick shower and head over to my first day at the office. After that I’m going to have to start setting up meetings to try to find an apartment. I will be thrown into the mix from the moment I get to Dublin, and I will have to learn quickly how to think on my feet and provide for myself. I have no doubt there will be some moments of complete panic, but the experience will teach me to think critically and problem-solve. There are few things that will push a person outside of his or her comfort zone, but when you find something that does, it will completely change the way you process information and work through problems. Add that to your skill list!

o'connell streetAlso, if you take some time to travel after graduation you will learn how to interact with people better. Let me tell you, it’s terrifying to think about flying over 3,500 miles by myself to a city where I know virtually no one, but it’s also a little exhilarating. So, I made a promise to myself for my time in Ireland, which is to say yes to everything. Instead of assuming a person is inviting me to the pub or an event just to be nice, I’m going to take him or her up on the offer. Maybe the hours spent with the people who invite me out will be terrible and completely awkward, but maybe they will be some of the best memories of my trip. I plan to meet people I would never consider hanging out with back home. This means I will learn how to relate to a diverse set of people, which can only serve to help me in both my personal and professional life.

Lastly, if the other reasons don’t convince you, just think about how great something like a gap-year job or a short unpaid international internship will look on your résumé. Studying abroad is great and something I would urge everyone to do, but it’s so common now that employers don’t necessarily see it as something unique that places one candidate above another. Instead think about how you could say you didn’t only go abroad, you learned how to work with people from different cultures in a professional work environment. I don’t think it’s the wisest idea to do something simply because of how it looks on paper but I’m willing to use any argument to convince someone to travel and work abroad. So, if this is the only reason that will make you consider booking that plane ticket, I’ll use it.

I have a million other reasons to argue but I don’t have the time and I don’t want to take any more of yours. I’ll leave it there and let you decide additional reasons for yourself. And I’ll be honest, I will most likely come back from Europe without much money in my bank account, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I won’t come back with many, if any, regrets. I think it’s more likely that I’ll be planning my next trip abroad!

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