A gap year is a great alternative for students who want to explore other cultures.
The countdown is getting shorter, seniors! It’s time to start thinking about what to do with your life when you’re — gasp — no longer in college. If the thought of turning that tassel come graduation is making you hyperventilate, let’s take a second to evaluate where you are.
Job interviews may make you sweat, but you’ve learned how to have a great one. Resumes are second nature by now, so you can easily write one that helps you stand out from the pack. You’ve even checked out careers you may not have originally thought of in case you’re still not sure what to do once you snag that diploma.
If you’re looking for more options, Her Campus has you covered! Just for you, here are five more ideas for what to do with yourself after graduation, if you’re not so sure about the whole getting-a-job thing.
• Consider a gap year
Gap years can be a great option for collegiettes who want a unique opportunity to explore their interests and do some valuable work in the process. Jennifer McConnell, career adviser at Butler University, says, “If this is an option students are considering, the best thing they can do is leave and come back. Have your eyes opened and experience another culture where you don’t know the language or your way. In that situation, you learn to rely on something other than what you’ve always known.”
Whatever your industry, from education to business, there’s a good chance that gap-year opportunities are available to you. The same goes for domestic and international gap year options — you have a choice!
Rachel Anderson, a 2012 graduate of Butler University, made the choice to do a gap year when she realized that grad school wasn’t a viable option for her quite yet. She’s spending her year in Berlin as an au pair.
“I love living abroad and I haven’t lasted more than two years without traveling to Europe since I started in 2006,” Anderson says. “Money-wise, I knew I’d be making enough to live here in Berlin, but not much to save. But, since I’m not making very much and I’m earning it abroad, I was able to apply for unemployment-deferment on my student loans very easily. That was a big contributing factor!”
Anderson spends her time with the family she’s taking care of and also traveling. “My opportunities to experience new things and meet new people are endless, and my life is much richer because I chose to be an au pair this year,” Anderson adds. “I think, for me, it really showed me what I need to have in my life every day.”
Gap years vary for everyone, and the things that you can do during that time are only limited by your willingness to explore. Anderson has friends who are teaching English in Asia, some are taking internships and working part-time, and others are exploring Peace Corps opportunities.
McConnell agrees. “Everyone can benefit from a gap year,” she says. “The main thing you need is soul searching.”
In other words, look inside yourself and figure out what it is you want your gap year to be. Are you looking to make a social impact? Do you just need some time to get away? Or are you hoping to go abroad and stay there indefinitely? Figuring out the answers to these questions initially will help you guide your decision making process as you do more research.
It feels like a leap of faith to do a gap year, but the amount you’ll learn about yourself, your skills, and your goals over the long haul will be invaluable. If you’re ready to take the leap, head to your university’s career center. They’ll have some current resources and insight available to help you get started. Additionally, look at websites such as GoAbroad.com, which offer resources for volunteering, interning, and studying abroad, as well as jobs in other countries. It’s a good general resource to start your search that will lead to more detailed opportunities as your potential path becomes clearer.
Freelancing is another way to get work experience that’s outside of the traditional 9-to-5 job. Working as a freelancer means that you’re a free agent. You can work for one client or for many clients, and you serve as an independent contractor. People most often associate freelancing with writing and doing pieces for a variety of publications, but that’s not the only field where freelancing is common. Other industries include art and design, Web development, branding and marketing, and information technology.
The great thing is, you have the unique ability to work at your own pace and only do projects that interest you. That’s one reason Chelsey Boutan, a senior at Northern Illinois University, enjoys working as a freelancer. “Freelancing is great, because you have a lot of freedom. There are still deadlines like any other job, but you are able to choose when you want to work,” she says.
Boutan currently writes one article a month for Suburban Parent, a magazine published by The Daily Herald. She also works on her own freelance photography business.
“The problem I experienced in previous jobs was that I either was doing all photography and not enough writing, or all writing and not enough photography. I decided to start doing freelancing because it is a way for me to do both of my passions,” Boutan continues. “I am definitely considering doing freelancing as a career, because it offers me the flexibility I need to incorporate writing and photography into my life.”
If the thought of working on your own without the established nature of going to the same job every day worries you, here’s some additional food for thought: With the current economic situation, businesses are hiring more contract workers to perform tasks that they would normally assign to full-time employees. This option is flexible and gives you the chance to work on projects or jobs for a variety of people and industries. Ideally, trying this type of employment should give you a clearer idea of what it is that you do want to do in the long term.
Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of Freelancers Union, has written a whole book on the subject of freelancing, aptly titled The Freelancer’s Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams – On Your Terms. It’s a wonderful guide to learn the basics of freelancing, including how to get clients, how to negotiate effectively, and how to build a solid reputation in whichever field you choose to work in.
• Try a fellowship
A fellowship is another interesting opportunity to consider after graduation, particularly if you have an academic project in mind that you think would benefit from some additional research. Perhaps the most famous example of a fellowship is the Fullbright Program sponsored by the U.S. government, which is “designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” Fellows submit a formal proposal for their project and, if accepted, receive funds to facilitate the success of their project.
Universities are another popular source of fellowships, offering the chance to immerse yourself in a chosen field of study at the graduate student level. Each fellowship has its own set of rules necessary to receive funding, but the payoff is the chance to fully dedicate yourself to a subject that you’re passionate about and have the scary finances taken care of.
Depending on your interests, certain universities may be a better fit than others. Stanford, for instance, offers fellowships for graduate studies in science and engineering that may be worth a look!
For two more alternatives to getting a job after graduation, read the rest of the article here!
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