Taking A Gap Year: How I Made It To Study Abroad Right After High School

I decided to study abroad right after graduating from high school.  

Truthfully, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I didn’t want to give the impression that I was not spending my summer holidays productively, plus I needed some time to really think about my future.  

So, I opted for a gap year. 

A gap year is a year-long break that students take between the end of high school and starting college. It is a great option to gain new experiences and travel, work, or explore personal interests before continuing your studies.  

For someone like me who remained undecided about my future, taking a gap year was actually the break I needed. Without the pressure to make a quick decision, I would have enough time to invest in myself and explore other alternatives.  

My Gap Year Decision: Volunteering Abroad 

The first thing that came to my mind was to volunteer overseas. I had always aspired to help the local community somehow, and this was my chance! 

While I was looking up volunteer programs online, I came across an academy that sparked my interest with these programs; I could choose to help set up housing for the local community in Peru, or teach English as a foreign language to young children in Switzerland. Since I was more confident in my English-speaking skills, I decided to go with the latter. I enquired with the university about these programs, and in no time, they connected me to a counsellor.  

I told the counsellor about my decision to take a gap year and seek out opportunities for personal development. Upon hearing my interest to teach English abroad, she recommended I take a TEFL certificate (Teaching English As A Foreign Language).

Volunteers taking a gap year to help the poor.

She explained that this certificate would prepare me to understand the aspects of becoming a teacher abroad while experiencing a different way of life. I would learn how to plan lessons, manage the classroom, and accommodate to each student’s learning ability. As a teacher, I had a chance to make a real difference in the lives of these students. Also, did I mention this job was paid? Not only could I gain experience overseas, but I would be paid for it! 

Volunteering In Switzerland 

My time in Switzerland was an eventful and productive one.  

I was assigned as a junior teacher to teach English at a summer camp for young children aged between 6 to 14 years old. The summer camp was basically a holiday program for kids to experience a variety of sports, language and outdoor activities, so their schedule was pretty packed.  

In one day, I would be teaching 3 to 4 sessions of English to the students before accompanying them to their next class. Since the camp was mostly run by volunteers, I had to pitch in to help with the cooking and cleaning from time to time. It was there that I discovered a newfound respect for the other volunteers, because they were so dedicated in their tasks that they didn’t mind putting in extra effort to ensure the students would have an enjoyable experience.  

Sleepless nights were common, because we had to wake up earlier than the students to prepare breakfast and materials. One time, the teacher in charge of physical activity got injured, so I had to take over for a while. Trying to instruct a bunch of hyperactive kids in the morning to follow exercise routines was not an easy task, I assure you!

Aside from teaching, I also spent time baking sweet goodies for everyone. The children particularly enjoyed the peanut butter cookies I often prepared for their evening snack. Watching them savor the cookies and ask for more made me realize something I never felt before—a deep sense of fulfilment.  

I had discovered what I wanted to pursue.  

Choosing To Study Culinary Arts 

The volunteer program only lasted for three weeks, but to me, it felt like a lifetime. I had gained new experiences and the time I spent with these amazing people changed me. I had gained a new sense of confidence and felt empowered to make a decision for my future. My family was pretty surprised when I said I wanted to stay in Switzerland.  

I had made up my mind to study Culinary Arts. I had learned so much about the country during my time here, that it felt like a waste to go back without trying to learn even more. I talked to my education counsellor about the choices I could go for. I had my sights set on the Swiss Education Group, a prestigious school in Switzerland that held the Top 10 rankings in the world for their subjects in Culinary Arts.  

I needed to apply for another student permit to extend my stay in Switzerland, but the approval heavily depended on my acceptance to the institution. My counsellor was extremely helpful in the process, giving me the best tips to write my personal statement and compiling all the relevant documents. If it wasn’t for her, I doubt I could have submitted my application on time!

That Fateful Day 

I still remember the day the news arrived.  

I was in the kitchen trying out a new recipe, when the phone rang. It was my counsellor on the other side, waiting to inform me of my application status. I still hear those words in my head as clear as day. 

“Congratulations, you’ve been accepted as a student at the Culinary Arts Switzerland Academy!” 

My reaction when I found out I was accepted into the university after a gap year.

It turned out that my volunteer experience was a huge reason they decided to accept my application. I showed initiative, ambition and passion in my work, and these were the exact qualities they wanted to see in potential students. I was ecstatic with joy! 

My decision to take a gap year and volunteer abroad was not in waste. In fact, it proved to be the turning point in which I found my passion and discovered new things about myself. I was able to take a step forward and make a decision that would change my life.  

If I can, you can do it too! 

Want to experience the incredible potential of studying abroad?  

Drop a message to +60 11-2069 9087 or email us at [email protected]. The counsellors will be more than happy to answer any questions you have! 

Tee May

Tee May

Teemay is a content writer who relishes telling a good story as much as she enjoys reading one. A fan of fantasy and time travel lore, she indulges herself with quaint daydreams of living in a vintage cottage settled deep in the woods. She hopes to achieve this one day, or may just settle with a treehouse instead. In her free time, she practices amateur astrology and interprets birth charts. These started out as a hobby for ‘fun’, but they come close to being obsessions these days.

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