"If you think taking an amazing gap year including international--or just cross-country--travel isn't financially possible for you, take a look at some of the volunteer options and work it out again, because it might surprise you."
Yesterday, we met Hannah Posey-Scholl, a student who chose to do her gap year in Japan. Today, we're continuing the interview and talking to Hannah about the specifics of her time away.
What are you doing on your gap year?
My gap year so far has consisted of working in Baltimore for four months as a swim teacher, working in the Wakayama Prefecture for two months as a volunteer English teacher, and working in the Fukushima Prefecture for just over a week as a volunteer at an animal shelter.
Next, I’ll be traveling to Tokyo for a few days to simply explore, and then I’ll finish my time in Japan in Kyoto volunteering at a preschool. After I get back to the states, I hope to find paid work again to start accumulating savings for college.
What’s been the biggest surprise for you so far?
I think that would probably be the amount of money I'm spending here. I've heard many times that Japan is a very expensive country to live in, and I'm sure that’s true for some people, but in my experience, I haven't spent very much yet at all.
A lot of that is due to amazing Workaway hosts and housemates who’ve provided many incredible meals and taught me where to go to get the less expensive food, and due to the fact that I've been primarily in small cities so far. Soon I’ll be in Tokyo though, so my perspective might change.
What's something incredible that’s happened on your gap year?
I think, if I was to look at my entire gap year, I would say one of the most incredible things is how adaptable I've been. I've traveled to new places and made new friends. I've lived thousands of miles away from the city I would call my home, and the most homesick I felt was when I decided I missed soft pillows. And I've worked in a number of jobs I felt wholly under-qualified for in the beginning--teaching swimming and teaching English in particular--but quickly adapted to.
If I was to choose one specific event to call incredible, I think I would choose the night one of my English students serenaded me after their last class with me before I left. As an English conversation teacher, I taught students of all ages--ranging from seven to seventy-something--and I was very sad to leave all of my students after the two months in Tanabe.
This one student in particular, I’d only been teaching for maybe a month, but it was a very fun and happy class of adults, and I always left the building smiling after their class ended. When I finished my last lesson with them, this student gave me a wonderful fan as a gift, and then went downstairs and came back up carrying his guitar case. He had edited the lyrics of a Japanese song to fit the English conversation school setting, and sang it in front of the other three adults, plus both of my bosses, and their daughter and another employee.
Because I don't plan on having a teaching job in the future, it always surprises me how well I got along with anyone I taught. By the time I left Tanabe, I'd received so many smiles and thanks, but that serenade was so surprising and so wonderful, I'd say it’s one of the things that really stands out of the many incredible things that have happened so far.
What advice do you have for people considering taking a gap year?
Just do it. Really, even if you don't have a plan, or any savings, just take a gap year and figure it out. To be honest, I really want to tell this more to the people who aren’t considering taking a gap year--everyone I’ve talked to who has taken a gap year has felt better off because of it, and many people I’ve talked to who didn't, wish they had.
This is one point in your life when you aren't expected to figure it all out yet, and you can just go and have an adventure.
If you think taking an amazing gap year including international--or just cross-country--travel isn't financially possible for you, take a look at some of the volunteer options and work it out again, because it might surprise you.
And for everyone who has been raised in this mindset of going to high school and then immediately going to the best college possible to get a degree and get a ‘good’ job…Take a gap year. Think all that over. Going to school one year later than your peers doesn't make you a failure, and it's definitely going to open your eyes to this one-track system so many people have gotten sucked into.
Follow along with Hannah’s gap year adventure on her blog.
Thanks so much to Hannah for sharing her story! Do you have a gap year story to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.