We’re Seniors Yeah! Now What? 5 inspirations for your GAP-year

Now that we, this year’s senior class, have finished our written abitur exams, we have a lot of time to think about what we want our future to look like. While there are a few people among us who will go off to college in summer, most of the 12th graders will take a well-deserved break from studying, learning and homework:

A GAP year.

Even though most of us are pretty sure that we want to take on year off, the decision of how exactly to spend that year is far more difficult considering the endless opportunities for experience, adventure and volunteerism open to us.


Therefore, there is not a single day when I don’t hear excited murmur upon entering our classroom about the year that is supposed to be the best time of our lives. We regularly tell each other about our plans, exchange ideas or inform a friend about a program we heard of that might be of interest. So I thought, “why don’t I share some of these inspirations with the public” and maybe give our readers a little taste of how they might fill their GAP year. I have even included an interview with Helena from last year’s senior class who has advice on what to keep in mind when planning your GAP year.

Here are five things you can do to make your GAP-year a better experience:

    1. Actually make up your mind about what you want to become when you grow up!
      • One of the most common reason people take a year off and before going to university immediately is not knowing what to study yet, or he or she wants to become and thinking that with lots of time to decide, ideas will come to him or her during this GAP year. But most of the people I talk to said that even after the year, the decision was not one bit easier.
      • One way to avoid just postponing this helplessness by one year and to actually know what you want to do with your life at the end of your year is to attend lectures in the subjects that interest you.
      • In German universities, but unfortunately not in US colleges, you can often just walk in and listen to professors. This might help you to get a glimpse of what studying this subject will be like.
      • One of the most common reasons for people to take a year off and not go to University immediately is: “I don’t know yet what to study/ what to become. In my GAP-year I will have lots of time to decide” but most of the people I met said that even after the year the decision was not one bit easier. One way to avoid just postponing the helplessness by one year and to actually know what you want to do with your life at the end of your year is to attend lectures in the subjects that you are interested in. This might help you to get a glimpse of what studying this subject will be like.


    1. Work: Why not earn some money while you have the time to do so? This way, you can put aside some money so you don’t have to work while at university. Also, many job opportunities can teach you something new, broaden your skills or give you a more precise idea of what you want to do in the future.
    2. Travel : Traveling the world is probably one of the top five teen dreams. However, many never pursue that dream because they don’t know how to finance it. Luckily, there is an answer to that problem: several European organisations such as the Schwartzkopf-Stiftung award travel scholarships. The recipient will be paid in a month long journey across Europe. You will have to invest some time and effort into applying for it and some of the organisations require a written or filmed report at the end of your journey. But it’s definitely worth it.
    3. Volunteer:Volunteering doesn’t just look good on a resumé; it certainly is one of the most rewarding experiences one can make. When I planned my gap year, I originally wanted to volunteer abroad while also getting to know another country. However, this was very difficult to organize and often times very expensive. So if you want to make a difference and earn some community hours, why not ask one of your local charities if they need any help. This is a great way to contribute to and better get to know your community.


  • Work-and-Travel: If you can’t decide whether to work, volunteer or travel, you could combine all of these ideas by using websites like workaway.com or wwoof.net which will connect you to host families all over the world that need help with their businesses. In exchange for your work, you can live with them for free and really get to know another country and its people. So you can actually do the world tour you’ve always dreamed of-  almost for free!



Interview with Helena Siebenrock

Me: How did you spent your GAP-year so far?

Helena: Am Anfang meines GAP-years habe ich die TEFL (teaching English as a foreign Language) abgeschlossen und bin dann für drei Monate nach Süd Afrika gegangen, um dort ehrenamtlich Kindern Englisch beizubringen. Zwischendurch habe ich mich für verschiedene Unis beworben und ein Praktikum bei einer Anwaltskanzlei gemacht.  Derzeit absolviere ich ein weiteres Praktikum in Hamburg bei der NGO Viva con Agua. Gegen Ende meines Gap Years plane ich eine Interrail Reise mit einer Freundin von Griechenland nach Italien bis nach Spanien.

Me: What would you do differently if you had the chance to re-do it?

Helena: Nicht so viel rumgammeln und Netflix schauen. Ich finde, man verliert ein bisschen die Disziplin, weil man denkt: Nach meinem Abitur habe ich es mit verdient, nichts zu machen, jeden Tag auszuschlafen, und alle Serien in Netflix fertigzuschauen. Wenn die Uni dann anfängt, weiß man gar nicht mehr, wie das mit dem Lernen geht.

Me: What are your tips for anyone who wants to do a GAP-year?

Helena: Man sollte wissen, was man in dem Gap year erreichen will. Das ist eine super Zeit, das zu tun, was man will, eigenen Interessen zu folgen, und das zu machen, wofür man zuvor keine Zeit hatte. Also gut planen, Ziele haben und Netflixsucht vermeiden!! Wenn du noch nicht weisst, was du studieren willst, dann ist das Gap year auch super, um Praktikas zu machen, die dir bei deiner Entscheidung helfen könnten!