Financial instability, the global pandemic and mental health challenges are making students take gap years.


We Asked 4 Students What They’re Doing in Their Gap Year

Around the world, students are taking gap years and changing their academic plans.

Students across the world are struggling to navigate getting an education while surviving a pandemic. While some universities have opened up, some still remain shut and encourage distance learning. But, with financial instability, a diminished college experience, and rising health concerns, some students are choosing to take a break this academic year. We asked four students why they decided to take a gap year and how they are spending it. 

Drishti Soni, 22, Mumbai 

A photo of Drishti Soni with a quote by her about her gap year.

Soni felt like she was always busy and needed a break to just think for herself. Photo courtesy: Drishti Soni  

After finishing my bachelor’s last year, I didn’t know what to do for my master’s. It was a big decision and I am not the type of person who can commit to something that I’m unsure about. I was also diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I just needed time to think and focus on my mental health. 

I started my gap year with an internship and then took a few months off to work. After that, I took a solo trip last December, which opened up a lot of things for me. I reconnected with old friends. I finally decided what university I wanted to go to. Next year, I will be in Australia doing my master’s. Currently until my college begins in Australia, I am doing online courses and freelancing as a writer.

During the gap year, at times, I had a lot of free time, it made me feel unproductive and stressed. Being an only child, even though my parents didn’t pressurize me, I felt like I had to be successful to sustain us. 

Jonas Jacobs, 19, San Diego 

A photograph of Jonas Jacobs with a quote about his gap year.

While a gap year wasn’t on the cards for Jacobs, the COVID-19 pandemic left him no other choice than to take a break in his educational pursuits. Photo courtesy: Jonas Jacobs

My current goal is to graduate from Northeastern University, Boston with a degree in mechanical engineering. 

Our college set up a system to test students regularly, [conduct] contact tracing, and I was excited to go back. But, as much as I want to trust my peers at my school and have faith in them, I know fellow 19-year-olds, they want to party.

I could also be sent home from campus or be locked down in my dorm doing online classes. My housing this year was single-room housing and my roommate decided not to come back to school. It would be like solitary confinement. As a student struggling with ADHD, it isn’t easy to be learning online. I didn’t want my learning or grades to suffer, so I took my second year [at university] off. 

I am currently on a job hunt which is proving to be challenging. I’ve been reaching out to former bosses and trying to network to get an opportunity. I am not scared, I know I’ll get a job and be able to use this year to the fullest.

Siddhant Sanghavi, 21, Mumbai

An image of Siddhant Sanghvi with a quote about his gap year.

Sanghvi hopes to create socio-political documentaries, comics and articles. Photo courtesy: Siddhant Sanghvi

I wanted to take a gap year to work in the fields I want to get into before deciding on a master’s degree to pursue, to make sure that I liked it and that I wasn’t wasting my time and money [on my degree]. I finished my second year of college, and I am on my gap year now. Even though a gap [year] was a part of my plan, more than choosing it, it happened now because of COVID-19. My original plan was to intern at a lot of places to pick what I like, create, write pitches for independent projects and work on myself. 

The work aspect hasn’t gone according to plan, but I landed a short internship as a writer. Workplaces look for cheap labour when looking for interns and [people] say there are a lot of jobs out there. But, I care about the profile of the job.

Staying motivated has been a struggle with the change in routine. I have a lot of anxious thoughts about financial instability, the status of the industry and then I get scared that I will make the wrong decision [about my career]. 

Eli Nathan, 20, New Jersey

An image of Eli Nathan with a quote about his gap year.

For Nathan, it was important to find alternatives to pursuing an Ivy League education remotely. Photo courtesy: Eli Nathan

I am currently pursuing my bachelor’s [degree], I’m not sure in what yet. The last academic year was my freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania and now I am on my gap year. 

My plan this year is to work. 2021 is up in the air. Before COVID-19, I couldn’t imagine taking a year off school. My first semester and a half was amazing, but I realized that university won’t be returning to its pre-pandemic glory in the fall. The second half of the semester was disappointing. I couldn’t learn as much, I couldn’t connect with my professors, I didn’t meet many of my peers. To get the most out of UPenn, I want to be on campus and make use of the resources.

I considered many options like doing an internship, working on a political campaign, or even working on a world commune, but once I got a job offer that I was excited about, I took it. Online school is disappointing and it costs a lot of money. There’s not much of a downside in hitting the pause button on your education and coming back to have a full college experience. 

Also read: Are Art and Design Degrees Worth Pursuing Online?


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We Asked 4 Students What They’re Doing in Their Gap Year