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
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
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
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
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.