environment, high school graduates in the Middle East have started to think differently about their paths in life. For example, high school students have become aware that they can select the exact and appropriate course of their life by breaking free from the pressures of their parents and the pressures of the past. After finishing high school, students intending to pursue a higher education have two main choices. First, they can choose to go to college in order to continue their studies immediately after high school. Second, they can choose to take a year off known as a gap year. Usually the gap year entails working, traveling, or both. Taking a gap year can be a very good stepping stone for students before entering university. It exposes the young person to new people, places, and ideas. The year between high school and college is very valuable for students because it allows them to think about their future, helps them pursue a path that is not constrained by the pressures of family and society, and exposes them to a range of experiences, people, and ideas.
A gap year is valuable because it provides space for the student to think about the future without the confines of family or society. While in high school, the student is still trying to please his or her parents and teachers. The student has spent an entire life until that point trying to live up to the society's standards. Parental expectations can cloud the student's vision of the future. Often, society's standards and parental expectations are unrealistic or even unhealthy for the student. This can lead to great distress and unhappiness later in life, if the student pursues a college or career path just because it is what the parents wanted. As the University of Canberra (2012) points out, the gap year helps the student gain maturity, perspective, confidence, and independence. These four features help the student to envision a future that is entirely their own, without the expectation or pressures of family. During the gap year, for example, a female might discover that instead of becoming a nurse as her mother urged her, she decides to become a lawyer. Pursuing a path that is unique does not mean that the student gives up on family. On the contrary, the student becomes a better member of the family after developing the confidence to be independent.
Therefore, the student develops a unique identity during gap year. This personal identity becomes very important, even crucial, during adulthood. When an individual develops a unique personal identity during the gap year, that person returns to college sure of what his or her goals are in life, and full of energy, motivation, and dedication to accomplishing those goals. As Birch & Miller (2007) found, students who take a gap year earn higher marks in university than students who go straight to college from high school. Thinking about the future can therefore have a direct positive influence on the ability of the student to succeed in whichever career path is chosen.
Travel is a core component of many gap years, because travel exposes students to learning opportunities that cannot be acquired in a classroom environment. The individual who does not take a gap year might not be able to travel to this extent, because once university has commenced, the pressure of schooling becomes immense. During gap year, the individual is still young enough to enjoy the fruits of traveling before the pressures of a degree program and internship begin.
Another reason why traveling is critical to the gap year is that the individual might not otherwise be exposed to different cultures. During gap year, the individual usually meets people from different backgrounds and different cultures. This encourages a vision of the future that is far different from the one that might have been accepted if the student went straight to college after high school. When the student goes to college straight away, he or she does not have the opportunity to explore different ways of being, or different work paths. Exposure to other cultures reveals different job sectors that might exist in parts of the world that the person never entertained before. Likewise, traveling reveals opportunities for volunteer or charitable service. Traveling also opens doors to creative entrepreneurial ideas that the individual might not have thought of without…