Gap years – a growing trend among young Americans

FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2014, file photo, students walk between buildings on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, Ill. The U of I has partied its way into the top spot on an annual list of top party schools in the country. The Urbana-Champaign campus has been among the top five on the Princeton Review's annual list for years but is No. 1 on the new list released Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/David Mercer, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A growing number of recent college graduates aren’t entering the job field right after graduation. Instead, they’re taking a year or two to pursue other opportunities.

“A lot of students are very interested in before they start their career, kind of contributing,” said Arlene Kaukus, the Director of Career Services at the University of Buffalo.

This time is called a gap year.

“I think just this generation of college students is really interested in kind of exploring and understanding themselves more and contributing to the world in some way,” said Kaukus. “We are definitely seeing an increasing trend and interest in this area.”

The national numbers reflect the same information. According to the American Gap Association, an organization which tracks data about gap years and offers information about them, shows there has been an almost 300% increase in people attending Gap Year Fairs to learn more about this post-graduation option.

Kaukus says she feels the growth is due to multiple factors including the 2008 economic downturn.

“A lot of young people who were in school decided to try something different because perhaps the employment options in their field weren’t as they had been in the past.”

Aside from being UB’s Career Services Director, Kaukus is a mom who has a daughter taking the gap year track.

“We’re all going to work a long time,” said Kaukus. “You might as well find something and pick something you really like.”

One of the students choosing something she loves is Kerry Brooks, a junior at the University of Buffalo majoring in English and Linguistics.

“People talk about it [taking a gap year] a lot,” said Brooks. “It’s just like if you can, then people will.”

Brooks says she sees more and more friends and classmates weighing the option to go abroad and teach for a year or two after graduation.

“It’s safe,” said the junior UB student. “You know you’ll get a job in Korea or Japan.”

As she has gotten older and closer to graduation, that safety net of starting a job there has taken a backseat to other priorities.

“I was thinking about going abroad because it’s a good experience and good life experience,” said Brooks. “You get to live in a different culture. But at this point in my life, there are people I can’t just abandon.”

The American Gap Association cites multiple reasons young people choose to go abroad – one of the top reasons is to gain life experiences and grow personally. While a gap on a resume may concern some, Kaukus says employers she speaks with cite more advantages than disadvantages for young Americans taking time to explore different opportunities.

“The opportunity for them to just really develop into young professionals who can contribute to the world – I think those are tremendous assets employers are looking for,” said Kaukus.

As a mother and a woman working in higher education, Kaukus’ tip to other parents who have children interested in taking a gap year is simple – support your child’s dreams.

“Really listen to what your young people want to do with their lives and encourage them to try those things.”

 

 

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