Photo Cate took from the beach near the village that she stayed in, in the Transkei, South Africa.
How old are you? If you asked this question to any one person walking around our LH campus, you could get a response ranging from 15-23. That is a little bit crazy… considering we each spend a maximum of two years studying here. So why is this? Is it just because we are “so” international? Are Sciences Po students just so smart that they are all skipping a few years of school somewhere along the way? While these hypotheses may explain a few cases, there is another explanation that is often overlooked. The gap year.
The term “gap year” and “Sciences Po” don’t naturally coexist in most people’s minds. Not only does the university have an adamant policy against gap years, but the natural connotation that many people have of a gap year is a year to screw off and procrastinate beginning university. This isn’t so true though. Lots of the myths we hear about gap years are becoming more dispelled every year. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, many students opted to take gap years to avoid dreaded online classes and dorm room quarantines. Each year, gap years are becoming more and more normalized. In fact, most ivy league schools actually encourage accepted students to take one. Princeton even has dedicated programs for their prospective students to travel abroad during their gap year.
These were some of the facts and statistics that I used to convince my parents that taking a gap year was the right choice for me. It helped even further when I got an email from my Columbia Dual BA advisor saying “your plans sound absolutely amazing and I am happy to see you are embracing a global mentality and lifestyle”. Even though I didn’t have any concrete plans in place, I knew the gap year was the right choice for me. Throughout my year off, I met more and more fellow gap year-ers and I only heard positive things from them. Nobody regretted taking a gap year. Not one person. By the time I got to LH, I found my then roommate by bonding over the fact we had both taken a year off. We shared stories and memories and felt the similar sentiment that I often felt while talking to other people who had taken a gap year – a sentiment of content, knowing that you made the right choice to slow down a bit and learn about life. After mine, I felt like I had gained some experiences which really made me appreciate where I was now.
Although I had many conversations with people about my year off at the start, those conversations quickly became scarce as we all got caught up in life in LH. So, when I started as a second year student, I was excited to find so many first years who had also taken gap years. Many people approached me with crazy stories and there were lots of fun moments when I got to say “I took a gap year too!!” Then I started thinking about the idea of sharing some of these stories before they got lost again in the flow of life here. So, I started asking around to see if anyone would be interested in being interviewed. I quickly found so many people and I was even shocked to find that some of my closest friends had taken time off which I had never even heard about.
When I was deciding to take a gap year and when I was prompting my parents to let me, I relied heavily on Ted Talks and YouTube videos to do some convincing for me. I also always found these stories to be wildly fascinating and entertaining. I figured that the best way to showcase the stories of our campus would be through something like this. That’s why I created “The Age Gap”, a podcast to attempt to explain the age gap at our campus through all the crazy stories of our students’ time off. There are tons of students on our campus who have taken gap years and done crazy things from internships to military service to backpacking through Asia. There are also tons of students on other campuses and in past years who took gap years before Sciences Po and some who even took gap years in the middle of the dual degrees, or both, who will be featured in future episodes. There are 6 short episodes already up on Spotify and the next group of episodes will be longer interviews which will each be released in two parts.
The gap year truly has the potential to change lives, for everyone involved, and it’s time that we start talking about it! If you’re interested, you can find The Age Gap podcast on Le Dragon Déchaîné’s Spotify page.