At the end of one’s undergraduate education, many students face the difficult question of what to do next. Almost overnight, graduates enter into what is deemed the ‘real world’. For many people, the only charted territory is to directly continue their studies in some graduate school. However, I think that—for the majority of people—this is a mistake. I believe that it is critically important for people to take at least a year off in between undergrad and graduate school to get a full taste of the ‘real world’.
Time off from school allows an individual to explore their ancillary interests and expand their horizons. Far too often, people are in a rush to finish up their formal education so that they can begin working. It is believed that by rushing to get into the work force, one’s true life begins; however, the important journey in between work and school is often shortchanged in favor of an end product. This journey should not be ignored because it is critical for both personal development and learning. Part of one’s journey through life should be time away from school gainfully employed toward one’s interests.
One way to usefully spend a year off is to pursue some form of research. For example, I graduated last May from New College of Florida and will be doing a Fulbright in Malaysia this year. The Fulbright Program is run through the State Department and it funds scholars to pursue research abroad for a year. Anyone can apply for scholarship to virtually any country in the world and in any field of interest. For example, my research proposal was focused on International Relations and Foreign Policy. Specifically, I plan to study the impact of Islam on the development of Malaysian foreign policy. Through the Fulbright Program, I’m going to enjoy spending my year off from school to pursue this research and teach in Malaysia.
Instead of rushing to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or other professional, I think almost everyone should take some time off from school to pursue their other interests. The Fulbright Program is but one example of many things that graduates can do with their time off. Many people decide to take a year off to volunteer, work, or pursue independent study. I would highly recommend upcoming graduates to look into a variety of options, including Teach for America, teaching English abroad, pursuing lab research, studying a foreign language, volunteering in the community, working for an NGO or non-profit organization, doing an internship, joining the Peace Corps, getting a job, or any of the thousands of other options that you have. The bottom line is to take time off and do something that you enjoy. It will make your journey more pleasant and will be an excellent time off for personal fulfillment. Don’t rush through life—it is definitely better to stop and smell the roses.