Why Everyone Should Take a Gap Year

It's not just good fun, it's transformative.

Before Malia Obama made it cool, I took a gap year.

Five years ago, I told my parents I want to volunteer abroad instead of going straight to college after graduating high school. They laughed. A few months later, after much convincing, and a slideshow or two, I deferred my acceptance to NYU. The decision to defer confused many people before and after my gap year. Before, friends would ask why I'd want to put off the partying college would have in store. After, employers asked why I would take that time off in the first place. In a country that promotes a go-go-go mentality, it's difficult to convince yourself you deserve a breather. Taking a gap year may seem like a preposterous life choice, but everywhere else, especially in Europe, it's common for young adults to embark on their individual journeys after finishing school. That time off is meant to inform who you are through experiential learning, ultimately broadening your perspective.

There are a lot of benefits to time off. The Gap Year Association published a study that shows 60% of current students said a gap year helped them decide their major in college and 66% felt more academically motivated afterwards. Besides those statistics I used to sway my parents, depending on what one decides to do with a gap year, it offers time to reflect on your goals, define your own values, and potentially increase cross-cultural communication. A gap year after any graduation is not only important but maybe even necessary.

After almost two decades of schooling, jumping straight into the professional world could further what the World Health Organization defines as burn-out. The term was recently classified under the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases as an occupational phenomenon which is characterized by "feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy." While WHO only applies burn-out to the workplace, the same phenomenon can happen because of schooling. Whether one works hard or slacks, even an academic environment can be oppressive. Some people even lose a sense of individuality and personhood when constantly working within systems. Living a non-goal-oriented life for a period can revitalize one's sense of purpose.

Personally, taking a gap year did change who I am, for better and worse. After working six months while my friends were partying in college, I decided to volunteer in Ecuador and Cuba, during which I learned the value of a dollar, what's worth my time, and how to handle a variety of personalities. Unfortunately, I also lost confidence in myself after a trying experience in Ecuador where I volunteered with a toxic group of people. Although my time in Cuba was liberating and informative, I am to this day still traumatized by my Ecuador trip. Within the first week, I was harassed for wearing shorts and fell ill. Going abroad can be eye-opening, but it also comes with risks. I loved Ecuador for its beauty, resources, and history, but the volunteer group was comprised of wealthy individuals who I couldn't relate to.

While those experiences are unique to me, they illuminate the possible trials one can experience when traveling abroad. No matter what one decides to do for their gap year, it is always important to recognize why you chose to take time for yourself in the first place. I chose to take a gap year for time off from the grueling pressure of a productivity focused culture. Taking a step back from that lifestyle offered me the opportunity to mature in a way I don't believe would be possible as a freshman in college. Being out in the world, outside of an academic or professional bubble allows us to really take the time to take everything in and learn who we are and what we value.

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10 Endangered Animals to Weep Over

Celebrate Endangered Species Day.

An endangered species is not a tragedy, because if a species is endangered, then they aren't yet extinct.

Sadly, there are millions of endangered species across the world, all facing threats that mostly stem from human activities. Still, it's not too late. Take a gander at these majestic animals, and then donate to a wildlife fund or environmental activism group of your choice.


Of course, nature doesn't need saving—humans do—and climate change and environmental destruction are threats to humans as well as animals, but if you need a reminder of the beauty and fragility of the natural world, check out these extraordinary species.



SPONSORED

Do Non-Melatonin Sleep Aids Really Work?

Objective makes a chocolate square.

I Can't Sleep.

I truly cannot remember the last time I had a good night's rest. Even before the stay-at-home orders, I was just a little ball of nerves.

But lately, it's been awful. I toss and turn, it's always too hot or even too cold, sometimes I make myself tea and read for a bit, but when I'm still up at 1 a.m., I reach for my phone and then I'm up until 3. My sister and I have a weekly call, and our small talk about our exhaustion turned into an hour long conversation about sleep.

I Thought I'd Tried Everything. Even Melatonin.

My sister asked why I hadn't gone for the old staple, melatonin and I reminded her about the time we traveled abroad, and it gave me the weirdest nightmares (the horrible kind where you wake up in your dream and you're still in a dream). Chamomile tea didn't work, nothing worked.

She said she had a friend who swore by something I definitely hadn't heard of.

They Were NOT Pills, Teas or Anything I'd Seen Before.

A company called Objective makes Fast Asleep, a sleep solution delivered as chocolatey treats. They're created with saffron and GABA. If going to sleep was as easy as eating a piece of these chocolatey, minty delights every night, I'd be sold.

What Exactly Was In It?

Cocoa contains caffeine, so I didn't know how this would help me sleep. After talking with my sister, I went online and saw that the calming, sleep-supporting ingredients cancel out any of the very little caffeine content.

Saffron, the spice, is apparently known to help with staying asleep, and their GABA is a fermented version of the neurotransmitter that's known to help you relax and fall asleep faster. In a study, 100% of customers saw improvement in their sleep quality thanks to saffron. One hundred percent!

Do I Try It?

A bag of 30 pieces was only $40, and they had a money-back guarantee.

They're keto-friendly and only 30 calories a piece, so not too decadent before bedtime.

They were chocolatey-minty, which is my favorite flavor, so I was sold. I ordered a bag to try.

The First Night, I Wasn't Impressed.

I took one piece (super yummy!) - 30-60 minutes before bedtime is recommended - but when I climbed in, I didn't notice a difference. I was worried I'd wasted my money.

However, once I fell asleep, I stayed asleep until my alarm went off, which hasn't always been the case for me.

I checked the site again, and noticed that many people didn't notice a real difference until the third or fourth night - it builds up in your system over time, so I decided to keep an open mind the rest of the week.

The Second Night Was Completely Different

Without doing anything differently from the first night, my second night was amazing. I felt calm and sleepy as I was getting ready for bed, and once I hit the pillow, I was out the whole night.

It had to be these sweet treats. The next day, I even felt more balanced and relaxed - Fast Asleep helps boost serotonin levels and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and I definitely noticed a difference in my overall mood and alertness.

I Already Ordered More.

Just In Case! There's nothing habit-forming about this product, so it's completely safe to take every night, and I honestly always want to keep it in the house. I'd also love to offer it to anyone staying over in the guest room, whenever we have guests again.

Now that I'm getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep every night, I feel more equipped during the day to tackle the things I need to do and deal with some of my daytime stressors. I finally had the energy to clean the kitchen, which had been bothering me so much for the past few weeks.

With Objective's Fast Asleep, I get real sleep and balance my levels, so I don't have to feel tired during my waking hours. Sleep in the form of chocolate squares sounds so weird, but oh my goodness, do they work.

Our partners at Objective Wellness are currently offering a 25% discount if you use the coupon code STAYHOME. Check them out here!

Food & Drink

The Best Apps for Craft Beer Delivery

Try beers from all over the world–from your phone.

With breweries and distilleries out of business for the foreseeable future, your favorite beer may feel particularly out of reach this time of year, especially with the weather changing. But don't let quarantine suck all the fun out of summer. Luckily, thanks to technology, a lot of craft beer is now deliverable straight to your door step. Here are a few of the best apps to help make sure you stay up to date on the latest trendy brews.

Tavour

Tavour

Simplistic and elegant, Tavour allows users to easily fill up a box of beer over a period of time before shipping. The app offers more than 650 different breweries both local and national and is perfect for those who like to experiment. It's easy to use, and their menu rotates regularly so you and your beer never grow stale.

TapRM

TapRM

TapRM offers a wide range of both craft beers and hard seltzers. While based almost exclusively in New York City, the app offers fast, same day delivery from some of the best beer brands in the world. They also provide a unique selection of beers to help you find your new favorite. All you need to do is download the app and place your order!

Drizly

Offering a stark variety of craft beer, Drizly allows its users to mix and match 12-packs, sixers or by the bottle. Their guarantee is that they can have whatever you order delivered to your house in less than an hour. You can even schedule your delivery for a specific time, with each delivery taking around 20-40 minutes.

Saucey

Saucey takes delivery very seriously. When you order with them they guarantee that they'll deliver in 30-minutes or less, or they guarantee two day shipping. Also, beer aside, their entire liquor cabinet is also up for grabs. From tequila and whiksey, to vodka and wine, nothing is off the table for Saucey.

Beer Menus

BeerMenus

For those who enjoy strictly local beers, BeerMenus features a tap list from local bars and a broader stock list from your neighborhood beer store. With that, you can make sure to create a list of your favorite beers in your neighborhood, so that when they're in stock you can be ready to go.