What Not to Do When Preparing for a Gap Year

*My mom is freaking out.*

I mean, you really can’t blame her. I’m the youngest child, and both of my older siblings are way past college and returning to live at home during the summer. So, I’m the only child left, and not only am I going away, but I’m going about as far away as I could get; to a place where she will see me *maybe* once the entire year: Ecuador.

On top of that, I could’ve handled the process leading up to the Global Launch phase much, *MUCH* better. I’ve missed deadlines, I’ve procrastinated my butt off, and I’m currently finishing up my packing in a frenzy the night before I leave for the Bay Area, which means that my mom is also stressed about me even being able to go.

I’m honestly just waiting to get out of here, to finally get to embark on this journey I’ve been anticipating for so long, and it’s hard to have this anticipation without becoming apathetic towards what’s currently going on around you. I’m told to look forward, yet I must still stay focused on the present. I wouldn’t call these problems, but they’re just some mental things I’ve been experiencing in the past couple months.

So, now that my unremarkable thoughts and feelings are out of the way, I guess I should tell future Fellows what they shouldn’t do when preparing for their Global Citizen Year, coming from someone who made a lot of missteps along the way.

1. *Don’t procrastinate: *It’s something that you always hear, but many of us have trouble following this. I’ve always had bad habits regarding time management and putting things off, but all I’ve learned is that it does no good. Now, fixing this is much easier said than done, seeing as I’ve yet to do so, but I urge anyone thinking about going on any kind of year abroad: don’t procrastinate. Get things done soon and save yourself from stress later.

2. *Try to learn the language beforehand: *This is a pretty obvious one as well, but if you’re going into Global Citizen Year, you’re going to want to speak a decent amount of the local language. Most people come out fluent regardless, but knowing something prior to arrival makes everything a whole lot easier.

3. *Balance between knowing what you want and coming along for the ride:* Our generation is always put into tough spots in terms of expectations. We always hear that there’s no rush to decide what to do with our lives, all the while being ordered to specialize early and take the trusted route to regular old success. Us guys often don’t really know what we want to do but act like we do and default to engineering school because we’re supposedly good at math and it mostly pays well. Throughout your preparation for a year abroad, you will be told by countless people to know what your goals are for the year, or to simply make the most out of the year and enjoy a new life as much as possible. I’ve found that the best way to minimize stress (heed these words with caution because I’m much better at giving advice than taking it) is to meet the two in the middle. You should have some vision of what you want to gain from this year, but you never want to try and plan the whole thing out. There are naturally going to be a lot of curveballs thrown along the way, and trying to micromanage will just stress you out unnecessarily.