Manila, the city where I grew up, boasts a metropolitan area larger than Beijing and as developed as Singapore by United Nations standards. But there’s a visible gap in this vibrant, cosmopolitan city between the wealthy few and the masses struggling to get by. Growing up, I quickly learned that the city’s offerings were reserved for those with the means to enjoy them.
So a few years ago, as my college graduation approached, it came as little surprise to hear my uncle offer advice my parents and family had repeated throughout my childhood in the Philippines:
“Remember,” he said, “money isn’t everything. But it is almost everything.”
To him and the rest of my family, the only sensible path was a direct line toward financial stability and success. So you can imagine their confusion when I announced that medical school wouldn’t be my next immediate stop after crossing Vanderbilt University’s stage.
Instead, I’d be doing the unthinkable: I’d take a gap year.
A gap year is a break in one’s education, whether that means a year off between high school and college or between college and graduate or professional school. Some spend the year gaining work experience—a sort of preview for the career ahead, or a chance to try out another field. They might travel abroad, or pursue community service.