Why Students Like Malia Obama Should Go Abroad for Gap Year

This week, the White House announced that President Obama’s daughter Malia will take a gap year before attending Harvard University, where both her parents went to law school.

Tiny Spark discussed the merits of postponing college with Abby Falik, founder of Global Citizen Year. Making the case for what she calls a bridge year, Falik expressed concerns about depression, anxiety, binge drinking and sexual assault among college students. “We’ve got to stop and ask ourselves: ‘What is it that is not yet fully formed in the young person? And is the freshman dorm on a college campus the place where we want to send young people to get an orientation to who they are and how to begin this next stage of life?’” she said.

Global Citizen Year Founder and CEO Abby Falik. Credit: Jay Kelly.

Global Citizen Year Founder and CEO Abby Falik. Credit: Jay Kelly.

Global Citizen Year offers high school seniors year-long apprenticeships in Africa and Latin America. Falik believes that for young people to become effective global leaders, they must be immersed in communities unlike their own. She told Tiny Spark that these experiences cannot be about tourism or volunteering. “They need to force you to sit somewhere longer than you are comfortable. But they also need to be supportive in a way that helps you leave, not feeling pessimistic or jaded, but instead focusing on bright spots.”

Falik penned a Washington Post op-ed in response to Malia Obama’s decision about putting higher education on hold. “A year of real-world experience before college may be the most powerful way to improve educational outcomes and post-college success — not just for the president’s daughter, but for young Americans from all backgrounds,” she wrote.

Last month, Falik also published another article in the New York Times about why you shouldn’t send your kids to college just yet.

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