China / Education

Popularity of 1-year sabbatical break is growing worldwide

By Zhao Xinying (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-02 07:33

A commonly used and widely recognized definition of the "gap year" is that it's the year many young people - usually recent high school or university graduates - take off before continuing their studies at college or graduate school, or starting their working lives.

During the gap year, participants take part in a wide range of activities that frequently include specific courses, internships, independent travel or volunteer work.

Many people who have taken a gap year later talk about learning more about themselves, their interests and talents during that time. They often say the experience helped them after their return to integrate and become more socially engaged.

In 2015, the China Gap Year program was launched with support from the China Youth Development Foundation. Its goal is to help more young people realize their gap year dreams. Eight young people received funding in 2015 for their gap year activities.

Although it is difficult to pin down the first use of the term "gap year", the practice of taking a sabbatical year between stages of education is commonly believed to have originated in the United Kingdom in the 1960s, when people from the baby-boom generation headed to places like India for independent travel.

The concept has since spread to many countries and is now especially popular in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

Many companies, institutes and organizations exist solely to generate income from the activity or to conduct research into it or offer services.

In recent years, the idea of a gap year has resonated with young Chinese people.

In 2009, the book The Delayed Gap Year caught the imagination of many young Chinese people and inspired a lot of them to take the break. The book tells the story of the author, Sun Dongchun, and how he resigned from his job and took a year off in Southeast Asia.

Later, in 2009, the website was set up to share information and ideas about taking a gap year. The site was created by members of, a social networking website that is popular among young Chinese.

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