Student - October 18, 2018

A break: Gap year after Bachelor’s more popular

Echica van Kelle

More students are arranging a gap between their Bachelor’s and their Master’s. Study adviser Lonneke Debets and four students explain why. ‘Your choice of Master’s degree feels more important for your future.’

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The number of students who take a year out between their Bachelor’s and their Master’s is growing, according to figures from the Education & Student Affairs department. Of the 991 students who got a BSc in Wageningen in 2014–2015, 17 (1.7 per cent) arranged a break of six months to a year before starting their Master’s at WUR. One year later, 40 of the 880 Bachelor graduates (4.5 per cent) did this. The total number of gap-year students is probably higher as these figures only cover students who do both their Bachelor’s and their Master’s in Wageningen. What is more, students who do a year of committee work at a society normally stay enrolled as otherwise they would miss out on the financial support (FOS money) the university gives them.


Health and Society study adviser Lonneke Debets keeps track of what her students do after their Bachelor’s. She does not yet have enough figures to determine whether the gap year really is becoming more popular but she does know that at present around 20 per cent of ‘her’ students who get their BSc in three years opt to take a year out. ‘Common choices are a year on a committee, a voluntary internship, working and travelling. There are also students who have some time available due to study postponements. They also frequently use that time for travelling, extra modules or courses, often focused on self-development.’

Setting goals

Many of the students considering a gap year do so because they want to get a better picture of their next degree, explains Debets. ‘Your choice of Master’s degree feels more important for your future than your Bachelor’s because a Bachelor’s is often broader and you can make more adjustments. Students sometimes want more time to avoid hasty decisions and to get a better understanding of their own interests. Working life can also suddenly seem very close; if your Bachelor’s flew by, your one- or two-year Master’s will be over in a flash.’

A period in which students break with the university rhythm and broaden their horizons can be very refreshing, according to Debets, but it is a good idea to set goals. ‘I think you should ask yourself what you want to get out of that gap year. What you want to learn, experience and develop and how you could achieve that. When you look back in a year’s time, what do you want to be proud of? I find students often get a huge benefit if they tackle it in this way.’



‘Took time for my hobbies’

‘I actually didn’t feel like continuing with my studies immediately after my Bachelor’s in Soil, Water and Atmosphere,’ says Marte Hofsteenge (22). ‘It felt rushed. I postponed my Master’s for six months and concentrated on photography and drawing, hobbies I had too little time for. I took courses on this outside Wageningen. I really enjoyed being away from the academic world and getting a different perspective on society. I also discovered that in addition to extracurricular activities that can be stressful, it is really valuable to have a hobby that relaxes you.’ Marte began her Earth and Environment Master’s in September. Did she get anything out of the break? ‘I now feel enthusiastic again about my Master’s. When I took that time off, I realized I actually enjoy my subject a lot.’



‘I like adventures’

Nina Sandfort (22) decided not to start her Master’s immediately last academic year. First she worked, then she spent a couple of months as a ski instructor in Austria and finally she travelled across China and Vietnam. ‘I like adventures and I enjoy being in different surroundings and meeting new people. I travelled for a year after secondary school too. Now you can still do that; it might not be so easy once you’ve graduated.’ Nina got a lot out of her gap year. ‘I didn’t do anything related to my degree but I found I’m interested in climate change, natural processes and the formation of landscapes in the mountain regions I visited. I want to learn more about this, which fits with the Earth and Environment Master’s I’m doing now.’



‘A break from studying’

Rahel Balkhausen (21) has just finished her BSc in Biology and will now spend four months working to earn money. ‘Then I want to go to South Africa for three months, where I’ll be working in a national park. I’ll be giving tours there with an emphasis on sustainability and protecting animal species. I want to get into nature conservation in my degree too, so this looks ideal for me.’ Balkhausen is taking a year off mainly because she felt the need to do something other than study for a bit. ‘Since secondary school, I’ve only had one and a half weeks summer holiday because of courses. Now I’m ready for a break.’



‘My Bachelor’s didn’t have an internship’

As of this month, Health and Society student Ayse Varol (21) will be spending nine months at Arci Catania, an NGO in Sicily. ‘I’ll be managing projects there for disadvantaged young people. For example, we’ll be giving workshops for refugees to help them integrate. I chose this because my Bachelor’s didn’t have an internship option and I wanted to get experience in the field. I also enjoyed my minor in England so much that I basically wanted to go abroad again immediately.’ Varol doesn’t yet know what her Master’s will be. ‘I hope this internship will make clear what I like.’