It’s no secret: Spain has high dropout rates for undergraduate studies. As published in 2019 by the Ministry of Universities, almost one in four (21.82%) does so in the first year; 8.7% to enroll in another career. It is worth wondering why this waste of resources could be due and what would have happened if the student had had more time to make the decision. What if you could take a sabbatical to think better? What they call gap year, something like a year off, and is common in other countries.
“It is not usual for students in Spain to take a year off to think about their future, do volunteer work, work abroad or perfect a language, there is more custom of doing it at the end of studies and by languages”, points out Andrés Lagar, coordinator of the Claret School of Madrid. “It will be 1% of the students; there is no culture and families do not accept it well either ”, he sums up. In his opinion, “perhaps if we were a country with more exchanges with other countries, this idea would be better known because those students would talk about their future,” is something that would be good to raise, but with a clear idea of what to do that year, have a goal; And now I speak as a father, if my son tells me that he is going to take a sabbatical, I would ask him what he plans to do, what are his plans and the purpose.
An expensive option
What is clear is that this type of experience could be highly conditioned in Spain by the socioeconomic level of the families, although in other countries it is common for young people to work in summer and on vacation to save for this period of their life. From Madrid’s Pablo Muriel Base College, head of guidance, he observes that the fear has been lost – “consequence of the pandemic” – of spending a year abroad or not starting studies right after finishing high school: “We had a student who is an athlete and As he was not clear about which studies to start, we recommend that he prepare better as an athlete, and he says that it is the best decision he has made ”.
“This boy has continued training and has obtained the license in this time,” he explains. “There is no rush to go to the University”, he says and tries to reassure parents: “There is a cultural fear of thinking that if you leave the system you will stay out, that you will not stabilize professionally, and it is not like that . Now, for many employers, the most attractive resumes are those with gaps, which show that they have grown in a divergent way, they have a different perspective, they contribute a lot ”.
One of the obstacles is the expiration of the university entrance exam, which was called selectivity and expired after two years when Julia Torres (24 years old) did it in September 2014. Now the grade for the general phase is valid indefinitely and the marks of the subjects of the specific test are worth two years. She had a good academic record, a grade to choose a career, but preferred to give herself a year to perfect her English and work in London.
“They told me if I was afraid that selectivity would expire. Today everyone congratulates me because I have command of a second language and, in addition, I discovered what my passion was, ”says the young woman, who studied dance at a conservatory-university in the British capital. “That year he taught me what he wanted to pursue. Of course being responsible, being careful and careful, but if it is in your power and you can carry it out, I recommend it ”. In London, Julia had the opportunity to meet more people who were, indeed, on the same page. gap year, “I stopped feeling that I was doing something strange, in other countries it is normal.”
His brother had done it too; both had found the support of their parents to carry it out. “The oldest wanted to take a sabbatical year to think about what he wanted to study and we pushed him to go and learn English,” says Magda Torres, his mother, who had also taken that year after finishing her studies in Tourism in 1982. “That changed his way of being, he became responsible, attentive, caring. It was an incredible year of maturity and that level of languages opened the doors to him in the school where he studied and in the job he is in now. For my two children the experience was great ”.
Also for Roger Presseguer Camps (22 years old), a second year student of Advertising and Public Relations at the UB in Barcelona. He traveled to Auckland (New Zealand) with the EF language agency, studied English and marketing and, until his internship began, he worked as a waiter. That year it changed him completely; by his own account, it gave him more professional guidance than any other plan. “Traveling opens your mind. There I discovered what I wanted to do and I studied it with enthusiasm, more certain of having been successful because in Auckland I had worked on it ”.
An exhaust valve
Like Julia, many of his friends believed “he was crazy.” “But some have already dropped out of school to change careers.” For him, the experience was an escape valve from the stress of high school; I didn’t feel like I could make a decision clearly. “What less than having a year to think if you do not have a clear vocation, which is very frequent”, and ensures that in the interviews he has had they are very interested in his experience abroad. “I think that those of us who do it have great added value because we have had to look for life and we have a broader vision of the world.” In addition, he insists that “the level of languages that people say they have in Spain is not such, and having lived and worked abroad, there is no doubt.”
From EF they assure that “the sabbatical year to learn languages has more and more relevance”, in the words of Teresa Corrales Bescós, head of projects in the ‘Year Abroad’ area (literally, year out). “Parents did not see this option five years ago in Spain, but when you offer them languages, paid internships and a training of six to 11 months abroad attached to large training areas, such as arts, marketing, fashion, economics, you are giving them something very solid and useful ”.
The truth is that, although a minority, those who take a year grow in maturity, a process that can help them better visualize their future and, quite possibly, reduce dropouts due to failure in expectations. This reason is one of those pointed out in the report Data and figures of the Spanish University System 2019-20, as provided by the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE). They also attribute the abandonment to students who do not obtain a place in the first career option they requested.