Thoughts About Going Back to China for a Gap Year?

I’m only a freshman in high school right now but my parents are strongly urging me to take a gap year after senior year and go back to China (I’m American-born Chinese; I’ve actually only visited China three times) for an entire year.

They are firm believers that China is the future and that I need to improve on my Chinese or something. Are they being wise or just being delusional?

I thoroughly loathe this suggestion; I want to be like every other kid and just jump right into college after high school. As for admissions, can I apply senior year and then state that I won’t be going until two falls later, or will I have to apply whilst in China?

And is there any argument I can make to my parents to convince them out of bringing me back (I really have no choice right now)? Or would it actually be beneficial?


You can apply to schools that allow you to defer admission - a lot do this, usually for up to a year, sometimes two.

As for whether or not it’s worth doing a gap year in China - you need to have a plan for doing something other than just learning to speak the language better. Have you parents guided you on what they actually envision you doing, or given you any ideas about what you might do for a year? Just hanging out (anywhere) is a waste of a year. If you can intern, or volunteer, etc, and maybe do a bit of traveling, it might end up being a very worthwhile year. Alternatively, you can suggest to them that a gap year in China might make more sense after college, when you’re older, and can probably get more value out of it. (…even if you just do this to kick the can down the road…)

@SJ2727 I’m not sure if I can intern, I’m not comfortable doing that in China…but I would study quite hard, and they are encouraging me to travel to many places. I’m typically very bad at stepping out my comfort zone. Certainly, it won’t be a waste—I just don’t like the idea of leaving the country.

Many colleges would let you defer admissions for a year, sometimes two.

My biggest concern would be the loss of momentum. Some math concepts seem to become a case of “use it or loose it”. Your study habits are in a groove. Some people find these difficult to get back once those skills get rusty.

There isn’t a wrong answer. A year in China could be a great opportunity. I don’t know if “it’s the future” (seems all the Chinese want to study abroad themselves), but it would be interesting and educational nonetheless.

The important thing is that it is YOUR decision. If you aren’t excited about your choice, you aren’t likely to make the most of it.

Careful that any studying you do doesn’t interfere wihh you being considered a freshman when you return,

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be a wonderful growing experience. Nearly 30 years later, I still consider my gap year the defining year of my life, personality wise. But you shouldn’t be forced into doing it. If all you need is a nudge… i’m all for it!

I do agree with groundwork that for a math heavy course a gap year could be a bit of an issue.

@SJ2727 What do you mean “doesn’t interfere with me being considered a freshman?”

I want to major in Com Sci; I think I’ll finish all the math courses for most Com Sci courses before Freshman year in College (in Calc AB right now)

@squ1rrel Since this is your parents’ idea and not your idea, maybe present them with @SJ2727’s objections from post #1. Then, whatever, they say, put it on them to make all the arrangements and continue with your life. Most likely they will soon stop bothering you about it.

@squ1rrel depending what college courses you do before you start, you may find yourself considered a transfer student rather than a freshman. But this is the kind of stuff you can check with the college you accept a place in.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing.

And you will learn so much just by spending a year in China.

People really internalize the norms they grow up with. If you were like “every other kid” in many European countries, for instance, you would take a gap year like many/most of them do.

@squ1rrel , this is a bridge to cross later. You are just finishing your first year of high school.

You now know that you can go through the admissions process, right up to accepting a spot at a school, while maintaining your gap year option.

Three years from now, you may feel like you want a gap year. You may even want to go to China for it. Many schools encourage gap years to the point of sending gap year information with the admissions package (and a few offering their own!) Students who choose this often feel refreshed, after being burnt out from high school. For many, it gets them out of the “excellent sheep” syndrome by allowing the to see and experience success and happiness without out-competing their classmates. Lots of students do gap years, btw.

For now, listen to your parents’ ideas. Hear what it is they want for you and why. (I don’t think their idea is terrible, btw, but it’s a personal choice.)
Think about what you want for yourself. There may be workable options here for all of you (including spending summer(s) abroad. But now is not the time to make a decision or fight about it.

If you are doing Calc AB in 9th grade, you would do BC next year, or begin taking college math at the best, closest college to you. You could be halfway through a math major before you even enter college. You should most definitely NOT do a gap year in China. Math skills are highly valued right now, and probably always will be. Your ability to learn and do higher math is best in your young years. You don’t want to waste that year just to be in China. If I were you, I’d be pushing ahead with math, maybe Comp Sci, engineering, hard science, actuarial science, if that’s where your interests lie.

I have an alternative proposal. Ask your parents to send you to China each summer, for summer school in Chinese language and math/science/tech, whatever you like. That way, you would not get off track, you’d continue to zoom ahead in your education, and you’d get your Chinese language (and cultural skills) fluent, without wasting that year after college on a gap year that doesn’t fit your educational goals.

Ok, I’ll take all of this into consideration. Thanks so much.

Another option is to go to a school like NYU, which has a sister campus in Shanghai. If I’m not mistaken you can spend 2 semesters in Shanghai’s NYU. Or the opposite, apply to NYU Shanghai. Duke I believe might have a similar arrangement.

Also, many schools offer up to one year with study abroad. Berkeley for instance has partnerships with Fudan U in Shanghai.

Stepping out of comfort zone is a big plus. Not just touring China but something that is different

Why not do study abroad in China? Being fluent in Mandarin and English is a valuable skill set, but you don’t need a gap year to accomplish that.

@squ1rrel You write very well for a high school freshman and show a great deal of maturity or foresight even asking this question. I strongly believed in learning languages and cultures for our kid, and took unique life situations as opportunities to encourage our kid to learn as many languages as possible. Your parents are not wrong but you need to expose yourself to China by studying and experience it for one summer before you decide to invest more time and effort. If you do decide to learn Chinese, you have to become really good at it to make it worthwhile imo.

You have many options keep - them open. A gap year in China could be very valuable especially for a CS student, because I kind of agree with your parents - China is and will be a big player in tech. The ability to communicate and understand their culture would a positive differentiator for you. During a gap year you could very easily enhance your CS skills online - time not wasted.