1. Go to college, but not until you’re ready
I am very grateful for my college education. I have greater knowledge in the areas that interest me; had the luxury of taking a few classes just for fun; and met some wonderful people – several of whom are still good friends and colleagues.I learned after graduation, however, that a Bachelor’s degree cannot take me where I want to go. I was so indecisive in undergrad that only after I had finished and put a year of work under my belt did I discover what I should have studied in college. Taking a year or two off before I entered college would have helped in everything from choosing the proper degree course to selecting the school itself.
2. Take a gap year (or two) and work abroad
There is nothing better than figuring out what you want to do before you join a fast-track program. As an 18-year-old, odds are you don’t know everything about the world. Trust me on this one.Travel can open your eyes. It teaches you that there are different ways to approach a problem, clean a house, prepare a meal, live your life. Keep an open mind and discover how people do things differently – and, more importantly, how similar we are underneath it all.Furthermore, working abroad will force you to learn about the visa and customs process, navigate an unfamiliar place on your own, and hopefully provide you with a unique job or internship experience.
3. Learn another language
It can be intimidating to travel in a place where you are unable to communicate. Even if you know a few key phrases, gesturing and sign language are probably required. Learning a language provides insight into the thoughts and worldview of a group of people. Not only does it look great on a resume, but it’s just an important life skill to have – including languages you will ‘never use again.’You’ve already learned at least one language, you can learn another. Don’t be discouraged by difficulty; it took many years of immersion to get this one down. You probably won’t learn everything in a few weeks, but the locals will appreciate your efforts.
4. Learn the value of a dollar; or a pound; or a euro; or a franc; or a peso…
Living on your own is a frightening new experience. It’s also enormously expensive. This becomes obvious fairly quickly (say, in Tokyo), but even if you marvel at the cheap food prices, you will soon find that paying for utilities, internet, toilet paper, shampoo, etc. grows your bills each month.
5. Read the news
Read news from your home country; you’ll want to know. Read local news wherever you are; it helps when practicing a language and you can discuss with friends and neighbors. Even if you think a lot of the news is trash, depressing, or irrelevant – having an understanding of current events is good practice for university where such discussions will undoubtedly take place in your classroom.