When I was teaching English in France (a post-college gap year, I guess) I had a British friend who had done a legit gap year — teaching English in Malawi. She got malaria.
Anyways, I know there are all sorts of gross colonial issues involved but I do think a gap year can be good. I know a kid who took a gap year last year to tour with his dad (his dad manages some legit bands) and learn about music business or something. I wanted my little sister to do a gap year before she discovered she loved physics.
But, I remember entering college and having no idea what to study besides “well…I’m good at English and French?” And voila here I am studying engineering and getting another degree.
I get the eye-rolling about minimum wage jobs at home being not good enough, but you really DO grow up more when you’re away from your family and your culture (and your loser friends). I honestly believe that. I’d love to see an exchange program to work minimum wage jobs in other countries. Maybe like Disney world Epcot jobs or something.