Gap years

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Document 1 : In fervent support of the “gap year”

I wasn’t enthusiastic when my daughter first floated her plan to take a “gap year” before college. I didn’t see the point of delaying that great intellectual awakening. And what if her gap year turned into a permanent crevasse and she never earned a degree […]But she needed a break. Besides, my husband and I weren’t eager to pay for a college education she wasn’t ready for. […]She remained preternaturally calm about the prospect of moving overseas until about a month before her departure. “I hope I don’t freak out when I get there,” she remarked one day. “You know, being in a foreign country where I don’t know anyone, not speak­ing the language, living by myself…” I, of course, had been silently considering that possibility for months. But rather than scream, “Well, DUH! Shouldn’t you have thought about that before ” I simply said, “What’s the worst that can happen If you hate it, you’ll do something else.”I needn’t have worried. Taking a gap year turned out to be one of the smartest decisions my daughter has ever made. She had a spectacular experience in Salzburg, bonding with her host family, perfecting her German, traveling through Europe with assorted new friends, and otherwise developing the confidence and skills necessary to navigate unfamiliar terrain.By the time she started college this fall, she couldn’t have been better prepared — or more excited. She approached the whole experience of picking classes, making friends and trying new activities with a newfound sense of purpose and perspective. The gap year broadened her academic interests […] as well as deepened her extracurricular ones.

Susan H. Greenberg, The New York Times, January 4, 2015.

Document 2 : A successful gap year

In this document the narrator is an English young man whose gap year is coming to an end.

On the train to Delhi, I felt that I was already on my way home, and had the strange sensation that more than anything else this was exactly what I wanted to be doing. I didn’t want to be at home, I wanted to be going home. All the difficult stuff was behind me, and the long train journey back to the capital felt like a lap of honour. Staring out of the window while I returned to my starting point, I began to feel all colonial about things – as if I was surveying territory that I had conquered. The longer the journey lasted, the more impressed with myself I became. Such a huge distance, and it was all mine – I’d done it all. I couldn’t believe that I’d actually covered so much ground on my own – and without getting killed, robbed or eaten.

For the entire forty-eight-hour journey, I stared out of the window in a state of serene calm, or slept the dreamless sleep of a freshly crowned Olympic champion.

Back in Delhi, I returned to Mrs Colaço’s guest-house and even managed to get the same dormitory bed as last time. I sat on the hard mattress for a while, cross-legged, and contemplated how cool I was. I had actually done it. I was back where I started, and I was still alive. I felt years older and infinitely wiser than when I’d last been in the same place. I had lasted the entire three months without giving up and going home. The trip was a success.

I still didn’t really know what travelers were supposed to do all day, but that didn’t seem to matter. I was a traveler. I’d been to places and done things that most people avoid out of fear. I had suffered, and confronted dark sides of myself. I had experienced the world.

After a while, two nervous guys in clean-looking jeans walked in, claimed a pair of beds, then sat there in silence, looking as if a bomb had just exploded inside their heads. I noticed that they still had airline tags on their backpacks.

“Hi,” said one of them.

“Peace – er, I mean hi,” I said. “You just arrived ”


“You feeling a bit out of it ”

“Jeeeesus,” groaned the other one. “It’s so hot. I can’t believe this. How are you supposed to do anything here ”

“You’re not, really. Do nothing. Whatever.”

“Right.” He looked at me as if I was talking nonsense.

“How long have you been here ” said his friend.

“Oh, long enough. I’m off home in a couple of days.”

“Starting uni ”

“Err… yeah. I suppose so.”

“What are you reading ”

“A John Grisham thing. I can’t remember the title.”

“No – I mean, at university. What subject ”

“Oh, right. Um… English.”

“Really Where ”

“York. You on a year off ” I asked, trying to change the subject. I wasn’t ready to think about home yet.


“Just starting ”

“Yeah. We’re doing a couple of months here, then hopefully a month in Pakistan, then Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia.”


“Bit daunting, actually.”

“You’ll be fine,” I said, thinking that they were certain to get cripplingly ill at some point, not to mention depression, loneliness, despair, robbery, homesickness, and the fact that they’d probably end up hating each other’s guts. “You should have a laugh.”

William Sutcliffe, Are You Experienced , 1997.


Document 1

1 What is a gap year Read the text and choose the right definition in the list below.

a) A gap year is a year young adults spend at sea.

b) A gap year is a year off, generally spent abroad after high school.

c) A gap year is a year spent in a college far from home.

d) A gap year is a year teenagers have to do before applying for a job.

2 The narrator had mixed feelings about her daughter’s decision to take a gap year. Find three different reasons why. Use your own words.

3 1. How did the narrator’s daughter feel before leaving Why

2. Had the narrator anticipated this Quote the text to justify your answer.

Seul(e)s les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA traiteront la question 3.3.

3. Describe the way the narrator responded to her daughter’s feelings.

4 1. What is the narrator’s opinion on her daughter’s gap year now that she is back

2. In what ways has this gap year changed her daughter Use your own words.

Document 2

Read lines 1 to 15

5 How does the narrator feel on the train to Delhi Explain why in your own words.

Read from line 16 to the end

6 Where is the narrator now Be as precise as possible.

7 1. “I noticed that they still had airline tags on their backpacks” (l. 30-31).

Who are the two young men the narrator meets there

2. According to the narrator, what is the two young men’s state of mind Explain why they feel that way.

8 Why does the narrator think he has benefited from his gap year Find three different reasons.

Documents 1 and 2

9 Do document 1 and document 2 give the same image of gap years (40-50 words)

Seul(e)s les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA traiteront la question 10.

10 “I still didn’t really know what travelers were supposed to do all day, but that didn’t seem to matter. I was a traveler” (document 2, l. 23-24).

Contrast the narrator’s view on travelling with that of the two young men.


 Les candidat(e)s des séries ES et S et ceux de la série L qui ne composent pas au titre de la LVA traiteront au choix le sujet 1 ou le sujet 2. (250 mots, +/– 10 %)

1 The New York Times readers react to Susan Greenberg’s article (document 1). Write two comments expressing different opinions that will be posted under her article on the New York Times website.

2 “Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced” (John Keats). Is travelling the only way to learn about oneself

 Les candidat(e)s de la série L composant au titre de la LVA traiteront obligatoirement le sujet 3. (300 mots, +/– 10 %)

3 St Augustine once said: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Do you agree Do you disagree To what extent

Les clés du sujet

Document 1


Journaliste ayant travaillé pour le magazine Newsweek, Susan H. Greenberg est aussi écrivaine et enseignante. Mère de trois enfants, elle accorde une attention particulière à sa relation avec eux.

Pour en savoir plus :

Résumé du texte

Dans cet article, l’auteure raconte son expérience de mère dont la fille décide de partir en année de césure, de son inquiétude de prime abord à la conclusion : finalement, cette décision s’est révélée très bénéfique pour sa fille.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

to float a plan (l. 1) : lancer un projet  to delay (l. 2) : retarder  a degree (l. 4) : un diplôme  eager to (l. 5-6) : enthousiaste  preternaturally (l. 7) : prodigieusement  overseas (l. 8) : à l’étranger  to freak out (l. 9) : « péter un câble »  to bond (l. 18) : tisser des liens affectifs  to broaden (l. 26) : élargir  extracurricular (l. 26-27) : parascolaire.

Document 2


William Sutcliffe est un romancier britannique dont les livres sont publiés dans une vingtaine de pays.

Pour en savoir plus :

Résumé du texte

Un jeune Anglais sur le chemin du retour de son année de césure en Inde repasse par Delhi, où il rencontre deux autres jeunes qui, eux, commencent leur périple.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

stuff (l. 4) : truc  to survey (l. 7) : inspecter  the mattress (l. 18) : le matelas  to avoid (l. 25) : éviter  to groan (l. 36) : grogner  to be talking nonsense (l. 39) : raconter n’importe quoi  daunting (l. 56) : intimidant  to get cripplingly ill (l. 57-58) : tomber extrêmement malade  robbery (l. 59) : vol  to hate somebody’s guts (l. 60) : ne pas pouvoir supporter qqn.

Les points de convergence

Les deux textes donnent un aperçu du stress et des questionnements soulevés par un projet d’année de césure. Mais le premier montre les choses d’un point de vue extérieur, en se positionnant avant et après, tandis que le second donne un ressenti vu de l’intérieur, uniquement à la fin du voyage, et se focalise sur le retour à la maison.

Le sujet d’expression 1

Une direction possible

Deux opinions différentes, cela signifie que l’une d’elles fera valoir les avantages d’une année de césure (prise d’autonomie, expérience enrichissante y compris pour un CV…), tandis que l’autre mettra en avant les risques et les inconvénients (reprise difficile des études, coût…).

Key ideas

Taking a gap year is a plus for your CV travel broadens the mind, helps you mature. I disagree with you on the benefits of taking a gap year it may jeopardize the course of your studies.

Le sujet d’expression 2

Une direction possible

La citation insiste sur la nécessité de voyager pour accéder à la réalité des choses, mais le sujet lui-même est centré sur la découverte de soi. Ces deux axes peuvent vous permettre de réfléchir sur les bénéfices des voyages, en vous centrant sur le deuxième aspect : découverte de ses ressources intérieures et de sa personnalité grâce à la confrontation à d’autres cultures. Mais peut-être y a-t-il d’autres moyens…

Key ideas

Open-mindedness is enhanced by the discovery of new cultures travel paves the way for self-discovery and self-improvement life provides other ways to learn about oneself, such as everyday ordeals that we must face.

Le sujet d’expression 3 (candidat.e.s LVA uniquement)

Une direction possible

Sans le voyage, on ne connaît qu’un aspect du monde. Voyager c’est découvrir d’autres façons de vivre, ce qui nous permet de relativiser. Rester toujours au même endroit n’ouvre pas l’esprit, sauf si l’on a l’occasion de rencontrer des personnes de divers horizons. On peut faire le lien entre la littérature et le voyage.

Key ideas

Travel broadens one’s horizons staying in the same place may make you narrow-minded, while discovering new horizons opens up your mind travelling, like reading, allows to experience new situations and meet new people reading different books gives us different narrative viewpoints just as travelling means we see how different people live their lives.



Document 1

1 b) A gap year is a year off, generally spent abroad after high school.

2 First, she fears her daughter might never go back to college and thus never get a degree. However, she knows that she needs a break, and is probably not mature enough to go to university yet. Second, she thinks her daughter might not be able to cope with a foreign culture, and living in a country where she doesn’t know anyone.

3 1. At first, she wasn’t worried, but she eventually got scared when she realised that she would be alone in an unknown country, not knowing anyone.

2. Yes: “I, of course, had been silently considering that possibility for months.” (l. 11-12)

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA

3. Instead of screaming and being judgmental, she merely reassured her.

4 1. She is really satisfied with it, as she thinks it’s “the smartest decision” she has ever made. To her, there are only good points about it.

2. She created strong links with her German family, she improved her German, she traveled a lot with new friends. She has become more adaptable to new circumstances. She is now really enthusiastic about going to university. She has become more curious and is now ready to start new subjects.

Document 2

5 He feels relieved and serene because he has survived the trip. He feels that he has done something incredible like an explorer! What’s more, he is focused on going back home.

6 He is in Delhi, sitting on his bed in a dorm, at Mrs Colaço’s guest-house, the same bed he slept on before embarking on his journey.

7 1. They are tourists – we might even say gappers just starting their gap year.

2. They are nervous and at a loss because they are experiencing something new and unexpected.

8 First, he feels successful, having the feeling that he “conquered” a territory. Second, he is satisfied and relieved because he has survived. Third, he feels older and wiser, so he has the impression he has grown up.

Documents 1 and 2

9 The first text gives an awesome image of a gap year, the only negative point being the worry it generates before, while the second text relates a much darker experience, even if it turns out OK in the end (because the main character has overcome the ordeals).

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA

10 The two young men are planning to be active, whereas the narrator has discovered that travelling doesn’t necessarily mean doing things.


1 Guidelines

Un peu de vocabulaire

gapper: personne faisant ou ayant fait une année de césure

I would like to react to Susan Greenberg’s article, sharing my experience with other readers. My daughter has also been a gapper, and I don’t personally recommend encouraging children to take a gap year. Indeed, she first applied to a volunteer program, which was cancelled at the last moment. As she didn’t have any other plans, she stayed at home for a while and found a job to earn enough money to travel by herself. When she eventually managed to leave, she got the travelling bug and never managed to go back to university. Now she’s without a degree, and I’m really worried about her future. So think twice before supporting your children to become gappers…

I couldn’t agree more with Mrs Greenberg. I took a gap year three years ago and it was an enriching experience. I spent one year in Colombia, I improved my Spanish – which I now speak fluently – and crossing cultures has really made me more open-minded about a lot of things. I volunteered in a charity that helps orphans, which has enabled me to meet a lot of different people and learn about myself. I had no difficulty in going to university after this, but it has definitely changed the way I see things!