Mind the Gap: Gap Years Abroad As a Form of Socio-Structural Differentiation

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 13:42
Oral Presentation
Tim SAWERT, University of Potsdam, Germany
In the last decades, taking a gap year after completing secondary education has become increasingly popular in Germany, and everywhere in the Western world. Before starting to work or continuing to tertiary education, an increasing number of young people decide to take a year off for doing something which does not relate directly to their future careers. Beside activities in their home country, it is common to go abroad. The activities available are numerous: Spending a year as an au pair in Canada, doing work and travel in the Australian outback, volunteering at a rural school in Ecuador, doing an internship at a UK based company, taking a language course in France or backpacking in Southeast Asia are among the most popular activities. Even though these activities all take place abroad, there are considerable differences between them: While it is rather cheap to work as an au pair, traveling through Asia for a year requires the availability of considerable financial resources. Additionally, for some volunteering assignments or internships, there are competitive selection processes. As a consequence, the different transnational activities differ in their social selectivity. Based on the premises of Bourdieu's socio-cultural class theory, the research develops assumptions about the social selectivity of different transnational gap year activities and offers first empirical evidence on the processes of social differentiation and the making of symbolic boundaries through different transnational activities.