Gap Year students playing with kids in Madagascar.
This summer, Monika Lutz’s life took an unusual turn. Instead of heading off to college, the high school graduate packed her bags for a Bengali jungle. Lutz, like a growing number of other young Americans, is taking a year off. Gap years are quite common in Britain and Australia, but they are just beginning to catch on in the U.S. Lutz, who grew up in Boulder, Colo., has put together a 14-month schedule that includes helping deliver solar power to impoverished communities in India and interning for a fashion designer in Shanghai – experiences that are worlds away from the stuffy lecture halls and beer-stained frat houses that await many of her peers. “I could not be happier,” she says.