Take the Gaps out of Your Gap Year with a Structured Program

Not keen to go straight from undergraduate to postgraduate studies? A growing number of students are instead opting to take a gap year so they can dip their toes in the working world, get their bearings, and develop a specialism. The University of Mannheim Business School’s Accounting & Taxation department offers its students a unique opportunity: a structured gap year program tailored to each individual student.

A gap year might sound at first blush like taking some time out and having a break. But it is actually pretty much the opposite: It is a chance to gain as much real-world work experience as possible between your undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Professor Christoph Spengel explains how the Accounting & Taxation department came to launch its own structured gap year program: “We noticed that many of our students want to take a gap year after their undergrad degree. That got me thinking that we have close links with all sorts of companies through our alumni and other contacts – so why not organize a gap year program ourselves?” The program was introduced just over four years ago and has come a long way since then. “We started out with 25 places and seven partner companies. We’re now partnered with over 20 companies and want to gradually expand the program to other Business School departments,” adds Stefanie Burgahn, who coordinates the program. This year, for instance, the Operations Management and Finance departments have come on board. Since places are limited, students have to apply before a deadline in their final undergraduate semester and submit their current grades and a personal statement. Burgahn’s team then chooses which applicants to accept and matches them with suitable companies. The big benefit for the students is that their gap year is completely filled – without any gaps. The successful applicants complete three 4-month internships. Alongside the internships, they participate in an academic program that is exclusively organized to help prepare them for their master’s further down the line. “It was so convenient – you get three internships and only have to submit one application. If you had to organize it all by yourself, it’d be impossible to coordinate the placements to fill a whole year from September to August, like they do on this program,” says Louisa Byczkowski, who started her gap year in September 2021 and is now completing her final internship at Deloitte in Munich. Looking back over the past twelve months, she has had nothing but positive experiences. At each company, she was able to join in with the work virtually from day one, meaning she always felt like a full member of the team. “I learned so much, made so many contacts, and gained insights into so many different areas. At both the previous placements, I was even asked at the end whether I wanted to keep working there, but I’m determined to do my master’s now, preferably at Mannheim,” laughs Byczkowski.  

Text: Jule Leger / October 2022

The deadline to apply for the next gap year program is 28 February 2023. Full details are available at www.bwl.uni-mannheim.de/en/gap-year/