Hello, all. My sibling asked my for advice recently, and I'm making this post on his behalf.
Said sibling is currently currently has one more year to go at MIT before he gets his bachelors degree in Mathematics/CS. He is also enrolled in a 5-year masters program, so he will need one more year after that to finish a Masters, after which he anticipates getting a job somewhere the CS Industry / Finance / Academia. Anyway, he is interested in taking a gap year after finishing his Bachelors to pick up some novel experiences, and trying something different from what he has been doing already and plans to do after graduation.
Right now, he is in the brainstorming stage, and is looking for ideas. Note that he is not opposed to getting a job or something of the like - as long as its a different experience that what he would get working for a large software company, or a hedge fund, or something of the like. Financially, he does need to earn enough to live on (this isn't quite a vacation), but he isn't worried about money aside from that (so the "money" constraint only needs to be satisficed, not optimized.) With that said, what are some things that he might consider doing?
I taught SAT prep and English for a year at a Korean academy in Guatemala City. It was only Monday-Thursday, 3 hours a day (maybe 6 hours/day in the summer) so I got to spend most of my time running and exploring and volcano climbing. It was an amazing experience, and I'm super glad I did it! I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but especially if he knows Spanish, Guatemala is an amazing place to live. The pay was $1000/week + housing + flight. I still keep in touch with my boss and am always on the lookout for qualified candidates for her, so feel free to send me a PM if it's something he (or anyone else reading) might be interested in.
Korean academy in Guatemala
Korean academy in Guatemala
I notice that I am confused. What, exactly, is a Korean academy doing halfway around the world? Were you teaching people-who-speak-Korean English in a Spanish-speaking country?
Yeah, it sounds a little weird! But Koreans are the largest population of foreigners in Guatemala, mostly for the textile industry, I think. It seems like most Koreans want to attend college in the U.S., so there was a great market for an after-school academy targeted to their community. The students I taught were all at least trilingual, and teaching them SAT prep wasn't much different than I imagine it would be teaching a class in the US.
Should this be surprising? I briefly worked at a French school in Hungary: the guy who taught Spanish was Mexican, the girl who taught English was American, and so on. A Korean living in Guatemala still needs to learn English.
There's an employment section of Less Wrong Community How-Tos and Recommendations that includes ideas like doing a working holiday in Australia.
I'll give you one example, and maybe you'll be able to find something similar appropriate for him.
Social dance instructor. It's all sorts of good things that a tech degree is very far from, and would pay dividends for the rest of his life. It's social, it's expressive, it's physical. There's also the "cohort of youngins working for nothing" effect.
I would think this generalizes somewhat to various kinds of fitness instruction.
I've always thought that car salesman would make for very good experience. Negotiating and persuading are useful skills to have.
But that's the angle I'd suggest - find a "something different" job that leaves you with skills that will be personally useful long after the year is done.
Another angle to look at - doing a few different things for the year.
I would recommend spending that year outside of the United States.
AFAIK the satisfice for money, optimize for interestingness tends to be something more for already highly experienced people. For young people most jobs tend to be optimize for experience, satisfice for money and hardly any fun, or have a fun startup and optimize for fun, but not a living salary.
Modestly but regularly paying jobs with high fun level for beginners... perhaps he should avoid for-profit businesses for now, as they expect beginners to do sucky jobs in return for experience, and focus on academia, public sector or NGO's. Somewhere abroad perhaps. Teaching abroad perhaps? Some kind of an NGO sending CS/Math people to teach or tutor bright kids in third-world countries?
Let's focus on one criteria: if it is one year, it cannot be something that takes half a year to learn. He must work from what he already knows and that is probably academic stuff, not job experience, hence it should be probably teaching or academic research. Teaching is likelier and probably abroad as he can contribute more that way and find it more interesting.
Spend a lot of time around someone that he admires, who may not be in his field of study, and who may live in a different part of the world. Figure out how to observe them at work, or be their assistant, or something like that.
It may be more important to find the person or people to learn from than the specific activity.
My suggestion would be for your brother to pursue education in an area that is important, yet less familiar to him. Depending on what he chooses can help dictate the where he lives and how he could fund it.
Ex. I recently took 5 months in between jobs that were largely managerial and qualitative in nature to participate in a full-time code school program. Besides the practical use of learning to code, the greatest benefit to me was in the way it pushed me to be more structured with my thinking and explicit in my instructions to others. As your brother is a CS/Math major, I would think something along the lines of philosophy and history might be interesting topics to explore. Below are some examples.
What to study: History/Philosophy
Focus: Modern Philosophy and the making of the modern world
Where to live: Paris, London, Berlin - Bonus points if you live with a local host family
What to read: Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke et al.
What to do: Learn the basics of another language, travel, experience the culture, and connect it to your readings and apply your new found appreciation for history and philosophy to your work. It will help you frame your arguments.
How to fund: English and Math tutoring
What to study: History/Philosophy
Focus: Ancient Philosophy and Alternative Economics
Where to live: China
What to read: The 5 classics, the 4 books, History of China Podcast (its excellent), Poetry, Communist/Maoist lit. etc.
What to do: travel, learn about Chinese culture and basic Mandarin (Peking Uni in Beijing offers courses in culture and language at a fairly cheap rate)
How to fund: English and Math tutoring will work most anywhere, but China has more options for Americans in terms of paid gigs. He would be a hot commodity in China.
Bonus Points: Focus on physical fitness and developing a routine to manage physical health (prep for life at a desk)
Your sibling may or may not be interested in participating in Google Summer of Code, though the pay may be too little and I've heard (but not confirmed) that only around 10% of all applicants are taken.
Organise a rationalist compliment rap battles league.
It will challenge the community to become an assertive, positive community, promote individual gratitude and the positivity, and provide an outlet for creative and intellectual expression.
Plus, it'll look great on your resume and give you street cred.
Perhaps non rationalists from communities traditionally recruiting into battle rap, promoting positive communities and disseminating rationality :)
Practice daygame. You'll be like Uber. Everyone would love you, if they tried you or were you, but their current boyfriends/taxi's/analogous-incumbants have reference experiences, familiarity and economic rents/bribes/gifts on their side. Worst case scenario, you go back to your fallback girlfriend optons or the holy sacred gift of modernity that is HD pornography.