I took a gap year – one year later and I still can’t believe that I can say that. As a highly academic person who was generally at the top of my class, I was always ‘expected’ to go straight to university. For a long time, that was my plan, because that’s what I was supposed to do, right?! When I decided to take a gap year, I was just as shocked as anyone else, especially because I didn’t take it for the ‘conventional’ reasons.
I didn’t want to discover myself in an exotic country or go backpacking across Australia by myself. I simply needed more time to decide which subject I wanted to study for the next 3/4/5/6 years! If I could do this, while also doing a load of other fun things, it was a clear win-win for me. Taking a gap year allowed me to do more work experience, visit universities on their open days, speak to more students and do more research.
This was me as soon as I decided to take a gap year:
So, what did I do?
Throughout my gap year, I managed to do almost everything imaginable. I traveled, did internships/work experience, applied to university, earned money, spent time with friends/family and developed my hobbies/passions. A year is a long time and it is definitely possible to fill that time with many many fun, but also useful, things. My main tip for doing as much as possible is to try to combine different areas wherever possible. For me this mean that most of my travels were linked with doing internships or interview abroad. I managed to visit Arizona while working in a local university lab and also visit Dublin while doing an exam there. Whenever I would have commitment in another country, I would stay for a few extra days or weeks and explore the surrounding cities. If you are applying to university during you gap year, remember that the only time you actually need to be home is during interview time (if you have them), so it’s definitely possible to write them while trekking through India or building houses in Costa Rica. However, there are things to consider: do you want to be travelling with your valuables? Are you able to manage your time well enough to finish your application on time? Are there any documents you need to reference when writing your statement? Do you need to meet with a referee? etc.
All it takes is a bit of planning and organisation.
Was I bored?
Obviously every year has it’s ups and downs, but to cut the story short – NO, I was not bored. Even though most of my friends were either already at university or off starting their degrees in different countries, I never felt completely alone. I found plenty of projects to take up my time with and met new people through going to work, internships, work experience and clubs/activities – I definitely didn’t just nap all the time.
Having friends scattered all over the country (and also abroad) meant that I could visit them and experience a taste of university life without all the added pressures of real work. I was able to visit so many new European countries just through visiting friends who studied in different cities. For example, I was able to go to: Edinburgh, Prague, Maastricht, Lausanne, Luxembourg and Barcelona. Of course, coming from an International School this might be more unique to me, but even if you are visiting new cities around the country, it’s always exciting to visit a new place.
Finally, would I recommend a gap year?
In short, YES – I would recommend a gap year to anyone who is considering it. Of course, there are people who know taking a year out would mean a year of watching Netflix and sleeping in until noon every day. Some people might also know that they wouldn’t want to go to university after taking time off.
However, for most people, a gap year is the perfect time to develop your interests, get involved in new activities, learn more about yourself as a person and experience ‘real life’ skills. I’m not going into university fully equipped with decent cooking, packing and budgeting skills.