It’s not always youth hostels and backpacking…
When you first hear the words gap year, what images come into your mind? People riding on elephants in Thailand? Or working in an office somewhere 9-5 getting experience in before university begins? But what actually happens when you decide to take a gap year?
This happened to me in August 2015. For a few months before results day I had been hesitant about my University choices. They were all good Universities, but something was holding me back. When I opened that envelope and realised I hadn’t got the grades I needed I was sad, but actually a little bit relieved. But what would I do?
Making a decision
All around me friends were celebrating and posting on social media about where they were going in September and how excited they were. It was a difficult decision but eventually I decided to take a gap year. On mine, I decided to retake some exams and try again next year. But this time I would apply to Nottingham, a University I hadn’t considered the year before.
The decision to go to university should never be one taken lightly, or one made for the wrong reasons. Even more so, it’s important to emphasise that you need to be certain about the University you go to in the end. You will spend 3 or 4 years of your life there and you need to enjoy and be comfortable where you go.
Why do people take gap years?
Gap years tend to get a bit of bad press. They have airs of privilege around them. Bu this is a mistake- anyone can and should take a gap year if they want to. Maybe you take a gap year because you didn’t quite get the grades you needed? Maybe you need more time to decide where you want to go? Or maybe there are other experiences you wanted to have first such as learning to drive or getting your first job? Or maybe it was a desire to go exploring and see different parts of the world?
Whatever you decide to do on your gap year, it’s important not to waste it. Unplanned ones have a tendency to go a bit wayward, and people don’t know what to do with them, so it’s important to start creating a plan.
Fear of missing out
One of the key parts here is to find something that makes you enthusiastic and gets rid of FOMO when you see everyone’s exciting University pictures posted. New hobbies are always a good thing to begin, or maybe take up an old one. Many cities have dance or sports classes available to every sort of person at every sort of level. There is always the possibility of learning a new instrument or perhaps begin creating a blog documenting your year out. It is important to remember you are not the first person to take an unplanned gap year, nor will you be the last. What is important, is how you spend it. Basically, don’t wallow in self pity.
A key bonus of an unplanned gap year is the ability to get your finances in order. Tuition and maintenance loans can be a bit overwhelming at first glance, so using your gap year to earn a spare bit of cash could help to ease this worry. This works out well for some people who are unsure what they want to do and maybe try a hand in different fields such as bar work, retail, or catering.
Travelling during your gap year
If going travelling is what you want to do, there are many options where students can cut out the middle man and visit countries like New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Thailand, and so on. You can enrol onto a gap year scheme or go solo, but you’re sure to meet lots of interesting people- some who have had the same experience as you and others who could teach you a completely new outlook on life. Travelling on a gap year is a hugely popular option, and one that’s quite easily achievable.
Reapplying after a gap year
A gap year can be fun and exciting but it can’t last forever, and if you are still planning to go to University, you need to think about where you will go and what you will study. Maybe the gap year has changed your point of view and you want to study something different. However, if you want to go to the same place and study the same course then allow your gap year to give you more experience and confidence when starting university.
For your gap year, the best advice I can give you is don’t waste it. There will be few opportunities in your life where you can do whatever you want for a year, whether that’s travelling, working, retaking exams. Don’t let your gap year define your University experience, allow it to enrich it.
Lifestyle / Employment Writer.
Helen studies Ancient History at the University of Nottingham and writes a weekly article on balancing student and working life.