Having recently began my final semester of uni, myself and a lot of my friends are wondering what the next step is. Despite some having future plans set in place, the majority of people I know don’t have concrete plans for next year and are really just waiting to see where the wind takes them. Of the people who aren’t planning on doing a postgrad degree or working, many are considering a gap year- something I am a big supporter of.
I took a gap year between finishing my A Levels and starting university. All truth be told, this wasn’t initially my first choice, but as it turned out (and this was for the best) my grades weren’t enough to get me into the uni of my choice, and it was settle for clearing, or take the year to try again. I chose the latter, and it definitely was the right decision for me.
My gap year gave me freedom that I had not experienced before. It was my first year that I hadn’t been in education from the age of 4, and at first, it was difficult to get used to. There was no set routine, and I didn’t have constant studying or reading to keep me busy. Learning to balance my day took time, but it was quickly learned.
I learned how to look after myself in a more mature way, as I no longer had the daily guidance of teachers. Similarly, I learned the value of things much more, as more often than not, I had to do it for myself, rather than have it handed to me. The independence this taught me was invaluable.
On my gap year, I went inter-railing around western Europe. This was the first holiday I had ever been on without a parent present, and although it seemed nerve wracking at first, to this day, it is the best thing I have ever experienced. Travelling to 8 cities and a variety of countries with my best friend was ambitious and at times, scary, but the trip of a lifetime. After travelling, I worked and saved, allowing myself to have further independence and also to indulge in things that once weren’t available to me. This also allowed me to insure that I would be able to go to the university of my choice without having to worry about how I was to afford it.
During this time, I studied and took my A Levels once again, this time getting the grades I needed to attend the University of Sheffield. Although this is what I had wanted, the thought of moving to university in a different country was terrifying, but I do believe that the skills and confidence I gained during my gap year, allowed me to do so.
While the situation would be different for anyone considering a gap year now, being that they will be a graduate, I believe that the general concept would be the same. It would most likely be the first year out of education for the majority, something which takes time to get used to. A gap year is perfect for growing into yourself without the guidance of tutors and teachers, to understand how to use the skills you’ve gained from the past few years and put them into practice as an adult.
Some think of gap years as being a waste of time, or of nothing valuable coming from them, but from my own experience, I would disagree. A gap year is time to hone your abilities and skills, figure out what you want to do, and also the time to be able to explore the world and go on trips you may have always wanted to do, without the responsibility of a job, or deadlines.
For anyone contemplating one, I say take the risk. You will not regret it!