Mind the gap: A Student’s Perspective
Whenever I talk to people about gap years, I always come across the same two responses. There are those who advocate and have ‘gapped’ and then there are those, non-gappers, who want to have a fear of the gap that stems from a career-driven lifestyle and a desire to stay on track with their life plans.
I fall into the first group. I am a gapper. I have taken more than my fair share of gap years, and you know what, I am in the middle of planning my next one. Straight out of high school I took my first gap year to work and travel around Asia. In the middle of my degree, I did an exchange semester around a European summer and winter. Now, I am planning my post-graduate gap year which will probably take me to Canada or South America but who knows? I will always advocate for someone to take the time to veer slightly of their set paths and explore the world.
Sadly, there is a stigma that surrounds gap years. Some see them as wasted time that could be better spent getting a degree, learning skills, interning or pursuing a career. Some see them as an outlet for those with minimal ambition or desire to follow a career path. And then there are those who see them as an adventure fraught with the danger of loss of focus or motivation. I could not more strongly disagree.
Never has any of my gap years been wasted time. Never have I had the desire to throw caution to the wind to abandon my career ambitions and live in the jungle with a remote community or take up windsurfing in Southern Portugal.
Never be afraid of a gap year because, without a doubt, gap time is prime time.
Gaps not only allow you to travel the world, work a little here and there, and take some much needed time off, but they teach you some of the most valuable life lessons.
Each time I step outside the classroom, I learn something new about myself and what I want out of life. From a passion for photography, modern art and landscape to self-confidence, self-worth and self-assurance, these are things I could never have learnt in a classroom.
Travelling in Asia taught me that I am independent enough to travel to unfamiliar cities by myself, navigate language barriers, foreign airports and passport regulations without the assistance of a parent or friend and that cultural diversity is one of the greatest things we can experience in the world.
Travelling in Europe taught me not only another language and how to drink 5 litres of beer in one day without passing out* (Thank you Germany, here’s looking at you, Oktoberfest) but confidence in myself professionally, personally and socially that was previously inhibited.
I have also learnt to appreciate some of the more simple moments in life such as how far kindness can take you or how we really shouldn’t stress the small things.
You really never know where your gap year can take you. Towards the end of my Europe trip, I was interning for a magazine in Paris in their events and media department when I scored a consecutive gig in Melbourne when I returned.
With the right attitude, I emerged from each gap experience with a stronger sense of self, direction and purpose. Each time I was more ambitious to achieve something greater, to push myself further and challenge myself in new ways.
When you take time off and allow yourself to do the things you have always wanted to do you can discover a new side to yourself you didn’t know existed. There are so many possibilities out there in the world, and we have so much time to develop careers, build houses, buy cars and so on, that there is absolutely no rush to jump in head first.
So, take that gap year/semester/summer you have always wanted. One day you will look back and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner, and why you were ever so worried, you would get lost along the way.
P.S. you can thank me later!