Deciding to go on a gap year was not something I had ever planned or even considered. Like many in their last year at school. I had applied to university and got an unconditional offer to study history. I had never questioned if I wanted to go to university. I simply applied because I thought it’s what I was supposed to do as well as what my parents had wanted for me.
Time seemed to pass by quite quickly that summer and before I knew it I was about to head off. Unlike a lot of my peers who were also going to university, I started to get cold feet and reality started to set in. Did I really want to go to university? After having a complete meltdown, I made a very impulsive decision to defer my application the day I was meant to move away. I’ll be honest I only went on a gap year because I had no clue what to do and I couldn’t seem to make a decision. However, it was a great learning experience for me and am glad I made that decision.
While on my gap year I was very fortunate to be able to travel. In my opinion, this is probably one of the best experiences you can do during a gap year. Being able to meet new people and surround yourself in cultures different from your own can be an amazing experience. From visiting landmarks and markets to mingling with the locals in the nightlife – not forgetting the amazing food of course. Travelling allows you to be exposed to lifestyles and perspectives that you would never find back home. Not only did this help me broaden my mind and own perspective but also made me recognise many things within myself that I could be more open-minded to and to try new things.
Like many school leaver’s regardless of the route you take, you will most likely find yourself in new and unlikely situations. If 2020 has taught us something, it’s that anything can happen at any moment and you will need to adapt fast. While I was in Italy someone I was travelling with had their passport stolen. It happened the morning we were meant to leave, so we had to act fast and were able to get a passport from the embassy with 3 hours before our plane left. Though at the time It may seem like a curse, looking back it was a great learning experience and fun memory. Events like this push you to solve problems quickly and head-on without getting stressed. As well as building key skills that will be applicable throughout many situations.
Many people often find themselves spending a lot of time alone during a gap year. For me, it gave me a lot of time to think, not only about what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to go but to reflect on myself, my own experiences and the type of person I want to be. Now I know that might sound like a complete cliché but taking a moment to step back and actually think can really put many things into perspective. One thing I came to realise is that I am completely comfortable with being alone. To many this might sound daunting, however, it gave me a lot of independence to go out by myself and adapt to doing things alone without having help or support from others. Spending time alone also made me realised that a lot of the time when I was younger I would just follow what others did a lot of the time. I actually got a chance to make decisions for myself and finally grasp the type of life and career path I would like to lead.
Of all the benefits you can gain from a gap year one of the most important things you will realise is that you never stop learning. Whether it’s good or bad, you will come across new things that not only teaches you about life but helps you grow and learn more about yourself. Reflecting on my experience I’m extremely grateful for it, even if it wasn’t something I planned to do.