Should I Take A Gap Year?

5th January 2024 Ellen Conning Study, Travel

Ah, the infamous gap year – a fork in the road of your life’s journey. We get it; there are countless reasons why students consider taking a gap year, from economic pressures to that irresistible urge to explore the world. Maybe your buddies are all in for it too, or perhaps you’ve got a lifelong dream to chase. It’s a big decision, and we’re here to help you weigh the pros and cons.

What Is A Gap Year?

First things first, what exactly is this mystical creature called a “gap year”? Well, it’s like a timeout from the usual grind, a breather for your brain, and a chance to spread your wings. People do all sorts of things during a gap year – some go backpacking in far-flung lands, others intern abroad, and a few superheroes even dedicate their time to volunteering to help make the world a better place. It’s your personal smorgasbord of experiences, tailored to your interests and aspirations. Fancy a year of exploring the Amazon rainforest? Or how about soaking up the culture in Japan? The choice is yours, my friend.

When Should I Take A Gap Year?

Most people know about gap years as something to take before or after university, as a breather between what was before and what is to follow. And truthfully, that is the norm. Most of the estimated 200,000 to 250,000 people who take one tend to fall into this area, with a study from TeachingAbroad showing that, every year, an average of 29,920 students defer that first year of university for a gap year. That’s quite a number, and it makes sense as to why – there are fewer responsibilities at hand after finishing your studies, and with a place at university secured, it makes a great time to go off and explore the world. Especially if you’ve had to go through clearing, or were offered a spot off the bat. It makes sense to want a break.

Now, here’s a twist in the tale – can you take a gap year while you’re already knee-deep in the university pond? Well, yes and no. Pros? It’s a brilliant opportunity to dive deeper into self-discovery, snatch up that once-in-a-lifetime offer, and broaden your horizons before returning to the academic grind. On the flip side, it can feel a bit like you’ve taken a detour while everyone else zooms down the highway. The coursework may become a distant memory, and the feeling of isolation might creep in when you finally saunter back to campus. But hey, there’s a middle path too! Use those summer holidays wisely – travel, volunteer, or work abroad. It’s like a crash course in time management and adulting, and it looks impressive on your CV. Plus, there’s the Turing Scheme, a golden ticket for university students to bag internships abroad between 4 and 12 months. Explore the world, learn some life skills, and then get back to the student hustle!

What Are The Benefits Of Gap Years?

Now, let’s talk about the bright side of taking a gap year – It’s a whirlwind of experiences that can set you up for success and leave you with memories to cherish. Don’t just think of it as a gap; think of it as a bridge to a brighter you. Here are some more benefits to consider:

  • Learning a New Craft:

Taking a gap year can provide the perfect opportunity to dive into learning a skill or craft you’ve always been curious about. Whether it’s painting, coding, or baking sourdough bread, exploring a new hobby can be immensely satisfying and broaden your horizons.

  • Saving Money for Uni:

A gap year can be a strategic move to squirrel away some funds for your upcoming university journey. Working during this time can help you build a financial cushion, making your academic experience less financially stressful.

  • Improving Language Skills:

Immersing yourself in a new culture during your gap year can be an excellent language-learning opportunity. Living in a place where the language is spoken daily can significantly enhance your proficiency and confidence in that language.

  • Increasing Confidence and Independence:

Stepping out of your comfort zone and navigating a new environment during your gap year can boost your confidence and independence. Meeting new people, facing challenges, and making decisions on your own can be empowering.

  • Raising Cultural Awareness:

Experiencing diverse cultures firsthand during your gap year can significantly broaden your cultural awareness. It allows you to appreciate different perspectives, traditions, and ways of life, fostering a more global mindset.

A lady standing outside a bus, about to travel around on her gap year

  • Helping Others in Need:

Volunteering or contributing to social causes during your gap year allows you to make a positive impact on communities in need. It’s a chance to give back, learn about societal issues, and develop empathy and compassion.

  • Gives Time for Personal Reflection:

A gap year offers a rare moment of pause, allowing you to reflect on your life, aspirations, and goals. It’s an opportunity to gain clarity on what you truly want from life and how you can align your future decisions accordingly.

Can Gap Years Be Bad For Me?

But wait, not every path leads to a pot of gold, right? Gap years, while often life-changing, can be a double-edged sword. They can be a tad expensive, potentially disrupt your academic momentum, and if you don’t plan wisely, they might just fizzle out into a year of aspirations and inaction.

Here are some of the potential downsides to consider:

  • It Can Be Expensive:

Gap years can indeed be a financial commitment. Travel, accommodation, and other expenses can add up quickly. It’s important to budget wisely and explore cost-effective options to make the most of your gap year without breaking the bank.

  • May Make You Lose Momentum:

Stepping away from the structured academic environment can sometimes make it challenging to get back into the swing of studying. Getting back into the rhythm of classes and assignments can require some adjustment and perseverance.

  • A Solid Plan Is needed:

Without a clear plan or goals for your gap year, it’s easy to lose track and not make the most of this time. Having a structured itinerary or a list of objectives can help ensure that your gap year is meaningful and productive.

  • Bad Structure Leading to Questionable Results:

A gap year without a clear structure can lead to aimlessness or lack of direction. It’s important to set achievable goals and have a sense of purpose for each phase of your gap year to ensure you come out of it with valuable experiences and insights.

Structure is key here; without it, you might find yourself wandering aimlessly. So, while gap years can be incredibly rewarding, they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution. Think about your goals, your budget, and your game plan before you dive in.

In the grand scheme of things, a gap year is like that unexpected plot twist in a book – it might throw you off balance, but it adds depth and flavour to your story. We’ve explored the pros and cons, the adventures that await, and the pitfalls to avoid. Now, the choice is yours. Whether you decide to backpack through Southeast Asia, intern in London, or keep studying, staying in your amazing student accommodation, remember that your journey is uniquely yours. No matter what you decide, it is going to be an unforgettable chapter in your life’s epic tale!

Ellen Conning

Ellen Conning

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