Author: Mariana Galva, a recent graduate from Coventry University
As we grow, we stop reaching out to our dreams. Particularly on how they make us feel. We are becoming overpowered by constant challenges and misleading situations. We are no longer children aspiring to be superheroes. We become adults searching for boundaries and answers to have the best future wrapped around our fingers. It’s easy to give excuses for why you didn’t apply for that job, or why the university is not the right answer.
That’s why we long for self-discovery. The answer to this is taking a gap year. When we hear the word gap year, we get a little cautious. Parents begin to question our choices, we begin to self-doubt, but this post is meant to influence you to make that trip you’ve longed for happening.
I particularly did not wish to go college (university) and wanted to jump into any job opportunity and save up to take a lifetime of a trip. Yet, I was persuaded by many people with different opinions, and it didn’t turn out bad.
Personally, I did a little of everything throughout the last four years of my degree, and it went well. I have no regrets, and I’m here to explain to you three options regarding the available choices. I will share opinions through my personal experience, from a perspective of someone who you have no personal connection with but are undergoing a similar stage of life.
Keep it simple! (Go directly to option C if you wish to hear the brutal honesty about life at this age).
Having a gap year before college means planning ahead of time!
Taking a gap year before college is not a daunting idea at all. It is actually very wealthy to do so. Some people need space. We are in fact only 18 at that stage in life, and it is difficult to leap into any sort of life choices. For the ones who wish to do this, please make sure you do have a plan. As easy as it sounds: to just do it. You don’t want to waste one year of your life doing nothing.
Therefore, grab a paper and pen and write down all the different possibilities of activities you could do during this year. What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy learning? Want to travel or volunteer in possibly a career path choice area? Make it easy for yourself, don’t just watch tv and roam about! Prove to yourself you're capable of adulting easily doing things you love to encourage yourself for future aspirations.
Gap year before college wouldn’t be the best choice unless you’ve planned a good useful year. For those who need help planning. Here’s some guidance. Think about what’s more important to you and the problems your facing. Communicate with yourself, teachers, friends and family. As boring as a SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis sounds, it’s very useful to produce one in times of questionable moments.
Understand what you truly need, if it’s just some time away from education, go and take a class in a hobby you enjoy, or pack your luggage and explore your dream country. This will help you find a subject to study or influence a career path! It also means it will become easier for you to grow a further passion for something that helps you build the next few years rather enjoyable than aggravating.
The Erasmus Scheme, a perfect alternative of a gap year!
It’s mainly recognised as the European student exchange program. A chance for students to study abroad as part of their university degree, for a semester or a year. It’s also becoming rather more popular outside the EU!
The Erasmus scheme (also known as a placement year) is a good choice to undertake if you're looking for both travel and study. It’s very much like a gap year during college if you know how to do a little of everything with amazing time management skills; this mainly involves you transferring to another university in a different country.
Whether it’s educational or in the working industry, it’s about gaining experience and flexibility. It opens opportunities and knowledge according to what you make out of it.
Remember, it won’t be free, you need to save money and have a clear mindset of what your goal is. It’s easy to get lost in the track of time. Make it a valuable year in studying a subject you may want to learn more about and if it’s a job your taking the opportunity in, let it be a sector you want to experience. Understand whether you’ll enjoy having a future working in that specific industry.
Rely on yourself only and make these choices for you. It can be bombarding if you aren’t wise about it. If this opportunity is given to you, do not hesitate to take it. It’s an experience which you make and build for yourself.
For example, I knew I did not want to take a gap year without any plans to focus on as a college student, so I searched ways into travelling, studying and still making it part of my course! That was a lucky find! I did an entire year abroad, travelling and studying different potential Master degrees for my future.
This is a very good opportunity for those who are determined to change, breaking bonds between natural everyday habits. Meet new people, study different subjects and explore a new culture, even a new language!
Degree in hands, but unsure what to do? Take a gap year after college!
Finally, this section is not specifically for anyone but for people between the ages of 18 - 23 inhabiting this planet! Take life easy, you are only young and age is just a number. For the lucky ones who have everything sorted and perfect, well done!
But no one is simply lucky. Every achievement comes a price and remember everyone moves at their own pace! Simply take a deep breath and recognise your long awarded achievements. If you suffered enough during the last few years working your butt off for a good grade. Congratulations you’ve mastered the skills to reach your next potential challenges.
Back to the serious topic now, (if you’ve skipped to C, return to read the other options, it was just a little reminder to take it slow) graduated and stressed? This is the perfect time for a gap year to release your inner stress from the overwhelming past few years. This is the year to achieve all the extra goals you realised you missed. If you didn’t get the chance to do what you wished or want to take on different challenges, the perfect time is now.
Many people have made choices according to everyday life circumstances. So don’t be worried about your own choices. There are two mindsets about this, go straight into graduation jobs or take an art class! It’s one way or another but don’t just sit and do nothing; nor sit and do everything.
It’s a break, and it’s time to think for yourself! Build confidence and boost your knowledge. Read more, go outside and play sports or join a theatre class. Do something that will enhance your own skills and put your mind at ease. It’s about taking life as you wish, not as you should. Make it a useful year.
It’s time to make your CV stand out. If you’re an artist, work on projects on the side and build your portfolio. If you’re a sports lover, join a local team and enhance further interests in particular roll, or maybe become a team coach in your free time. Make every day count and every activity you participate in helping reach your fullest potential.
A gap year after college can also mean focusing on job hunting, narrowing down opportunities and studying your interests. For those applying to graduation scheme or confused about what to do next, start from simple steps. If you don’t achieve the simple steps, you won’t get where you need to be. You need to treat job hunting like a job. Get up early and set up your desk for research. Self-focus and planning is the key to successful opportunities. The next few months are about settling down and researching on the career paths you want to take. If it’s to open a business, read about how business owners succeeded and begin your business planning. It’s about being efficient with your time.
Let's finalise this stage of our lives with an efficient productive four years. As for what I did, I worked a few jobs and continued to study at the same time to save up for different opportunities. I knew I needed an income for whatever was necessary.
I took an Erasmus year, which was full of travelling and a lot of laughs with successful achievements.
I am now currently on my second gap year enrolled in a program which is not based around my degree but definitely could be a path choice I take. Many thanks to EduPalChina, for supporting this wonderful opportunity. I am able to both enjoy my time abroad and still be learning/working. I’m learning a new language, Chinese Mandarin, develop my diverse cultural awareness, and polish my skills in teaching English.
My final tip, regardless of what choices you make and take, is to always have a little income for any possible opportunities that may arise any minute. Continue to research for varies of options, you never know what you’ll find. Take the final risk before you can say it was too late. Remember, it’s better to do something about it than regretting not executing it. Be patient. Nothing comes easy nowadays. Take a breath, and enjoy this moment which doesn’t stay forever. Listen to you and you only. Good luck to everyone’s gap year before or after college.
Photos by Mariana Galvao