Let’s talk about the infamous gap year.
I’m realising that college students are almost halfway through the school year which means the pressure is on. If you’re in your final year of college you’ve already started thinking about the options you have for next year. Scary stuff. Many of you will choose different paths and have strong reasons for doing so. Some of you are 100% certain of what you want to do. However, I know that there are some of you that are unsure. You may choose to go to university straight away because that just seems like the “normal” thing to do. You might settle on a programme that’s somewhat interesting or something that your parents want you to do. While there is no wrong or right answer to choosing your path, there is one that is best for you, which is why you need to know your options.
Everyone always talks about gap years, both in a positive and negative light. It may seem like a “waste of time” or you may feel like you’d be behind if you took one. I definitely felt the both before taking my gap year, but I learned that it wasn’t the case.
I originally never wanted to take a gap year, I’ve been confident in my decision to pursue social work since I was 12 years old. I was actually quite frustrated that I had to take a gap year, but due to finances and my family moving it was my only option. When you think of a gap year you think of travelling abroad and being adventurous before starting uni. Quite a few of my friends did this and had a blast doing it, so it can definitely be an option for you. My gap year was spent moving back home to California and working two jobs. It definitely wasn’t the picturesque gap year I had in mind. It was actually pretty tough in the beginning adjusting to the changes, but I can honestly say I don’t regret taking a gap year.
Although I already knew what course I wanted to take, I didn’t know WHERE I wanted to take it (California or New Zealand?). I was also curious to see if there were any career paths that I had never given a chance to look at, especially since I had only ever focused on social work. My gap year gave me time to think and research about what I really wanted to do with the next four years of my life. Four years is a long time, and decisions that have long term consequences (good or bad) need to be made with great thought.
I worked 50-60 hours a week for almost eight months during my gap year. It was exhausting, but I was able to buy my own car and save some money for school. I learned a lot about myself through working two jobs. I realised that I was capable of doing anything I set my mind to.
During my gap year I also had the chance to be back with family. I’m so grateful I had a year of surrounding myself with family and friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. Without school to worry about I had more free time to actually go out and have down time with the people I love.
I was also able to explore places I had never explored before. I lived in California for 14 years and there are still so many places I haven’t been too. And the same goes for New Zealand… Still haven’t gone to the South Island. You can live in a place all your life and never fully explore every nook and cranny. We’re always itching to travel abroad, which is awesome, but we forget that beauty and adventure is right outside our window.
My gap year gave me so much clarity, strength and independence. I felt so refreshed and renewed. Level 3 NCEA is a toughie. After 13 years of school straight, I needed that gap year. And you may realise you need it too. I’m not saying that everyone should take a gap year, but if it has come across your radar or you are not fully certain of what you want to do, a gap year might be a really great option to consider.
I am an advocate for tertiary education and I’m loving it (most of the time) so far. However, I’m also a supporter of the gap year. It isn’t a “waste of time” because whether you’re at school or working or going abroad, you are still experiencing life. Those experiences regardless if you’re aware, will mold you into an often better person. Despite not being at school, you will always be learning and growing.
The amount of knowledge and skills I’ve gained because of my gap year are irreplaceable. I would have never been able to gain them if it weren’t for the gap year. You have the opportunity, within the next few months, to shape your own future. Whether it be going straight to tertiary education, taking up work or going on a gap year, appreciate the limitless amount of options you have, but know you can have time to decide. Most of all remember to do what’s best for you.
Let me know if you have any questions on gap years and such. All the best with your decisions!