Why I Recommend a Gap Year, Every. Single. Time.

When you think of the phrase ‘Gap Year’, you’re probably going to imagine Hamish & Andy doing something ridiculous overseas, but on the off chance that you HAVEN’T been exposed to their comedic genius (seriously, I recommend watching that show – stat!) then a gap year to you is probably one of the options you have when facing that “life immediately after I graduate (from high school)” decision.

Even though I graduated from high school over two years ago myself, the topic of taking a gap year is still a subject that frequently crops up in conversation with my family and friends. I personally took a gap year after high school, and it was probably the best decision I made study wise because I changed my mind about 3 times during that year and changed my course preference at QUT last minute (whoops). So to make this all a little clearer, let’s back it up to late 2012…

I was on the home stretch of high school, and I was extremely mentally exhausted. My school-work-social life balance was still managing to work, but on the assignment side of things, I just couldn’t see the point anymore. In years 11 and 12 I did 5 OP subjects and 1 non-OP (which ended up being my favourite subject of the lot – go figure!), because my school basically rolls their eyes at smart people who DON’T want to complete OP subjects. Anyway, I’m not sure exactly how far into Year 12 I was when I decided that if I was actually going to go to uni there there was no way in HELL that I was doing it straight after graduating from school. The mere idea of jumping into another 3-4 years of study after just slugging my way through 12 was absolutely revolting to me. I had never even considered the idea of taking a gap year, because not only is being anti-university VERY frowned upon (or at least it was for my cohort) the idea taking of a gap year was like running around naked during a Sunday church service.

My parents hated the idea at first, and joined the masses in whinging at me about “never going back to uni after taking time off” and “bludging around for the rest of my life” just because I wanted a freaking break from studying! Thankfully, it didn’t take them long to realise just how set I was with the idea, and we compromised on a gap year as long as I applied for uni and deferred for the year.

So in short, having a gap year was the best decision I ever made. I wish I could brag about all the amazing adventures I had, and post a photo diary of all the fabulous Contiki tours and bar crawls that occurred, but my gap year was a little more working class. As in, I just worked, all year, and went nowhere.

OK, so that’s not EXACTLY true. I visited Cairns and hit up Brisbane for Soundwave 2013 (and saw Blink 182 live for the first time, and got my first tattoo, so that’s always a good story to tell) but I didn’t travel anywhere new, and that alone was my greatest regret of the year.

Thankfully it didn’t really bother me at the time. I was in my first proper relationship, so I stupidly stayed in Weipa all year, and I guess I enjoyed having minimal responsibilities and just being consumed by work and my boyfriend for 12 months. It was definitely hard when random adults would start asking me “what are you doing with yourself these days?” and “what happened to uni?” and “when are you going to start studying again?”. So even though I was free of the pressures dumped on me by the school staff, I was still getting harassed about my future in my spare time (note: not all of my teachers were like this – some were fabulous and encouraging but the majority of the faculty had the narrow-minded anti-gap view).

[As you can probably tell from this post, I’m not a fantastic story teller. I can write a novel (literally) but telling short stories in a somewhat fascinating manner has always been a struggle for me. But if you’re still reading this, I love you and please go easy on me!]

So from December 2012 – October 2013 I worked full time and lazed around the house in between. until I moved to Cairns for a few months before beginning uni at QUT in Brisbane the following February. I had spent the whole year set on doing my Bachelor of Creative Writing, so that I could get both educated in the journalism and creative side of things; but somewhere around November I had a complete freak out and realised that in my whole freaking gap year I hadn’t written a SINGLE THING. I had all these plans to complete my unfinished novels, and start a regular blog (lol to that one) and I had completely slacked off and started panicking about whether or not I even enjoyed writing anymore (I did) and if I was even any good at it (I think I’m OK, haha). Soooo, like all teenagers do, I changed my mind and did a completely 180 and swapped to a DOUBLE DEGREE of Business and Creative Industries (majoring in Fashion). Of course, I only completed one semester of that before I lost my marbles, moved back to Weipa and started my Early Childhood teaching degree. And now I still want to go back to do journalism and interior design. Go figure, huh?

So I may have gotten a LITTLE off topic there, but I hope you guys can dig to find the moral of that ridiculous life story. I just wanted to get my point across that changing your mind a few times in high school (and out of it) is OKAY! Not having a set plan by the time you graduate is actually really common these days, and if in doubt, pack a suitcase and start travelling the world.

Back when I made my decision I didn’t know a lot of other people who were also having a break, so I felt like a bit of an outsider when all of my friends would come home on uni break and rave about how fantastic things were in the big cities. Now, I know tonnes of people who took a gap year between school and uni, or started uni then took a gap year before resuming their studies again.

I think these days, there is so much pressure put on high school students to perform well and GET THOSE GOOD GRADES OR ELSE, when really at the end of the day, an OP score is just a number on a piece of paper and does not limit your potential in life whatsoever. I for one, am really proud of myself for sticking to my guns and doing things my way, at my own pace. Real life isn’t like school, there’s no set curriculum and nobody is going to critique you on how good you are at living, so if there’s one thing to take away from this very long post it’s this: make your education decisions based on how YOU want your life to be.

I guess there’s nothing else to add. OK, so maybe there is, but I think I’ve bored you all enough now. I hope this post was mildly helpful, and shows just how useful a gap year can be in terms of preparing yourself mentally for life after school.

I am posting this mid-assignment week, so all I can think about is all the glamorous things I’m going to do when the semester is out (read half a dozen books, go on a road trip, watch a Cowboys game, finish Season 5 of the Walking Dead, juuusssssttt to name a few)

So yeah, I hope every (in Australia) enjoyed their Easter holidays and don’t let school/uni/work get the better of you! When in doubt, take a deep breath and go eat some ice cream 🙂

Talk soon,

Vivienne

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