Should You Take A Gap Year?

A casual swim beneath a sun-kissed waterfall in Ko Phi Phi or the hung-over walk in light drizzle (not even an exciting tropical rain storm, mind) to a 9am lecture on Theory and Criticism? At times, the proposition of taking a gap year sounds like a no-brainer. The ‘adventure’ of waking yourself up with a grimy shower, trudging down the stairs to a kitchen which would be rejected by squatters, and then, mission of missions, getting to the lecture on time, seems mismatched when squared up to the adventure of exploring Thailand’s rainforests. But before you pack your bags, it is worth assessing the bigger picture.

Sure, the infamous ‘hung-over studying’ is likely to place a tick firmly in the ‘Take Gap Year’ column, but despite popular belief that isn’t all university has to offer, and even if it was, the idea of having epic nights out with cheap booze AND boosting your future career prospects is a pretty tidy notion! The range of extra-curricular activities offered by universities could rival those of a gap year, perhaps not in terms of weather and exoticism, but certainly in terms of scope. From tight-rope walking to windsurfing to filmmaking to DJing, there is no shortage of opportunities to discover something new. If a gap year is something you have set your mind on, why rush into it? Many students take part-time work during their studies, and jet off after completing their degree. It is something to work towards, the shining beacon lighting up the shadows of the library, and is one less thing to worry about when returning home. The reverse option also creates the possibility that, upon returning from a year of international hi-jinks, the thought of returning to studies holds no appeal, thereby damaging your long-term aspirations.

But let’s return to the ‘Take Gap Year’ column. You’ve attended open days. You’ve read cover to cover of endless prospectuses. You’ve trawled the web. Nothing inspires you. It’s a common feeling regarding a big question; ‘What do I want to become?’ Well, a year abroad could help you prepare for that decision. Removed from the constant reminders that university is around the corner and you’re yet to select a degree, discovering yourself, pardon the clich, may be a far easier task. Perhaps the wonderment of what the world has to offer would remind you why you selected Geography as a module at Sixth Form. Or, a rather romantic vision, writing poetry on the beach could rekindle your love of English. Seeing the world is something many people want to do, and many people regret not doing. A gap year is the ideal starting point for this dream. No commitments, no dependents. The final year of university may present you with a job offer too good to refuse, and travelling gets pushed further and further down your list of priorities.

The decision whether or not to take a gap year isn’t easy, but the fun of university and travelling will compensate that. Just consider your future and your priorities, and the answer will be waiting, be it in a pub with great mates in Southampton, or on a safari in South Africa.