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how to take a productive gap year / gap life

this time every year, students fresh out of sixth form begin an ever-growing mass migration to their respective universities with only a handful putting it off – whether to mull over their options or to travel on parent-subsidized excursions to the other side of the world to pose with elephants for their social media (you know the ones)… anyway, i am one of the former. in fact, this september marks the beginning of my second ‘gap year’ and a turning point that i might quit calling it a ‘gap year’ for fear that my whole life might just end up written off as one big ‘gap year’.

to elaborate, i have not found a degree course that i feel i can personally justify spending the time (and the money) on just yet. for many i think university is just a very expensive way of extending childhood, only to come out with a degree but career-wise be in the same position as they were after leaving school. enter my own newly-coined concept of a ‘productive gap year’ that either eventually leads to your dream job or to university, having found your calling. i appreciate that if you’re looking to become a medic or an engineer the whole skipping uni thing might be a tad impractical, nay, impossible – but those seeking work in the creative industries? i can’t see why i cannot get to where i’d like (a job in journalism, please!) through sheer graft and experience within the field through contributing to different publications and doing internships or apprenticeships. heck, i’m on my way!

when taking a year (or two or three or-) out, it’s easy to feel left behind and blindly launch into any degree that you find vaguely interesting come the following intake year – i know this from experience as i almost ended up studying a liberal arts degree in amsterdam after the first bout of freshers photos started clogging up my facebook feed. it wasn’t until i visited my friends that i was reminded how deceptive social media can be. most of them weren’t enjoying their courses (admitting they hadn’t really looked into the modules before starting), a few had dropped out entirely and all of them were as poverty-stricken as they were malnourished.

of course i envy the lifestyle to an extent. all the more when i was working 40 hour weeks in a now defunct outdoor sports retailer, fitting walking boots and fighting off shoplifters – but then again i do think that if i were to study again, i would value it so much more than had i gone straight after a-levels. having the time out of conventional education has also helped me gain in confidence, become more driven – i feel as though i have much more to prove in explaining the whole no uni thing – and rule out retail as a potential career path.

essentially, do not go to university for the sake of it, simply to ‘go through the motions’ or god forbid because your parents tell you to. but if you do plump for the path less trodden, be prepared to be proactive. network to find people that are already where you want to be job-wise and then hound them (nicely) for opportunities to further your experience. to begin with, you will have to lend your services for free (or in exchange for press passes to gigs and music festivals like me) whilst working a more mundane job to save money and pay the bills. you’ll be learning and earning and all the while becoming more credible as a potential competitor to graduates. and if people declare that you simply must go to university even if only for the ‘experience’ – nothing is stopping you doing a tour of the country to see your pals, sampling the delights(!) of freshers, living in halls and having your food stolen.

Words by Matilda Bywater

Words by HQ

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