By Katie Lewis
In the eyes of our parents, a gap year can be seen as a waste of time and is nothing more than an attempt to postpone adulthood for as long as we can. And while the latter may be true, I’m going to argue that a gap year is most definitely not a waste of time- if you do it correctly. If you’re nearing the end of your degree and are feeling panicked about jumping straight from university into a graduate career, then a gap year can give you an extra year to prepare yourself.
Firstly, I’m going to dispel a myth- a gap year isn’t best spent lazing about on your sofa watching Jeremy Kyle whilst stuffing yourself with snacks. If you waste your year off doing something that attributes nothing to your life, like being lazy and unproductive, then you defeat the point of the concept. A gap year gives you an allotted amount of time to gain valuable life experience, or to find yourself, or to let your hair down before you enter ‘the real world’.
As a journalism student, I am constantly told by employers that they’re looking for someone with more experience and a hefty portfolio of work. As I’m a full-time student, I haven’t had the time to meet their criteria, and a gap year is an opportunity for me to improve my employability. So, if you feel like although you’ll have a degree, you won’t be 100% ready for a graduate job when you graduate, a gap year might be for you. You could spend your gap year interning, or on placements, whilst working a part-time job to support yourself. This way, you’ll have gained a year’s worth of relevant industry work experience and will in turn be more confident in future endeavours. Work experience is a great opportunity to begin networking and gaining references that you can use in the future. Also, who knows, they might offer you a job at the end of it.
Another reason you might want a gap year is because you’ve likely been in education for the last 17-18 years of your life, and you might be starting to lose steam. This is completely understandable, and in this case, you might want to spend your gap year travelling and really enjoying yourself. You could complete a volunteering project abroad, helping animals, children, or communities- whilst enjoying some time away from the UK. This way, you can soak up the sun as well experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. Once you finish your trip abroad, you will feel well-travelled, and will likely have a new found confidence ready to get a job. If you want to travel in your gap year, make sure you build up some funds first, because I don’t expect a fresh graduates bank balance to be healthy enough for world travelling.
If you’re lacking direction and are undecided about postgraduate options like whether to do a Masters, get a job or find work experience, then you can give yourself more thinking time during your year off. Once you get out of the university bubble, and people stop asking you what you’re going to do post-graduation, you’ll stop fretting over it, and the answer will likely become clearer. By experiencing life more- you’ll learn what you want to do with it. A gap year will leave you motivated and inspired, as you’ll have more confidence in who you are and where you want to be.