Taking a Gap Year to Get Ahead and Why You Should Take One

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After finishing high school, I felt the same way young people my age do: unsure about which direction to take my life and career. When Malia Obama announced that she was going to take a gap year before attending Harvard University, I knew I wanted to make the same decision but for different reasons.

My parents were obviously taken aback by my decision, particularly my father. As someone who has worked in the corporate world his whole life, he wanted me to follow the same path. He encouraged me (not pushed, kind of…) to pursue a career in the corporate world, thinking that it would give me more stability. However, I had a passion for creative things, specifically graphic design. Many other people my age are taking gap years in Australia, but I did not want to take the year off because others are doing it. I saw this as an opportunity to reflect on the important decisions I have to make that will impact my life and career moving forward.

My Gap Year: Switching Focus on Life, Not School

My primary motivation for taking the gap year was to be able to explore things that I wanted to do with my life. Since my childhood years, I’ve been attending school year in and year out. I am grateful for the opportunity provided by my parents to be able to go to a good school. However, I believe this pivotal point in my life is also a good time to learn about life and learn outside the confines of a classroom. I wanted to escape the vicious cycle and give myself the permission to do something that I enjoy and find rewarding.

I admit – it was scary. Not knowing fully what you want to do in your future is daunting, especially when others your age seem sure about which university they want to go and what courses they’re going to take.

My gap year taught me these important realisations:

  1. The gap year that I took further reinvigorated my desire for learning. Just because I am out of school does not mean that there is no room for learning. In fact, it opened my eyes to the possibility that I have more to learn about the world – and myself.
  2. It gave me clarity on what I wanted to study in UNI, especially as I didn’t feel rushed to make a decision on what course I wanted to take and to which campus I applied to.
  3. It gave me a sense of independence. My parents have been highly supportive of my studies and I greatly appreciate them for it. However, it was my future on the line so I wanted to make this a personal decision.
  4. I met new people. It was a great learning experience to hear about other people’s stories – people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met if I did not take the gap year off. I know how important people skills are if I am going to pursue my own career in the future.

During my gap year I had some opportunities with local real estate agencies who were looking for receptionists and I was looking at work experience or an internship with Midland Insurance which is an insurance brokerage company with a few offices across Australia. It didn’t excite the graphic artist in me but seems like a good long term career move.

I had two important takeaways from this gap year experience. The first one is that you should never be afraid to take the year off and reflect on what you really want to pursue in life. The second is that you should never be ashamed to pursue career moves that will give you stability for your future, either. Every situation is unique and each individual has different priorities in life. Don’t ever feel guilty for pursuing the choices that you make.

That is why it is important to take the year off. It is an opportunity to assess those priorities and your current situation. I’ve also come to acknowledge that my parents had my best interest in mind.

 

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