To gap yuh, or not to gap yuh?

It’s a pretty major decision. And seeing as it wasn’t really the thing to do when your parents finished school, their advice on the subject can be kind of, well, useless (sorry Mum and Dad). Good thing you have ENID to help you weigh up the pros and cons…

Taking a gap year gives you life experience, amazing memories and envy-inducing instagram posts, what’s not to love? But as enticing as a year working on your tan in the Mediterranean or partying in South America may sound, this is a big decision and I’m here to play devil’s advocate and make sure you’ve considered all your options. Here are a few reasons to skip the gap year that you may not have considered…

  • What if I told you that it’s possible to save money, travel AND study full-time? I know this because I’ve done it. Most Uni semesters are pretty short with a 3-month break over summer, giving you more than enough time to see the world, piece by piece. In my experience, saving money can actually be easier when you are studying. How, you ask? Studying gives you a strict routine which makes it easier to avoid the temptation to blow all your hard-earned cash on partying every weekend. You might also find that your parents are happier to help you out financially while you are studying, which means more of your pay-check can go straight towards that plane ticket, rather than paying for boring stuff like groceries and dentist appointments.
  • Study abroad? If you’re itching to travel, you might want to consider going on exchange instead. Most universities offer some kick-ass exchange programs allowing you to study for a semester overseas. This allows you to really immerse yourself in another culture and build lasting relationships, all the while ticking off credit points towards your degree – sounds pretty dreamy to me!
    ** Side note: Most exchange programs only require the overseas institution give you a pass/fail grade. What does that mean? It means you can spend your time on exchange “soaking up the culture” (a.k.a. partying) without leaving a nasty mark on your report card (provided you get above 50%, that is)…
  • It won’t give you all the answers. If you’re planning to go overseas to “find yourself”, let me introduce you to one of my favorite sayings: ‘wherever you go, there you are’. You can pack your bags and head to the other side of the galaxy, but there’s no getting away from you. Discovering your passion is a lifelong journey (you’re not going to work it out this year, or next year, no matter how much you travel) and, in my experience, clarity about what you want to do is often gained by experiencing what you don’t want to do. Don’t get me wrong, travelling overseas will teach you a lot about yourself and open your eyes to how the world works, but if you’re tossing up whether to study nursing or journalism, the answer isn’t going to magically reveal itself to you while you are getting drunk on Contiki tour. If you are considering taking a gap year to avoid wasting time and money studying something when you aren’t sure if it’s right for you; maybe consider a work experience placement over the summer or interning for six months and enrolling for university mid year.
  • You loose momentum. Year 12 is pretty damn grueling. Feeling exhausted by a full-on year of study might sound like a great reason to throw in the towel and head o/s, but a year of studying intensely has created some great habits and made your mind super spongy and ready to learn. There is a lot to be said for capitalizing on this momentum and staying disciplined. Once you get used to sleeping in all morning and partying all night, it can be really hard to put productive habits back into place.
  • You can gap year at any age. Taking a year off to travel once you finish your degree, or even halfway through (deferring is super easy, trust me, I’ve done it twice) might allow you to get even more out of your gap year experience. It gives you longer to save money and plan your trip and you can get great travel advice form all your well-travelled friends. Also, by the time you’ve finished your degree you will no doubt have made some great contacts which you can use to make the most out of your travel experience, for example by volunteering or interning overseas, so you can come back with more than just tacky souvenirs and a killer tan.

Like I said, I’m not poo-pooing gap years, a lot of people wouldn’t trade theirs for the world, and there’s definitely no right or wrong here. If you’ve considered all of the above, but still can’t wait to get on that plane, then there’s only one thing to do… get your hands on some travel books and get planning, there’s a big wide world out there.