How to make the most of your gap year! – and engage in some self-care.

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Taking a gap year is not something a lot of us tend to do. Taking a year off is considered a waste of time by most of us. I considered it a waste of time! I’d see all these kids in my school, taking a gap year before entering university and I swore to myself – “I am NOT going to do this! You’d just sit home, lose focus, lose your friends and waste away your life.”

This is where I was wrong!

This little article is for those who have taken a year off or are planning to take one soon enough, be it after completing school, after college (like me) or those taking a break from work.

First of all, I hope you understand that there are many out there who DON’T have this option so I hope you acknowledge your privilege.

Secondly, I know you’re a bit lost. So was I. I was placed in a company and deciding not to join was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. Most of my friends were moving ahead with their lives, I knew they were going to get busy, start earning, make new friends and nothing will ever be the same. It was a little terrifying, to say the least.

But, I can safely say that I don’t regret it one bit. In fact, looking back on it – it changed my life, in the best way possible.

Another thing to ask yourself is – “What is the driving force here?”

In my case, there were three major driving forces :

  • I lost my brother early this year and in the wake of this loss, I realized just how shattered I was and that I needed to be with my family (the job demanded me to move away)
  • It’s not like I didn’t try. I did go for their internship and figured soon enough that this was not something I wanted to do. A consultancy desk job with absolutely no creativity or learning involved (no offense to anyone) was not what I saw myself doing.
  • I did have a vague idea as to what I actually wanted to do. Again, I was not completely sure but I knew that it would get clearer with time.

So self-analyze why you want to take a gap year and set a goal for yourself. Make a list of things you would want to achieve at the end of the year. There is no need for it to be a highly vivid plan because plans can and will keep changing, you don’t know what life will throw at you. But try to visualize a “work in progress” , a general direction is key.

This is exactly what I’m trying to do. I’ve come to realize that the amount of personal growth that I’ve experienced in the last six months has been tremendous and I’m just halfway through my year.

Hence, I’m excited to share some ways that helped me make the most of my gap year and will hopefully be of help to you :

  1. Get work experience that is relevant to your career ambitions :
    I am not asking you to get a full-time job because that’s probably why you want to take a year off in the first place but use this year to explore different avenues and domains of your interest. If you are looking for a career change, try various internships in the field you’re interested in, this gives you experience and will help bulk up your CV. This could also help you with college applications and increase your job prospects in your field of interest because employers, recruiters, and post-secondary admissions staff are beginning to recognize the value of taking a gap year. Volunteering can give you a similar exposure without feeling that weight on your shoulders since it’s something that you voluntarily want to do and hence it gives you a purpose and boosts happiness!

  2. Go for an Exchange Program :
    Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. If you love to travel and explore new places, this is the way to go and what’s more? You get to add some extra credits to your resume in terms of a certificate or experience letter! Travelling can usually be expensive and going for a cultural exchange program is the best way to travel on a budget and have just as much fun! I’m going for one next month! Travelling with a purpose is what everyone is striving to do these days.

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  3. Enroll yourself for an online/offline course :
    This is something you can do if you like learning new things and are interested to learn more about a particular field. This courses will also give you an idea of the subjects you wish to pursue in college and if it’s of actual interest to you. You can find some amazing online courses on Coursera, Udemy, MyCaptain or Futurelearn.

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  4. Spend some time with your family :
    This year has been transformational for me in many ways but one major aspect of that has been how close I’ve gotten to my family. Maybe it’s because of what we’ve endured together but also the fact that I decided to stay. When I was given a choice – to leave the house and live independently, it was quite tempting but I knew that I was going to stay and that made me realize something I had taken for granted for a very long time – “Your family will always be there for you, no matter what.”
    So, hang out with your folks while you can, even though you cannot wait to get to college or live alone. You have the rest of your life to do that.

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  5. Learn a new instrument :
    Or a language or a sport. Try to learn something new this year because :

    • You have the time.
    • These skills add to your overall personality and growth.
    • You get to brag about it and more importantly, it makes you more valuable during interviews.

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  6. Try to be creative :
    You could do something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time while you have the time on your hands. Like I’ve started this blog because I’ve always been passionate about writing even though I was never very good at it. I didn’t care though and here I am, doing something I’ve never done before, challenging myself, growing in the process and enjoying the ride. I chose to write about mental health because it is something that I struggle with. So start that YouTube channel or that art/photography account you’ve been putting off.

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  7. Think what you want to do with your life and what you want to get out of college :
    Now, this one’s a tedious job. Looking for colleges and courses you wish to pursue can get a bit annoying. You could be looking within your country or abroad but it’s important to do proper research and apply for those programs in time. Find out what exams you need to sit for in order to get into the college of your choice because it is a long haul. I’m also in the midst of my “research” so wish me luck!

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While volunteer and work experiences will help students and job applicants get through the application process, employers and admissions staff often expect those who have taken a gap year to demonstrate superior self-awareness and adaptability when they sit down for an interview.

Try to build that into yourself during this year. Try not to waste too much time because this one year can change your life. It is also important to not fall into this pit called “Social Comparison”, your friends might have it all figured out you think but trust me, none of us have a clue what we’re doing.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL WELL-BEING.

Did I miss anything? Comment what else we can do during our gap year in order to make the most of it!