A Gap Year

Somehow this year has felt like an eternity but also flashed by in the blink of an eye. It’s been a time for contemplation and self-care, and has forced me to become independent. Here’s my reflection:

This year’s not been perfect, but I’ve made it mine. There’s been challenges as well as rewards, some lows but also some amazing highs.

I spent September and October wishing I was at university, ready to learn and watching my friends move onto the next chapter whilst I was stuck in limbo. At the time it felt like they were all drifting away, however in hindsight they just needed some space to grow. The process pushed me out of my comfort zone, cementing my most important relationships and making me more grateful for the joy they bring.

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I spent my autumn preparing for a Cambridge application half- heartedly and whilst the rejection was upsetting, it was more a goodbye to a person I wasn’t anymore and putting her to rest. I perhaps wasted quite a few (obviously not enough!) hours on admissions preparation, however the process forced me to seek out new academic interests and expand my knowledge.

I spent most of my year working in a bra shop, at times frustrated at the lack of academic stimulation. However, my time there has let me grow a thicker skin (thanks to some colourful customers), as well as genuinely helping women feel empowered in their own bodies. It’s made me very comfortable with tits and whilst I won’t miss working all those weekends or having no heating in the staff room during winter, I’ll really miss seeing the wonderful and compassionate women I worked with there, all of whom have a cracking sense of humour and such big personalities (big hugs gals).

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I spent quite a lot of time on an aeroplane, often up to Scotland, but also to Berlin, Crete and most importantly, Spain. I lived in the middle of nowhere for five weeks, working in an international school that was very different to any I’d been in. The first week was occupied thinking ‘what the hell have I done’, with no means of transport to get around and an intense neighbour. There were literal floods (only sometimes of my tears lol), broken water heaters and someone who snored so loudly I could hear him in my apartment.

However, I found ‘Extreme Makeover- Weightloss Edition’ on TV (I love u Chris), and also a bit of courage from human interaction. Everyone I met was really welcoming, and I was able to take advantage of living in such a beautiful place. Big thanks to my uncle and aunty for letting me live in their new home without them there.

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I spent the rest of my time in Spain travelling round, and once Seb went home after the first week, it took a while to adjust to being a solo again. When it wasn’t sunny or I was ill, I was very good at feeling self-pity, but I will always look back at the majority of that trip as such a rewarding experience. I got to geek out over art by myself with no time limit, eat what I wanted when I wanted (you might think living off tapas for a month is fun or you might never want to see a potato again) and meet new people from all over the world. Make the most of the opportunities that arise on these trips, as spontaneity is what makes it so fun. I don’t know how much my Spanish improved but that’s just another excuse to go back…

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I guess in summary this year has let me grow in many more ways than I would have imagined, encouraged me to have faith in myself and recognise I’m much more resilient than I thought. I know I can fend for myself, make friends in other languages and generally survive. I’d really recommend a gap year to all; it’s a chance to be selfish and spend some time maturing. Thanks to all the important people in my life who helped shape this year, especially Seb.

I can certainly say I’m now more than ready for university (apart from the reading I have to do first lol). So with all the anxiety and excitement, here’s to the next year.

My advice to people taking a gap year would be:

  • The whole year won’t be crazy fast pace; sometimes you just have to let parts go by slowly.
  • If you’re feeling isolated, look into sports clubs/social groups etc. I went to a Spanish speaking group which was terrifying but also rather amusing (mainly due to my abysmal Spanish).
  • The more pressure you put on yourself to ‘have a good time’ (e.g. when travelling), the worse it will be. Be nice to yourself and you’ll relax into it.
  • Plan lots of little trips even if you don’t want to do a big one (including in summer because it’s too long and you’ll have travel withdrawal symptoms).
  • You can definitely still travel and have fun if you go by yourself- you’ll always meet people (even if at first it feels like you won’t). Please don’t let this stop you doing something amazing.
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