My Gap Year Taught Me How To Be An Adult, And Yours Will Too
Your future self will thank you.
There is a point to having a gap year, no matter what your mum, brother, or (soon-to-be-ex) lover has to say. Rather, believe me when I tell you it’ll be the best thing you’ll ever do.
I was 17 years old when I made up my mind – I was going to move to South Africa to teach English for a year after finishing my HSC and before starting a degree that I hadn’t quite decided on yet. Why South Africa? I still don’t know.
All I know is that it was a mix between the babin’ South African swimmer in Muriel’s Wedding (who I found out was Australian — on the plane to South Africa), and the colours of Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap district. Both were why I found myself living in a tiny cottage in the middle of a sugarcane village a million miles away from everything I knew.
Before we go any further, let’s get one thing straight. A gap year is not a step backwards but a giant leap forward for you, your confidence, and your future self. Instead of being a tourist, it allows you to actually be a part of another culture. You’ll grow up faster than you thought possible and you’ll make memories that will last a lifetime.
So, let’s be real: What are the benefits of a gap year?
You deserve a break
Up until your gap year, you’ve been at school for 13 long years. Isn’t it time to experience something different? A new culture, new experiences, new people? What you learn while travelling is so completely different to anything you learn from books. It shapes you, it changes you, it energises you.
Your gap year may be the longest time you ever have away. This is the one time in your life where you can be selfish and do something truly for yourself. The hardest decision you’ll have to make is working out what you want to do and where you want to go.
The longer you put off travelling, the more you have to lose. You will never, ever meet someone who regrets packing everything up and seeing the world.
A gap year makes you grow up
Until this point, have you ever washed your own clothes, made your own meals, or worked out how to get from a bus/plane/ferry to anywhere other than school on your own? I’m guessing all signs are pointing to “hell no”.
The second you step into a new country, you step up because you have no choice. You have to make decisions for yourself, which may not be all great. Riding in a “taxi” that had a coat hanger as a wheel wasn’t my most worldly moment, but you know what? That’s what it’s all about!
You’ll learn to do things that you didn’t even think were possible, and you’ll meet and learn from the most interesting people of all different ages from places you didn’t even know existed. But the most important new person you’ll meet is you. It’s mushy, I know, but it’s the truth.
Not only will you return ready to conquer university or your dream job, but you’ll have lived an adventure that your friends and family could only imagine.
Your future self will thank you
You’ll be surprised by how determined and focused you will feel upon returning home. It’s been proven that gap kids are more likely to finish university on time and graduate with better grades.
Just think, you’ve taken a year off to jump out of planes, have your fortune read by witch doctors, help kids learn English, build houses, swim with sharks, dance at sunrise with the new love of your life – and you’re sitting next to a guy who seems amazed that jugs are just $7 at the uni bar. (Granted, that is also good.) You’ve got one guess as to who is going to do better in a stressful exam situation.
The benefits don’t just stop at university, either. I was told straight to my terrified face in a job interview that “everyone has a degree” and asked to prove what made me different. Guess what got me hired? Doing a gap year will make you stand out and proves to your potential employer that you have the initiative, drive, and determination to succeed, as well as those grown-up skills to look after yourself.
You can do anything
Literally anything! Teach, build houses, intern at a magazine, run games of bingo on a cruise ship, wait on rich princes on a yacht in Barbados, study French in France, learn to cook in Italy, volunteer at a game reserve, hike, teach a dance class, or just live – there is no such thing as a wrong gap year.
If you are even thinking about a gap year, just do it. It’s better to regret the things you did than the things you didn’t, right?