I have mentioned in several of my posts before that I’ve done a gap year. It was in between my undergrad degree and my master’s. It has been a year that definitely changed me as a person and changed my perspective on a lot of things in my life. I want to share my experience with you because I know a lot of people consider doing one but it can be a very scary step to take. Hopefully by sharing some advice, it will help some of you jump into the unknown like I did a year ago.
Half-way through the last year of my undergrad, as I was doing my exchange year here in Edinburgh, I was trying to figure what I wanted to do next. I knew I wanted to keep studying but I was unsure about what to do yet. I was getting advice from my parents, my friends and I was trying to listen to myself a little bit in between. Coming to the University of Edinburgh for my last year was a huge change from my university in France, especially in terms of how intense the study pace was.
Somewhere during Semester 1, I made up my mind. I needed a break and wanted a break. Studying was nice but I knew I had to see something else. I could never keep up this pace for another year (or two) and I needed to see something else, experience the world a little bit. I’ve been in some kind of school since I was 3 years old and I was now 21 (almost 22).
Deciding to do a gap year
Once the decision was made, two major issues arose: what to do and how to tell my parents.
Before even figuring out what I wanted to do, I told my mum and then my dad. They both came to visit me one after the other and I knew I had to have this conversation in person. To say that it didn’t go well is an understatement. They were both pretty against it. They had this idea in their head that once I was out of studying I would never go back. I am lucky enough to have the kind of relationship with my parents where I always stand my ground no matter what. I was also lucky that after a while my mum grew into the idea and was supportive of me. Unfortunately, my pursuing this gap year led to a major strain on my relationship with my father.
Getting your parents on board
So what should you do to get your parents on board?
Firstly, the most important in my opinion, this gap year is for you and about you experiencing the world. You have to be as financially independent as possible. I was not a 100% independent but I supported myself for most of it and it allowed me a lot of freedom that I think was absolutely necessary.
Secondly, stand your ground. If this is truly what you want, shut down the noise around you and listen to yourself. It’s going to be tough but this is fundamental. That’s what I did, despite the opposition of my father, I knew what was right for me and I don’t regret it one bit. I know it can be extremely difficult sometimes so I just hope you remember these words and that it is worth it in the end.
Thirdly, you have to plan. This will reassure your parents. Even for yourself, it’s absolutely necessary. I can’t even count the number of people I know who did a gap year and told me they would “figure it out” and were still sitting on their parents’ couch watching Netflix on Christmas. You have to know what you want to do, how to do it, and what’s feasible or not.
My own gap year
After all this advice, I will quickly share what I did during my own gap year. Although my gap year might not be for you, it might give you some ideas and prove to you it’s possible. Every gap year is unique and needs to resonate with who you are and what you want to experience.
I started by picking grapes in a French vineyard, still living at home, mainly to make some money for what was about to come. Manual labour is tough and teaches you a lot when you’re used to the comfort of uni life. Afterwards, I did what my gap year was all about in the first place, volunteering in a refugee camp in Thessaloniki, Greece. I was planning on doing this most of the year at first, but quickly realised I wouldn’t have the money to support myself for longer than two months.
Still, it is my favourite part of my gap year and I can only encourage you to consider volunteering as part of yours. Then, I went into studying a little bit as I passed my TEFL qualification to teach English in Rome. A great asset to have if you like travelling like me and how could I resist Rome. The end of my gap year was a bit less exciting but still amazing for me. I finally got my driving licence after years of failure! In the summer before coming to Edinburgh for my masters I went to England to teach English in a summer camp.
That was it for me and I hope this article can inspire you to look more into doing a gap year.