23 Feb 2016

Taking a Gap Year: Yay or Nay?

For some students, the progression from wrapping up SPM to diving into college life breezes in very naturally. For others, the transition is clouded by ambiguity. On thin ice, it begs the ultimate question, “Aside from enrolling into college, is there another alternative to spend my time after high school?”

Yes folks, this transition period does exist and it’s typically termed as a gap year! A gap year revolves around the notion that one lazes devotes a year away from academic learning in order to make room for more profound (a.k.a non-academic activities) pursuits.

While the trend of taking a gap year is rapidly catching on across Europe and United States, it’s nonetheless a relatively foreign scene in Malaysia. To put it simply, we Asians merely do not have a tradition of taking unstructured time off from school as it conjures up idleness, trouble and failure (#highexpectasians).

Plus, the portrait of you digressing from your parent’s meticulously cultivated “cradle-to-college” track will most likely leave their speechless jaws dropped. If you are in two minds about it, here are some of the reasons why you may want to consider a gap year.

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#1. You’re burnt out from schools

Yes, schools (all of em’) – nursery, kindergarten, primary school and all the way to high school. Unfortunately, energy drinks and all-nighter sessions do not magically disappear after your high school graduation – sorry, they are here to stay!

After close to 10 years of being confined in the normal drill (eat-sleep-study-repeat), we understand that you may feel like you’ve entirely exhausted the last bar of your energy, stamina or drive to plunge right into another year of school (#thestruggleisreal).

If your parents are as kiasu  Asian as ours, you’ve probably been urged encouraged to kick start your resume preparation as early as primary school; juggling academic with sport, extracurricular activities and basically anything that screams “LOOK AT ME” on a college application.

Taking a break from the academic grind may pave way for new and different but equally essential experiences, and chances are, you’ll be better prepared and more excited for whatever you return to after your year off.

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#2. Foster new life skills

Perhaps your high school was a rat race that anchored you down with tremendous pressure to look exceptional on paper. If you feel like you were striving too relentlessly to perform rather than to learn, a one-year hiatus between high school and college would just be right up your alley.

Have a hidden passion that requires practice? Stop neglecting it! Be it photography, organic farming or rock climbing, a gap year can help you pin down dormant interests. It’s also about time we rub off the tainted image of millennials as the silver spoon generation and pick up how to change a flat tyre, rewire a plug or even cook a three-course meal.

You can even look up evening classes teaching ICT courses, web design, art and drawing, music, to name just some of the myriad possibilities. If you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, consider securing a TEFL qualification and jet off across the globe.

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#3. You’ve never left home

Maybe your college of choice is around the corner from your crib, you’ve been cocooned in your flawless little world for your entire existence or you’ve never eloped left the country since…forever!

A gap year then rolls in as a terrific opportunity to quench your thirst for global adventures. Raising a toast to the explorer within you, there are gap year programmes everywhere (Nepal, Tanzania, Costa Rica or Nicaragua?), so take a risk and give it a go at exotic destinations.

With all that said, when else are you going to be 18 years old with no job, no mortgage payments, no clingy significant partner (yes, legit relationships approved by the law), no kids, no homework and no worries? Never. The answer is never (#nuffsaid).

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#4. You’re a mama’s boy / a daddy’s girl

You could sway either way but in any case, we’re not here to judge (#blamethemasiangenes).

For most of us, growing up in an Asian family instantaneously correlates with the “no-As-and-you-are-out-of-the-house” scene. Shielded under our parental wings for over a decade, we are nurtured into the expected college-bound kids that silently adhere to a straight and narrow path: a four-year degree programme after high school – the more prestigious the institution, the better.

Suspicious of leisure and unstructured learning, our parents (being Asian) inevitably hold concerns that we will drift into some version of a video-gamer or party-animal nightmare if we take a gap year.

Nonetheless, we also tend to miss out on a bigger picture here – the unspoken agenda of leaving home and being unsupervised – an episode that is bound to unfold anyway in college.

Thought twister: There WILL be plenty of binge drinking on campuses, after all. Nevertheless, by encouraging gap year perhaps fewer first-years would spend their first month in college in an alcoholic haze.

During your year off – whether you’re working in a foreign country or volunteering at a local organisation – you’ll finally learn what life is like out of your protective bubble. By facing – and hopefully conquering – stumbling blocks in new situations, you’ll blossom into a more independent and confident individual with whatever life throws your way.

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#5. Ponder over your existence

No, we are not trying to go all philosophical on you but sometimes, life just seems so… hectic and restless. Go to school, get into college, earn a degree, secure a job – ever felt like life is unfolding in a flash light?  Well it is and in college, things will only move faster.

Our point? It’s not a bad idea at all to take some time out if you’re feeling uncertain about your options. In the grand scheme of things, a year isn’t long at all. Give yourself room to think, breathe, reflect and see things in a different light. You’ll be stoked where your mind wanders when you give it free rein.

It might usher you down an entirely different career path you’d never contemplated before. Or you might bounce back from your gap year and choose the college or university you would have chosen anyway, but with a boost of confidence that you’ve taken time to think it through.

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#6. You deserve a celebratory “back-pat”!

People tend to take a gap year after 18 years of school, or another four years of university. Others take them after years of 9-to-6 work, day in and day out. But life is beyond books and taxes: if you take some time off, it will spawn greater productivity and creativity when you re-enter normality, all refreshed!

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With all that being said, is the notion of gap year truly a good idea to break up the mundane routine of “cradle-to-college-to-cubicle-to cemetery”? If you don’t have any gap-year plans that truly enthuse you, then you might want to postpone your break until you’ve had a year or two of college under your belt.

While some of us feel we most require a hiatus at the end of high school, others find that they get more bang for their buck only after they’ve had a taste of college life first. Either way, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back!

Excited about college but not quite ready to start yet? Here are more inspirations! Check out our 5 Things to Do during Your SPM Break!

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