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To gap year or not to gap year

By Alice 17 Dec 2019
People walk a busy street in a south-east Asian location.


If you had asked me at the end of Year 12 what it was I hoped to achieve from taking a gap year, I, like many students in my position would have shared with you my vision to take a break from study and gain a job in order to support myself at university. Little did I know I would gain so much more than money from that one single year out there in the ‘real world’!

As the Year 12 QTAC offers edge closer, I would like to share with you the top three life lessons I gained from taking a gap year!

1. Gaining a job often isn’t as easy as it sounds

It is so easy to want a job. At the beginning of my gap year, I did not have a job. Many kids at school had one, so I thought, ‘surely it can’t be that hard to land one myself’! I was an extremely studious student with the grades to match, participated in many extra-curricular activities and was a proud leader of my school… who wouldn’t want to hire me! At the beginning of my gap year, I was among many unemployed people. This was magnified by the 2013 Bundaberg flood, the largest in the town’s history since January 1890. One of the main shopping centres, Hinkler Central, was flooded, forcing many people into the job market around town.

I very quickly learnt how to improve my résumé to make myself look more appealing on paper and that it was very much a case of the old saying, ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’. Although all of my wonderful academic results and extra-curricular activities looked good on paper, it wasn’t until I put myself out there and started following up with employers (that’s right, lots of them don’t send out a rejection letter … they just keep you hanging) and being more proactive in my hunt for employment that I started to receive any response and land myself a job. 

2. Maintaining friendships becomes more difficult

Until you leave school, you are unaware of how fortunate you are to be able to see your closest friends every day of the school week! Life outside of school can become very lonely. Everyone begins to go their separate ways – working, travelling, moving out of home, going to university and just generally starting a life away from school.

There will be some friends who you lose touch with as the common thread that you had with them, school, is no longer a part of your lives. Your friendship group will get smaller, but the friendships that do last are extremely precious. You might only catch up once a year due to various commitments, but when you do, if it feels like your last catch up was only yesterday, you know you are a part of a true friendship.

3. A gap year gives you headspace

During Year 12, I was so caught up in all of my academic pursuits and extra-curricular activities within the school that when I left school, I felt extremely lost as to who I really was. My gap year provided me with the headspace I required in order to truly find out who I was, what my goals were and where I wanted to take my life.

It was no longer a case of the ‘oh yeah… that sounds pretty good … I could give that a go’ type of attitude, but rather ‘This is reality. What do I want to do with it and how can I make a difference?’ This realisation led me to make some life changing decisions, such as changing my degree, my university, my college… basically uprooting all of the plans I had thought I wanted, to suit what the more mature and developed, real-world-aware Alice wanted to do with herself. Obviously, not everyone can expect to go through such a large life epiphany in their gap year, but personally, it was the best decision I possibly could have made for that point in my life. 

Of course, everyone who takes a gap year will learn their own unique life lessons and the experience will be different for everyone. The point I am trying to make here is that if you are considering a gap year, it could very well be the best decision you ever make. Everyone needs and gets different things out of the year, but I believe it can truly change who we are as people and our outlooks on the rest of our lives.

If you’re planning a gap year of your own but know that USQ is the university for you, now’s the time to talk to a member of the USQ team about the option to defer your studies. That way you can enjoy your year of self-discovery knowing that you have a place at uni to come home to!

Author profile image of Alice.