Tash: 3 fears about taking a gap year (and why I took one anyway)

Natasha Morton headshot
Tash graduated from USQ with a Bachelor of Creative Arts with a major in journalism. She enjoys traveling and experiencing the world, as well as eating ice cream!

Year 12 had ended, and the excitement of finishing school was drifting away. I sat at home (doing nothing) during the December holidays, trying to get excited for the year ahead, when I would finally start my dream medical degree. For me, uni was a must. I had little decision in the matter as my parents were determined for me to attend. Luckily for them, I also wanted to study, but the reality was that Year 12 was a tough year for me and as it turned out, my OP wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. As a result, I lost my mojo and I wanted it back.

During the holiday period after school had finished, I started considering a gap year. Going straight back into study wasn’t the most appealing idea, but I was also worried about delaying my education. I wanted to get out and see the world, but more importantly, I wanted to know that once I started studying, I was doing the right degree for me. As you can see, I was in two minds, so weighing up the pros and cons of taking a gap year was the only thing left to do.

I had three main fears about taking a gap year, but in the end, I chose to plunge into my gap year with a newfound eagerness anyway. Once I actually started my degree, I realised that I hadn’t needed to worry so much.

These were my three biggest fears about taking a gap year, and how taking this time for myself before leaping into study turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

Gap year fear 1: I still wouldn’t be ready to study by the end of the year

Because the OP I received wasn’t what I was expecting, I already had six months of a bridging course to complete before I could start my medical degree. I was concerned that even though the desire to have a degree was there, the motivation I would need to complete my studies wouldn’t be.

During my gap year I spent time working as a medical assistant in Mozambique, Africa. This definitely enhanced my passion for the medical field, but also opened my eyes to some real world problems. I saw many people who needed the basic day-to-day essentials such as clean water, but the most impacting experiences I had were through conversations with people, learning about their stories and struggles.

When I finished school, all I wanted was a career that would change lives. In Africa, I realised that as a medical professional I could change a few lives, but making the world aware of these people and their struggles could help change many. It was at this point in my gap year that I realised I wanted to study media and journalism. Thankfully, when I returned home I still had a few months left to research further study options and figure out how to make my new goal a reality the following year.

Gap year fear 2: I would be too old by the time I finally finished uni

I hated that by starting uni a year later than my high school friends I would be left behind, and that they would graduate from their degrees before me. I was also worried that I would miss out on opportunities because of my age, both during my studies, but also after they were completed and I was looking for work as a new graduate.

Looking back on this fear now, I realise I needn’t have worried. You make new friends when you study at university, which means you aren’t as alone as you think you’ll be. USQ has many students who aren’t straight out of school, so it was fantastic to meet people of similar ages (and older) that had also taken time between finishing school and going to uni.

If you want to spend your gap year working, you now have the benefit of being available for shifts during the day, while your peers are most likely attending classes, which means you can get a head start on your career before you start studying. When you hit graduation time, employers look at your skills over your birth date, and aren’t allowed to discriminate by making hiring decisions based on your age. My gap year allowed me to gain life skills that enhanced my study and allowed me to be able to learn how to prioritise my work/study/socialising balance, and my maturity actually turned out to be an advantage to my studies once I started.

Gap year fear 3: I would like work more than study

Having the freedom of coming home from work, not worrying about assignments and having a regular income was quite appealing. I was worried that when it came time to start uni, I still wouldn’t be ready to start studying or to give up my gap year lifestyle, which I could only afford because I was working. Because my parents were strict on me going to university, my biggest concern was how disappointed they’d be if I did want to drop out of study and return to the workforce. In the end, even though my gap year lifestyle was fun, I found that toward the end of the year I was itching to get back to study and the wait had made me even more excited to start! As a student, I soon discovered that the flexibility of studying at USQ meant that I didn’t have to give up my pre-uni lifestyle altogether. I could still work, see my friends and, most importantly, sleep in on occasion.

My gap year proved to be 12 of the most impactful and important years of my life. I can’t put a price on how much I learnt about life and myself, and it really helped me to piece together the bigger picture I wanted for my career. Without this experience, I never would have considered my media degree, which I love and have passionately embraced!

While everyone’s experience and circumstances are different, if you are thinking of your post-Year 12 options and don’t think hitting the books is for you, or at least want some time to consider your options, I’d definitely suggest giving a gap year some thought. Despite my doubts, it proved to be just what I needed after Year 12, and I discovered the answers to my initial concerns along the way.

If you would like advice on taking a gap year or to find out more about your study options, you can get in contact with an SRO (Student Relationship Officer) or make a free appointment to see a career counsellor at any of USQ’s campuses, or online.


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