As students, we dedicate so much of our time to school, majors, and futures. This makes so many of us concerned with taking time off of school. None of us want to mess up everything we have and are working for. But isn’t it only fair that we dedicate time to ourselves at some point? A gap year can have so many benefits. And you can take one at any time, it doesn’t always have to be before you start college.
College can obviously be a very important experience to find out the kind of person you want to be and what you want to do with your life. But it isn’t always possible for it to give you the real-world experiences of working full time or finding your place in the world.
Before I started going to school at UNH, I took a semester off. This meant that while everyone else my age started school in the Fall semester, I didn’t start here until the Spring semester. While taking a gap semester, I got to experience the life I will live one day, or at least one similar to it. It was extremely difficult to go from being surrounded by people my age who understood me, to working full time in a place with coworkers much older than me. But one thing I want to emphasize is that throughout the struggles, I never regretted it. I was able to learn more about myself, who I wanted to be, and the people around me. As an added bonus, I was able to save up money.
It got lonely though. I was usually the youngest one there, with many of my coworkers being anywhere from early 30s to late 50s, as I worked at an elementary school. At times I felt as if no one understood me. But these were the most crucial times, because I was able to gain a deeper understanding of myself. I had the time to reflect and understand who I was on my own.
Everyone always wants to say money isn’t everything, but it certainly can mean a lot when you’re able to pay off some of your college tuition by yourself, which I was lucky enough to be able to do after saving up so much money from working full time. This meant that I was working five days a week, eight hours a day though. This could get tiring at times, but it felt fulfilling to be a working part of the community and contributing to society. I was also able to find things I loved about my job, and things I hated about it. Both of which were extremely helpful in deciding my major and where I wanted my college experience to take me academically and professionally.
The biggest negative was the social aspect. Obviously, my friends were at their respective universities; they were meeting new people, going to parties, and creating memories while I was stuck at an elementary school. You can probably imagine whose conversations were more exciting. Despite the lack of thrilling social interaction, I was able to get myself out there professionally. I had extra padding for my resume and had also made good work connections. I got great advice from those above me, both career and life oriented, that I still keep in the back of my mind. I also gained support from people who have been down this path and are only a call away if I need more advice.
So, if you’re ever feeling burnt out, confused as to where you’re going in life, or just worried that you have wasted time and money going to college, consider taking some time off. College is not a race, and neither is life. It’s a journey, and sometimes you need to stop working so hard when you’re tired and don’t know where you’re going. Sometimes you just need to take a closer look at the map.