During my final year of high school, I came to terms with the terrifying realization of not knowing what I wanted to do at the end of the year. All my classmates knew where they were going and what they were doing, but I still wasn’t sure. I took my exams and graduated. Summer arrived and I still hadn’t answered the big question: what was I going to do this year?
I decided to take a gap year, an unconventional route according to many. My decision to take a year off was met with some negative responses from others. People thought I would just sit around all day and not utilize my time effectively. However, by mid-summer, I had chalked out what all I hoped to do, keeping it simple and achievable. Now that I was less occupied with school and exams, I carefully looked into fields and majors that I could pursue. Even if it wasn’t concrete, I didn’t like the idea of entering college completely undecided. I just needed to find a major that had scope and that I would find interesting. I then got my college applications, essays and SATs out of the way as soon as I possibly could.
After I finished the slight hassle of finding a major and applying to universities, the next thing to do was to get a job. I had worked short stints before, but my experience in a professional setting was limited. I prepared my resume, attended job interviews and hoped for the best. Eventually, I got a job to work with an events company for six months. I took on different roles, such as sales, guest management and administrative duties, depending on the event. Working at events was more intense than I expected. It involved enduring long hours, maintaining an upbeat attitude with visitors and vendors, being at the organizer’s disposal and staying alert at all times. During my work experience, I learnt how to be accountable immediately. It didn’t matter that I was only 19 or just working temporarily, I had responsibilities and I had to fulfill them.
The final and most anticipated thing on my list was to travel. I have always loved traveling and languages so I couldn’t wait to go abroad. I planned my itinerary for months before I left. It was impossible to choose just two cities, but I ultimately settled on Madrid and Paris to study Spanish and French, respectively. A young girl going alone to Europe for two months isn’t something that happens often in my community.
When I arrived there, I didn't know anyone and had little knowledge of the languages. The initial week was difficult, but I eventually made friends, improved my language skills in Spanish and French considerably and started to love being on my own. Traveling alone definitely changed me. I became more social and open, stepping way out of my comfort zone the entire trip. I met so many new people, who shared with me their own stories and adventures. I ventured out and got accustomed to local traditions, cuisines and quirks. When I had to leave Europe, I left with a heavy heart and an extremely strong desire to return, perhaps during semesters abroad.
I think your year off is essentially what you make it. You can spend it sleeping and watching TV or you can actually do something worthwhile. As mine draws to a close, I feel somewhat bittersweet. I really enjoyed my time alone; it allowed me to grow, work, learn, read and travel. I know I matured and gained invaluable experience and knowledge during this year. I don’t regret this year at all, simply because of all the chances I took and what all I accomplished by the end of it. Although I’m sad that I won’t have all this time to myself again for a while, I am so, so excited for the next chapter of my life. I can’t wait to go to New York City and discover all the corners of the different boroughs. I know that just like my gap year, I’m going to make my time at university really matter.
Lead Image Credit: Anoushka Bhat