There are many things that seem back-to-front about Australia when comparing the country to the rest of the world; our seasons are at opposite times, the toilet bowl flushes the other way, we call shrimp "prawns" and our school year is different, as in we go from February to December each year instead of the traditional September to May.
After finishing high school last December in Sydney and still being undecided as to whether I would attend school in the USA or stay home in Australia, I was faced with a decision: wait to see whether I got sufficient scholarships to one of the schools I applied to in the US, or just go to school at home. Ultimately I decided that after putting in so much hard work in the application process, I should wait to see how everything turned out. While this decision felt right, it meant I was faced with a gap-year (or gap nine-months) I had never meant to take.
Had someone suggested twelve months ago that I take a gap year, I would have shouted them down saying that gap years were for people who had no idea what to do their lives, and who were going nowhere. But a year later, I find myself looking back on a really enjoyable, albeit unintended gap year, that I am so thankful for.
At first I did what a lot of people do with their gap years – I decided to travel. So I took my savings and embarked on a whirlwind adventure across North and Central America, making time to stop in at the campuses of schools I had applied to, but also spending a lot of time eating, exploring and relaxing. I had an amazing six weeks and (I’m about to get cheesy) learned so much about myself and the world.
I’m not going to lie. Upon arriving back home to Sydney, I started to panic, and I don’t mean a mild “What will I do now?” but more of an “Oh My God, I have nothing to do with my time, I’m going to be so bored and become a complete dropkick who just wastes their life and nothing interesting ever happens to them!” (Did I mention I’m slightly prone to over-dramatics?). However, after thinking this for a few days, I remembered that no matter where I went, university was going to be ridiculously expensive, so I had better quit wasting time and find some work. I ended up with all manors of strange jobs, (not limited to, but including the pictured stint as a kids' party host) which not only were super enjoyable, but meant I was saving money AND filling in my time.
Most of my friends went straight from high school to University, meaning after the craziness of our HSC exams (an awful set of government administered tests that take place at the end of year 12, after two years of non-stop study) they didn’t really have time to stop, de-stress, relax and enjoy themselves without the pressure of school before they launched straight into four year university degrees. While this might really work for some people, it was after watching them that I realized how glad I was that that wasn’t me. In hindsight, there is no way I could have gone straight from high school to University, and done well in my first semester. It was somewhere around this epiphany that I started thinking that my “accidental gap-year” was turning out to be a good thing.
My “accidental gap-year” also gave me the ability to stay in touch with friends from high school, who had lost touch between themselves. However, since I had the flexibility of part-time jobs, and not a regimented class and study schedule to stick to, I could take some time to catch up with them, when they didn’t have classes or tutoring or anything. Had we both been at university, it would have been impossible to find a common time to meet up, and we wouldn’t have seen each other anywhere as much as we have. Now I’m heading overseas to New Jersey for four years. This extra time has been a blessing in disguise, a chance to spend quality time with my friends before I leave. The same could be said for my parents, now that I’m not constantly rushing off to ballet classes, orchestra rehearsals or holed up in my room studying, we’ve been able to spend much more time together.