I recently wrote about my decision to take a gap year. As I detailed, the reasons were varied but all concluded that this was the best choice for me. However, the question of why was much easier to answer than that of what - what should I do? My parents allowed me freedom to create my own plans, under the conditions that the way I spent my time would be useful and carefully considered. However, consideration, even if done carefully, is difficult. Previously, I mentioned that I googled "gap year", well these two words produced 259,000,000 results. So how do you narrow it down? To help answer this question I consulted yet more webpages offering advice as to the "best ways to spend a gap year". The offerings were predictable, a brief breakdown of which is as follows;
1. Travel - understandably this seems to be the most popular choice, be it the south of Asia, where apparently flight costs are balanced out by the cheap cost of living, Australia where the prospect of a working visa lures many looking to escape for a whole year, or even closer to home - inter-railing; the opportunity to "see the world" remains hugely popular.
2. Charity work - many "gappers", as they are affectionately referred to on the internet, spend time giving back, both in distant lands and on their own doorstep.
3. Work - earn money. Simples.
4. Learn a language/vital skill/boost the good ol' CV - there is just no escaping the future. Many sites recommend this year as the perfect opportunity to do something that will make you "stand out of the crowd" in today's ever competitive job market. Just what any teen hoping to escape education wants to hear.
Indeed, after consulting these many oracles of wisdom, my worries switched from not having enough to do, to missing out on all there was. Evidently, it is not humanely possible to squeeze in every single possible gap year experience, thus some eliminations must be made. Initially, this was quite easy; having visited India many times with family, I was not excited by the prospect of visiting it again, and most probably being forced to visit all distant family relations. However, other options appropriated more consideration; for a while I toyed with the idea of a ski season and the possibility of working as a chalet girl, another option I ended up ruling out. Indeed, the process of deliberation was long as frankly, quite irritating - why could I not just have an exciting itinerary handed to me? I didn't seem like asking for too much, but unfortunately as there was no answer my pleas, on I plodded.
In the end, however, it was luck that saved me. A girl in the year above me a school who had taken her own gap year happened to stop by and give an assembly detailing her exploits, and perhaps even more luckily, I happened to be listening. She had spent the year in Strasbourg, studying a language course affiliated with the university to learn French. This seemed the perfect combination of travel and learning I had been looking for - not would I get the chance to learn and improve my French in the perfect environment to do so, but also explore a beautiful country and continent - as Strasbourg provides a hub of travel. Thus, this became my plan of action and I fitted in my other ideas around it, which are as follows;
September - December: Working + UCAS and other fun university related issues
January - June: language course in Strasbourg
July - August: travel (where remains to be decided)
So whilst the plan may seem a little sparse at this current moment in time, having the bare skeleton has provided some reassurance that I at least know what I am doing. Still, the uncertainty is admittedly a little frightening, as is the prospect of moving to a foreign country, albeit only across the English Channel. Yet, there is something incredibly exciting about it all; the freedom of this time offers a blank canvas on which I can design my own year.