A Gap Year Doesn’t Necessarily Mean a “Slack” Year

How my year off prepared me for life at UVic.

After high school, I felt a pressing need to get out and learn about the world. Not from the pages of a textbook or behind the walls of a concrete building, but to experience it through my own eyes, with all the mixed thoughts and raw emotions that come with travelling solo and working abroad.

I deferred my UVic acceptance and moved to Australia a week after I graduated high school. I spent a year working at an outdoor education boarding school (located in the snowy mountains of Victoria). I worked hard during the term and then was able to have some fun times travelling during school holidays.

My year off school truly helped to prepare me for life at University. The skills and lessons I learned while abroad I apply daily as a UVic student.

Hiking with students from the Boarding School I worked at in the Victorian High Country.

My time in Australia wasn’t all sandy beaches, gum trees and Vegemite on toast.
I learned that the most incredible moments coincided with the decision to step outside my comfort zone. And step outside my comfort zone I did. From the moment I boarded my flight to the moment I landed, 14 months later, on Canadian ground. Every day was a rollercoaster of extreme highs and lows. I learned that fear is inevitable when you are doing something meaningful, and that courage arises from vulnerability.

Starting my first year of University has made me feel vulnerable, nervous and often a bit lost. I am sure this is shared with many other students, first year and upper years alike. But it is important to remind ourselves that those feelings are alright. Good for us even. So be afraid, be vulnerable and put yourself out there. Because uncomfortable as those emotions are, they mean you must be doing something of significance.

Students admiring the view while on a hike

Many kids at the boarding school I worked at had never been away from their parents before… some had hardly stepped off pavement before. To suddenly be plunged into an immersive outdoor education school in the middle of the Aussie bush is a substantial challenge for most students. As a young staff member, I found it extremely challenging as well.

I learned just as much about independence, self-sufficiency and bravery that year as the students did.

Hiking in Tasmania (Maria Island)

As I navigate the first months of University I am able to take what I have learned and apply it. I realize that an act of courage doesn’t necessarily have to be something out of a superhero movie. It can be something as simple as asking a question in class or going to introduce myself to my Prof.

Victoria High Country, Australia

Taking a gap year certainly isn’t for everyone, in many ways it can be a lot more challenging than heading directly to University. I do however, believe it is a beneficial precedent to University, as long as you use your time wisely. A gap year can be an incredible time of growth. The skills developed and the lessons learned will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Some tips if you are considering a Gap Year:

  • Defer your acceptance if you are coming from high school. This makes it much easier to return to University and means you don’t have to worry about applying during your year off.
  • Make a plan and follow through with it. Organize a place to work or somewhere to volunteer or travel beforehand and follow through.
  • Don’t be afraid to feel uncomfortable. It may be terrifying to make that first move, book that flight, apply for that position, but trust me, it is worth it! You will learn so much about yourself and this crazy incredible world we live in.

Exploring the Southern Great Barrier Reef

If you have questions about my year abroad or would like more advice about taking a gap year, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer your question.

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