Taking a leap of faith.

Posted on January 26, 2012 by

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Name: Kareem Fareed
Gap: July 2011 – September 2012
Education: A-Levels at HELP Academy
Interests: Education, English Literature, Psychology, Water Polo, Graphic Novels (especially by Alan Moore), Boston Legal, movies by Christopher Nolan,
Theatre & Drama, Travel, Culture, Food, Football.
Email Address: kareemfareed23@gmail.com

Deciding to take a gap year was by no means easy.

First of all, dealing with your parents. I am the first to admit that I have it luckier than most; my parents have always supported me throughout my life, allowing me to take part in a ridiculous array of activities as long as I could maintain my grades. However, when it came to taking a gap year, even they were a bit sceptical. After all, a gap year would mean an extra year at home, delaying opportunities to study and giving myself a chance to get distracted. Furthermore, in our fluctuating and competitive environment, getting a job quick is deemed extremely necessary, before there are none left. Would it be economical? Surely, a gap year would mean using your parents money for another year, be it for travel or living expenses and how many parents are willing to splurge on that. Also, what would I be doing during a gap year? How certain was I that I would use it wisely?

The second obstacle was society itself. A gap year is generally regarded as a waste of time, and students who embark on one are labelled as spoilt, selfish and lazy. I mean, who in their right mind would take a whole year off and spend more of their parents money just to get some time to figure out what they want to do in life? To be able to do that is pure luxury, and I will not deny that fact. For a long time I was embarrassed to admit that I am taking a gap year, simply because of the responses and looks I would get from friends and family.

Finally, the last person I had to convince was myself. Having always been a practical person, I always felt the arguments against taking a gap year were completely reasonable and for a long time felt insecure about this decision. A lot of the insecurity was also due to the fact that one of the main reasons I had decided to take a gap year was because I had failed to send a strong application to the US universities I was applying to and did not apply to anywhere else. I had only started applying to the US in October, and had limited knowledge of the whole application process. Also, I was involved in so many other activities at the time that I was unable to put enough effort into the application. However, I knew this sole reason to take a gap year was unjustified and insufficient, but in my feeling of frustration and despair, I remained stubborn and stood by my decision.

It ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I realized only much later the main problem of my application process; my head was scattered about. I have always been involved in a variety of extra co-curricular activities simply to satisfy my curiosity for new experiences; there was no focus or end purpose to my involvement in that particular activity. Even my subject combination simply contained subjects that I was interested to know more about; there was no job prospect I was heading to, no particular ambition. Was there anything wrong with that? No! But I knew that I had to find purpose in having taken all those subjects and activities; I had to reflect on my decisions and find out how all of them had affected me. How was I going to use my experiences to help me in the future?

With that question in mind, I sought to pick out a few of the activities and subjects that meant the most to me and to put meaning to those experiences. My gap year thus far has involved me exploring those passions; volunteer teaching at a Burmese Refugee School, interning with my English Literature teacher, directing a theatre production at college and interning at my father’s company. I finally have a rough idea of what it is like if I were to pursue Education, Drama or Business. I am self-studying a subject I have been dying to know more about: Psychology. I am currently learning French. Everything I do now has direction and purpose: I know why I am choosing to do everything I have done so far.

Education is so much more than what we learn in a classroom. We learn from every new situation we encounter, every new activity we take part in and every decision we make, whether it is right or wrong. It is all about knowing how to take advantage of what we learn and how to apply that knowledge which will ultimately give us an edge over the rest.

This gap year has proven to be extremely useful to my personal development and life experience. However, it did not come without struggle or conflict; there were many times were I felt I should just start studying locally, or accept an offer into a mediocre university, just to avoid feeling left out. It was exactly this roadblock that inspired me to help set up this blog: to assist those in a similar disposition and to remind them to stay true to their decisions. Taking a gap year is by no means for everyone; to those of you who already know what they want in life, that’s great. But for those of you who need the time to discover yourselves: this is the website that will prove to you why it is not selfish or wrong to take that time off and go for it.

Good luck.

Kareem.

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