Duty Calls.

Posted on January 26, 2012 by


Name: Suraj Bulchand
Gap: February 2011 – September 2014
Education History: A-Levels at HELP Academy; Chemical Engineering, Cambridge University (entering in 2014)
Interests: Physical Sciences, Spirituality, Engineering, Community Service, Dance
Email Address: surajbul@hotmail.com

My name is Suraj Bulchand. YouTube junkie, badminton enthusiast and Bollywood aficionado. Tall, brown, Indian. I watch too many Hindi movies. Obsessed with Oprah and Kung Fu Panda. Definitely a Mama’s boy. Honestly, I think I’m the sexiestluckiest guy on this planet.

Let me first say that I didn’t make the decision to take a gap; I had no choice. As a Singaporean citizen, I am required by law to serve two years of National Service in the Singapore Armed Forces. For the longest time, I resented this. As I watched my friends fly off to their dream colleges and move on with their lives, I was stuck preparing to transition from civilian to soldier. Over and over again, all I was asked was how I felt about starting university in my 20’s and how I was going to “kill” my time. “Damn man. It must suck to waste so much time…” my friends would say. And the worst part was that I believed this. I believed that my circumstances “sucked”. All I could think about was how my education was going to be delayed and how National Service had halted my life. Up until January 2011 (when I finished my A-Levels), everything was set out. The goal was clear: to pursue a good course at a good university. That was my responsibility. That was my job as a student and as a son. It was a plan I never questioned.

February 2011 was the first time in 19 years I had to make significant decisions about my life. A-Levels were over, and National Service would only start next year. Now what? No one was there to tell me what to do. I felt as confused as I did liberated. As I drifted through the dawn of 2011, trying to make sense of my new found freedom, I got to know some very cool people, many of whom were on gaps as well. It was an incredibly comforting feeling having someone there I could relate to, share my ideas with and learn from. The people I met opened new doors for me and inspired me to do things I’d always wanted to pursue, as well as things I’d never thought about pursuing: rock climbing, an expedition to Korea, youth empowerment symposiums and leaderships training seminars. It took a very short time for me to realize that there was a world outside school that was bursting with knowledge and possibility.

2011 was a year of self-discovery and self-exploration, the widening of horizons and the reformation of a naïve and unyielding mindset. It was about growth, trying new things and figuring out what I needed to do with my life. My short stint at the Ranbaxy chemical plant fuelled a fondness for chemical engineering, a course I cannot wait to pursue at college. My experiences teaching children at the Precious Hearts orphanage gave me the opportunity to serve my community and touched me as I befriended kids of all races living in harmony, wishing for nothing more than to receive an education. For the first time, I got to focus on my health and fitness; the gym became my sanctuary and I developed a love for running. I didn’t have to face the stress of rushing to finish college applications; I had the luxury of time to discover where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. But most importantly, I had time to reflect. Reflect on my life, reflect on my circumstances and reflect on myself. 2011 showed me how much I have to be grateful for and showed me that I can do anything with the right disposition. I am no longer stifled when people ask me about starting university late, because I realize now that life isn’t a race. It doesn’t matter when I go to university. The fact is I am going to university, and this is a blessing that few get to experience. I have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to, and it is my hope that with this website you too will realize that there is potential for progress outside the four, confined walls of a classroom.

I am not against school; I love school. I do not want classrooms on fire, nor do I want professors fired. I simply believe that being nestled in a lecture hall is not the only way of obtaining an education. My gap thus far has shown me that life isn’t about getting into whatever school or course comes next. It’s about figuring out what you want for yourself, not what your classmates, college, or community wants. It’s about having the courage to break away from the comfortable precincts of familiarity and figure out your own definition of success, not simply accepting the choices you’ve been handed. And this, I believe, is the ultimate intellectual sentiment. Taking a gap isn’t for everyone, and I completely respect this. There are people out there who know in their gut what they want to do and where they want to go, and this may involve a continuous formal education. But for those who are still questioning, for those who want time to do things they’ve always thought about doing, and for those who need time to figure out what their aspirations are, I strongly encourage you to explore this website. Oscar Wilde once said “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” This, I know to be true.

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