Teaching and flipping coins.

Posted on January 28, 2012 by


Name: Ang Xian Hui
Gap: June 2010 – August 2011
Education: A-Levels at Taylor’s College Subang; Wesleyan University ’15
Email: xang@wesleyan.edu

Taking a gap year was the hardest but also the best decision I have ever made in my life. I was supposed to attend the University of Edinburgh in September 2010. However, it was only after AS exam in December 2009 that I realized I did not want to be stuck in the British education system anymore – I have had enough of that for the past 12 years. I applied to study Math and Music combined major in Edinburgh, but to be honest, I did not know if that was what I really wanted. Besides that, I only found out about the (very awesome) American liberal education much later. But time was running out – there were just too many tests to sit for and essays to write. There was no way I could go to an American university right after completing my A-Levels. So even before my A2 exam for A-Levels, I had already considered taking a gap year.

Coming from a rather conservative Chinese family, it was definitely not easy to convince my parents to let me stay on in Malaysia. “You refuse to go to a school that accepted you?!” was their logic, and it made so much sense at that time! Besides, all my friends were going to the United Kingdom. So there really wasn’t any “valid” reason for me to take a gap year. My head (and also everyone else) was telling me to leave but my heart was saying otherwise.

I knew that if I had gone to Edinburgh, I would keep asking myself how my life would have been if I had taken a gap year. What if I had stayed? What if I had gotten accepted to the States after taking a gap year? There were just too many what-ifs. I did not want to live a life where I would keep questioning myself about the past. Besides, there’s no rush in getting a degree. I WILL graduate at the end of the day anyway – just slightly later!  (Tip 1: Try using this on your parents! It worked on mine!)

So I followed my heart, deferred my admission to Edinburgh and took a gap year 🙂 After that, everything else just somehow worked itself out! My parents felt that they should respect my decision since I’m old enough to know what I want to do with my life. My mum even told me that she would take my gap year as a “chance” to spend more time with me before I get married…absurd, I know but whatever that works for you, mum! 🙂

My gap year started from June 2010 till August 2011. 15 months may sound too long for a break, but trust me, time flies without you realizing it. The main focus of my gap year was on my college application to the States. Hence, from June to December 2010, all I did was to study for the entrance exams (SATs and TOEFL), write college essays and do things that would make me stand out from the rest of the college applicants.

I have always been interested in Education so I took this opportunity to involve myself in the field. I worked as a nursery teacher in Peter & Jane Kindergarten from September to November 2010 – and it was one of the highlights of my gap year. Not only am I now an expert at changing diapers and toilet training (no joke), I had also learned a lot from the kids. They taught me how to be contented and happy with the simplest things in life 🙂

Besides teaching in a kindergarten, I also tutored at Enopi Learning Center. On weekends, I volunteered for the United Nation High Commission Refugee (UNHCR). I taught English to Afghanistan kids in Ampang, KL.

After I completed my college application, I kept myself occupied by doing many random things. I worked at my relative’s company from January to May 2011, continued my piano lessons, did photo shoots for Seventeen Magazine although I was already 19, started going to the gym (FYI you will gain a lot of weight during your gap year), worked in concerts (Michael Bublé!), picked up a new hobby which was reading, spent more time with my family and became their chauffeur. I also traveled to Australia and UK to visit my friends – it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had! I even attended their classes and lectures just to get a taste of the university life 🙂

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@ Melbourne U

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Tip 2: If you want to convince your parents into allowing you to take a gap year, make sure you give them a list of the things you plan to achieve during that year.Prove to them that you won’t be spending your gap year rotting at home!

My gap year had taught me to be independent because it pushed me to do a lot of things on my own, like finding for jobs and running errands. I spent most of my time alone, so I had learned to enjoy being on my own. Besides that, with so much time on hand, you tend to think and engage in self-reflection most of the time. I felt that in doing so, I began to think differently and now I don’t see things the way I used to before. When I finally left Malaysia this August, I heard from my neighbor that my mum said that she was not worried about me at all because she had watched me matured a lot over the year.

Although I considered my gap year as a productive one, I still wished I had done more. The only regret I had in my gap year was that in spite of how unproductive my job was at my relative’s company, I had continued working for them. I stayed because of family obligations and it was a mistake. I could have accomplished the other things that were on my ‘gap year’ list instead – learn Japanese, go for AIESEC exchange, pick up a new musical instrument or learn how to cook! Lesson learnt: Do not waste your time doing things that you don’t like – they’re not worth it.

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I visited the University of Edinburgh when I was in UK. I even went for a campus tour and talked to the Dean of the Music Department. I tried picturing how my life would have been if I had gone there in August 2010. I guess my life wouldn’t have been too bad either but it definitely wouldn’t be as good as now 🙂

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I am currently a freshman in Wesleyan University. I’m still undecided about my majors but I’ll most likely be double majoring in Music and Sociology. However, one thing I know for sure is that I can’t do Math anymore after taking a gap year. So I’m really glad that I didn’t end up in Edinburgh! Honestly, I don’t know how I would feel about my gap year if things hadn’t turned out the way I wanted them to be. I would probably still be happy in Edinburgh because then, I wouldn’t have to be faced with all the what-ifs and uncertainties.

(Tip 3: Always have backup plans in case things don’t work out.If I hadn’t gotten accepted to any American universities, I would have gone to the University of Edinburgh)

After I graduate, I want to be involved in the academia, especially in school reforms. I don’t exactly know how this is going to work out but I dream of improving the Malaysian education system. I guess the only advice I can give you is this: Always follow your heart – it can never go wrong.

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p/s: I stayed up until 5am with my friends at a Mamak stall in Subang, flipping coins to decide whether I should take a gap year or not. The outcome? I was supposed to go to Edinburgh. But I’m glad that I did not! SO NEVER LET A COIN FLIP TO DECIDE YOUR FUTURE.
I wish you guys a happy gap year ahead 🙂 x

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