Francophilic Aspirations

Posted on March 17, 2012 by


Name: Jack Jacobs

Gap: July 2011 – September 2012

Education: A-Levels at HELP

Interests: Badminton, Ultimate Frisbee, Self-improvement, Picking up heavy objects and putting them down again, Travelling, Hiking, Internet culture, Web-comics, Cooking, Generally being cheap and miserly.

E-mail Address:


Beautiful scenery from France

Why I took a gap year.

My gap year wasn’t really planned, nor was it particularly voluntary. It started off with me finding out I wouldn’t be able to go to England for my degree for various reasons, around 2 months before the end of A-levels. So mid-July of 2011, I finally decided I’d go to France to study Biology. This of course meant that I had to learn French from scratch up to a level I could understand my lecturers and future friends, which is why I had to take the gap year.

What I did.

First thing I did was work for my mum for a month, since she was looking for people for data-entry. This made me realize I absolutely do not want to get stuck in any sort of soul-sucking job, and gave me a decent perspective of working life and what it could be like.

I then started working towards my goals for my education, which initially, was to learn a bit of French here, while I prepared to go to France in November 2011 and stay there till June 2012 so that I’d reach my lingual goals. So a friend of mine recommended me Daniel Kermorvant (MyTeacher Language Centre written about in a previous article) to give me a crash course before I go off so I don’t waste 2 months. I ended up getting sucked into his awesomeness and decided to stay in Malaysia and learn from him for the entire duration.

Besides French, I kept sane by meeting up with friends at least once a week. I also signed on with a gym and started picking up heavy objects and putting them down again. Turns out it’s really a lot more enjoyable than one would think. Ever increasing goals, aching all the time, seeing visible changes in your body… I’d strongly recommend it.

I also stayed with a French family in France for 2 weeks in January 2012 to better understand the culture, to check out my future university, and to improve my French speaking. This is usually referred to as a homestay programme and I would also strongly recommend that. It can be a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel, and the experience is soooo much more authentic and real.

What it did or didn’t do.

It didn’t turn out to be a waste of time at all. I gained a lot of things that I doubt I could have achieved without it.

What it did do was give me time to really think and make sure I was heading down the path I wanted to take, and that I was going where I wanted to go. Of course my gap year is a bit less ‘interesting’ when compared to others because it’s basically a year of frantically cramming as much French in my head as possible, but I would say looking at the alternatives, I wouldn’t trade my gap year for anything.

Random thoughts on gap years.

Well I think it’s very necessary that you have a goal and know what you want to gain from your gap year. Otherwise it’s very likely you’ll just waste a year bumming around doing nothing in particular. Even with working, don’t just work for the sake of working to say you’re doing something. I’m very kiasu deep down so I feel if I’m not using this year to gain something or broaden my horizons, I’d fall behind my classmates who are busy studying.

If I wasn’t being so self-centred and focussed on French proficiency, I would have liked to do some work to finance a trip to a new country to do some volunteer work or just to visit. One of my friends also recommended me ‘Work and Travel USA’ which is a pretty cool programme where you work for a couple months in America, and then you go travelling around there with the money you’ve saved for a week or two.  Though of course, I’m strongly interested in travelling and seeing the world so I’m a bit biased.

Honestly, I think breaking out of your comfort zone is the most important thing. Go do something crazy like stay with a relative overseas and work or learn to rock climb or start an online business or give maths tuition in Thailand or something. Basically I believe with a bit of diligence and persistence, anything is possible. Have a great year.

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