Posted on April 8, 2012 by


Name: Khor Hock Eu

GCE A-Levels @ MCKL

Interests: Ultimate Frisbee, Languages, Cognitive Science, Economics, Computer Science, Reading, Writing, Education Reform

During my gap year, I planned to work in my uncle’s law firm, to work as a temp-teacher, to study French and to have enough time to train seriously for Ultimate Frisbee. And learn to cook. Essentially, I wanted my gap year to revolve around me and my interests. But my mom managed to scare each of her employees off in two months, and found it difficult to hire any others that met her ever-increasing standards. So stuck I was, as her sole employee, to bear the brunt of her exasperated sighs in addition to the daily nagging. Not what I had planned at all. But I was dragged into the office anyway.

The first thing I noticed was how routine everyday was. Filling in the same forms, working with the same business/accounting software, spamming f5 to refresh my Facebook newsfeed during boring afternoons(Internet usage was one of the few perks of the job). A few days later, I started an online course with MITx on Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. I started learning basic Javascript from the Code Academy. I designed my own diet and exercise plan. There was so much time for me to do my own stuff since almost everything else came automatically, and the internet was free for anyone to use if they asked. So given all these facilities and free time, why did my mom’s staff leave so frequently, and why did they feel so badly about the job?

Then, soon enough, I realized the small things that made a difference- One was the position of the stationery holders under the cupboard, that made the staff have to bend their backs in the cramped space behind the counter to reach for pens, staplers and paperclips; The low working desk that forced her staff to squat when working on documents; The cramped space that made it difficult for staff to find a comfortable distance between themselves and their boss during harangues; The lack of a common topic between employer and employee to keep the working environment friendly and flowing; the divider between the employer and employee that made it difficult for communication; the lack of a personal workstation. Essentially, the horrible office ergonomics and design were amplifying the stress of a relatively relaxing job to create the impression of a torturous one.

So after finding much information on the internet to back me up, I went to my mom and suggested a few things: an office blender, a lunch/document stool, a personal desk/space for working, a planner, the policy of lecturing employees in open spaces, and the simplification of her crazy amount of protocols by pasting shortened instructions on the walls. We’ve yet to see how well it works, but my experience in my mom’s office- in what some might call a soul-sucking repetitive job- showed me how much I take for granted, and the possibility of changing it.

My point? A gap year doesn’t always go as planned, so just make the most out of the cards you’ve been dealt- and don’t give up on making your gap year a good and productive one, there’s always a way. In these nine months, besides working at my mom’s clinic, I’ve taken a night job upgrading computers and chatting with computer engineers (while playing Pikachu volleyball between work) , learnt enough French to get my sums right, and a lot more about Frisbee and body mechanics, read half the books I bought over the year, finished a third of the MITx course and learnt to make my own (simple) games using Javascript platforms. I’ve also started trading on the Forex market using a Demo account, and reading about economics and finance- especially trading futures, that’s a really interesting topic. From all that, I’ve learnt about management(and micromanagement 😡 ), how the financial system works and how arbitrage provides an avenue for profit, a bit about electrical engineering, the many different perspectives that a language provides a person with, the logic of computer languages, how the body works when running and how to improve my running motion- ridding myself of knee injuries in the process, and a lot more about myself and my emotions- but that’s a post for another time.

Till then, good luck with your gap year, however you choose to spend it!

Posted in: Profile