Falling Through The Gaps

Posted on July 29, 2012 by

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Full Name: Lim Ee Jane
Gap : August 2010 – August 2011
Brief Education History: SPM at SMK DJ, Edexcel A-Levels at HELP Academy
Email: smileejane@gmail.com

“So… what are you doing now?”
“Erm… nothing really… just… yeah…”

“Going to uni soon, girl?”
“Yeah! Yes… definitely will be at… some point.”

“So flying off soon, right?”
“Well, we’ll see how things go…”

I must admit, I wasn’t one of those bold students who declared out loud to the world that they were on a “gap year”. My answer to “what are you doing now?” morphed from “nothing” to “oh, you see, I’m planning the next big terror act and have been in contact with numerous terrorist groups” to “just working at the Pentagon”. The all time favourite: “What are you going to study?” was consistently met with “I’m going to pursue a degree in terrorism at a secret location”. I did that only because I knew that silly answers would deter further interrogation, and deterring further interrogation was essential when one wanted to disappear and hide from the world of aunties, uncles and friends who thought you were throwing one precious year of your life away.

You see, my gap year was somewhat an… accident. Sparknotes version of how this happened?

1. Jane starts her A-Levels.

2. Lecturers tell her she’s ‘smart’, has so much ‘potential’ and therefore must apply to get into the ‘best universities’ so that she will have a ‘bright future’.

3. Jane has no idea what she wants to do.

4. Jane chooses ‘safe’ Science subjects and completes her UCAS application (but not without protest, because the opening line of her personal statement reads ‘I am not passionate about Natural Science…”).

5. Jane gets into good universities.

6. Jane realises she doesn’t want to study chosen subjects.

7. Jane drops all university offers.

8. Everyone thinks Jane is a rash fool (save for a few very kind souls).

Taking the story from point 8, I find myself with no university offers and a year to find myself, whatever that meant.

From some volunteering I had done during my A-levels at a stroke rehabilitation centre, I thought I might as well give Medicine a peek. Dear reader, Medicine is the one field I had sworn NEVER to do from as long ago as I can remember. The only reason I entertained this possibility is because I had a whole year ahead of me – what had I to lose? I realise that this is the beauty of taking a gap year – you have time to take a step back from everything to widen your horizon. One thing led to another, and I ended up working in a hospital, helping a team of doctors with a research project. As part of my job, I interviewed terminally ill patients (most of whom died within the week of my seeing them) and their family members. I came to see a side of Medicine I never knew existed and began to realise that, for the first time in my life, I had an aspiration.

I decided with certainty that I wanted to study Medicine. A mad flurry ensued as I prepared for the BMAT and UKCAT (UK Medical School entry exams), wrote a new personal statement and sorted out my UCAS application for the second time.

My gap year did comprise more than just research in a hospital. I played in the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) Orchestra, a first for me, and which proved to be invaluable experience. With so much time, I could indulge in playing my violin and piano for the love of music. I read as many books as I wanted, met new people, spent time at home (a place we barely have time to see much of and truly enjoy when we’re too caught up with work, no?) travelled around Malaysia and the list goes on. Essentially, I lived life and enjoyed every second of it.

I have just recently completed my first year reading Medicine at UCL, with good grades. Considering that most people were telling me how I was throwing my life away by turning down university offers, I must say I’ve made it quite far. Not only that, but having tasted Life during my gap year, I made sure not to stick to the well-beaten path most Asian students still plod along on (especially the medical students!). My violin has brought me to different stages around London, including The Royal Albert Hall, with the largest orchestra and choir I’ve ever performed with thus far. I was even once approached to help with a violin recording! And to those who think it’s all fun and games, I also had a part time job, working 8-9hours every weekend, even during the weekend before my finals.

In retrospect, my gap year is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I found myself, I lived Life, and learnt many life lessons. I wish someone had told me that it’s alright to take a year off, that it’s okay to take some time to find yourself and that it’s NOT a waste of time. I wish Malaysians would stop measuring success with the number of A’s you get or the number of university offers you secured. “Work hard, work harder, work even harder, and you will have a good life” is a motto I would handle with caution. Life is meant to be Lived, and what other time do we have than now, when we are full of youth?

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