The Gap of Faith

Posted on October 1, 2012 by


Full Name : Jo-Anne Loh (so popular was my nickname of JLoh that some random Hispanic singer hijacked it.)

Gap Period : 02/2011 – 07/2012

Brief Education History : Full-on Chinese-ed child abuse*

  • (Primary 1-6)- SJKC Lai Meng
  • Form 1-5 -SMK Convent Bukit Nanas
  • South Australian Matriculation -Taylor’s College Sri Hartamas
  • Class of 2016 -Columbia University in The City of New York (hereby referred to as CU because that’s too damn long.)

*Note: Define abuse as you will.

Interests : Globe-trotting, Epicureanism (read: food), Engineering, Children, Consumer retail (read : shopping)

Email :

Why a Gap Year?

Myth-busting: 1) I didn’t plan this. 2) My parents didn’t give me an easy time. 3) It wasn’t the best decision of my life (because can anyone seriously remember every single decision they’ve ever made? Yes, I’m anal like that.) But like many of you reading this, I was confused, lost and a tad bit depressed about my future. I’d gotten offers from a couple of universities, but damnit, not from my dream schools! Besides, I hadn’t a clue about what I wanted to study. So, if you have thick-skin (or a lock-secure room), butter up your parents then casually mention that you missed the universities’ reply dates and you’re gonna have to live off them for another year.

One of the (many) good things about me is that I’m proactive. Or I have friends that are proactive. (Connections! They’re important.) Or parents who chase me out of the house as often as possible. So I ended up doing a variety of stuff, only some of which I will mention.

  • Classes de francais

Mid-2011, I finally signed myself up for French classes at Alliance Francais. The language is just so sexy beautiful. And of course, it’s good for communication, resume-padding etc etc.. But any illusions I had of conversing nonchalantly in fluent French went kaput after a couple of weeks. It’s not easy trying to master a language, especially when the only time you come into contact with it is in class.

(Le French scholars.)

  • World Scholar’s Cup

(Jo-Anne is 3rd from the left)

After plenty of drama (don’t ask), two friends and I assembled a team to compete with a bunch of scholars from all over the world. Sounds nerdy? Well, the syllabus is pretty varied and intense (Econs, Art, Science, History…) especially when some of us only had roughly 30 hours to study, but the entire thing was run with plenty of fun. Random things that come to mind to describe my experience: Alpacas, tea and sugar, 4 a.m at McDonald’s, laughter, I-can’t-DO-this-anymore breakdowns.

  • Women’s Aid Organization (WAO)

*Due to safety and confidentiality issues I can’t post any pictures taken of WAO.

Power to the ladies! I landed an internship with WAO, dealing mainly with abused women and children. It’s scary how so many cases of domestic violence, rape and human trafficking happen all around us. I worked with the residents, handled the crisis hotline, made trips to the police stations, hospitals and stressed out/cried over particularly stubborn or heart-rending cases. My stint in WAO jarred me out of my comfort zone, something that HAS to happen for you to grow.

My gap year wasn’t all strawberries and cream. There were times when I wondered what I was doing with my life, and it’s especially hard when you see friends flying off to start school or even posting statuses like ‘ OMG 2 mid-terms tomorrow I dieeeeee…!’ But this period did teach me patience. I met so many interesting people, I laughed, I cried, I spent precious time with my crazy family, I drank, I partied, I studied…basically, I just lived life the way I wanted to.

This applies to most situations in life: If you have a plan or things you want to do, do it now. Don’t put it off till ‘after I graduate’ (you may not live that long). If you want something, pry that door open or if need be, wedge your foot in that door and keep it open.

But of course, I believe and quote that ‘Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.’ YOU know deep down what the best path for you is.

If you were wondering, yes, I finally did get into my dream school! Happy endings, dontcha just love ‘em. CU offers Biomedical Engineering, a course that’s simultaneously similar enough to medicine to please my Dad and different enough that it’s not medicine to please me. For my future, I foresee Broadway, cheeseburgers, all-nighters and Wall Street.

Now, it’s my moment to be preachy. This isn’t just an article about my gap year. It’s about picking yourself up after your dreams are dashed. It’s about finding that there’s more than one way to your goal. It’s about realizing that education is the quest for wonder, not a single-minded struggle for that fake-gold gilded piece of paper.