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November 16, 2023, by avyzw1

Thinking of taking a gap year after university?

Zoe Waite, Liberal Arts.

Often there is a taboo regarding taking a year out after university. The choice to take a year out is sometimes associated with someone’s initial career plans not working out, and a gap year was a plan B. Though disruptions to career plans are a completely valid reason to take a year out, it absolutely isn’t the only one. Choosing to take a year out can be a daunting experience especially when it seems everyone else is applying to countless graduate schemes or preparing for postgraduate study. 

Why should you want to do a gap year?

There are many reasons why someone may choose to take a year out, from wanting to save for postgraduate study to gaining and refining new skills before entering the job world. These are a few of my, personal, reasons as a final year undergraduate student, for wanting to spend a year away from corporate work and academia.

Firstly, I just want a break before I begin climbing the corporate ladder to do what I want, to rest and have fun without the constraints of a 9-5. Secondly, I lost much of my college experience before university to COVID-19, this meant I wasn’t able to do things I wanted to before university began, like courses and travelling with friends. Finally, I feel I would be at more of an advantage if I had additional qualifications and experience from a year out. As a working student, I am unable to put that time needed into work, university and graduate schemes. So, by taking a year out and applying next September, I will have more time, experience and resources to put forward higher-quality applications.

What can you do on a gap year?

Being able to afford to travel straight out of university is a wonderful privilege, but travelling isn’t the only way to utilise a year out. Here are some of the things I am considering doing on my year out:

  • Expanding on skillsets

A gap year is a perfect time to expand on skills that may give you a step ahead when applying for graduate roles. With the rise of AI and other technological advancements, as an arts student I believe it is important to expand my knowledge and skills into technology. I have been looking at beginner-level coding courses which will help me establish a base level of knowledge and demonstrate interest for future tech employers and companies.

You may also choose to expand on your interests, I found a barista course at 200 Degrees Coffee. Where you are taught the fundamentals of brewing a perfect coffee. I have recognised that expanding on skills and interests outside of academia and work is so rewarding and enjoyable.

  • Trying new hobbies

On my year out I want to supplement my health and wellbeing by exploring new sports and creative outlets I didn’t have time to take on whilst studying. To me, this looks like joining the Twisted Pole Fitness classes and maybe taking up running.

I also would love to expand on my modern foreign language skills, courses offered by the university are available once you graduate and offer high-quality classroom education in a range of languages.

  • Internships, part-time jobs and work experience

A year out is an amazing time to expand your CV and get involved with work experience and internships. Using MyCareer, Bright Network and other job advertising platforms will show you a variety of internships from numerous sectors. This will be especially useful if you haven’t yet got much professional experience or still not sure where you see yourself working after university. The Nottingham Internship Scheme offers amazing, local, paid internships in a range of sectors for everyone, this is definitely something I am considering applying to.

In addition, part-time work is often unavoidable for those on a year out. To help fund the courses, hobbies and travelling adventures I want to embark on part-time work will be an integral part of my year out. Working a part-time job offers several transferable skills, an opportunity to meet people in the local community and helps with creating a sense of independence.

  • Meaningful time with friends and family and yourself

Spending time with friends and family without the stress of deadlines and academic pressures is so refreshing, making memories with those you cherish and enjoy spending time with is something I believe everyone should do when possible.

Also, spending time alone with yourself is important during times of change. Focusing on what you really want to do and taking time to reflect on experiences from a different perspective helps to avoid being influenced by those around you in your decisions and focus on what you really want. A gap year can be an extremely valuable way to gain experience, better understand your personal and career goals and create memories whether that’s in another continent or back at home.

If you’re considering taking a year out, contact the careers and employability service for support and advice.

Posted in Graduating in 2024