The decision of whether or not to take a gap year can be a tough one to make. There’s always going to be debate on whether it is worth taking a gap year and the answer will be different for every single person.

But gap years seem truly magical, right? A year of travelling to exotic locations, eating fresh delicacies and meeting inspiring people.

Turns out, for a lot of us, our gap year will involve hard work and not a lot of freedom. It’ll involve zero travelling and eating the exact same type of packed lunches we’ve devoured the whole way through high school.

That doesn’t mean it’s all bad though; my gap year consisted of working a full time job, very mundane tasks, some bloody good memories and the learning of crucial life lessons.

1. Life experience

The single best thing about my year was simply the experience. Despite, how ridiculous this sounds, I believe I could legitimately feel myself growing as a person.

Working full time means you have the chance to take on responsibilities that most people fresh out of high school haven’t even started thinking of yet. My confidence and self-esteem skyrocketed during this time and it helped me to actually feel prepared and excited to start the next stage of my life.

2. Whether I was interested in my career

A super cool thing about gap year jobs is that you can sample the industry you are interested  in, giving yourself a chance to give it a go without feeling like you’re committing to it for the next five years.

While I loved almost every aspect of my work during my gap year, I knew it wasn’t something that I wanted to do in the long term. It was thanks to this experience that I was able to realise this and change my future career plans.

If I hadn’t taken the year to work in the industry I thought I was interested in, I probably would have gone to uni for four years and come out with a degree that just wasn’t for me, all the while racking up some serious debt for a job I wasn’t that keen on.

3. How to save money

Working full time time for a whole year meant I earned a pretty decent amount of money and I had the chance to start properly saving.

Whatever you plan on doing after your gap year will no doubt require a certain amount of money (uni, changing jobs or travelling isn’t free) and budgeting is crucial in a gap year in order to save. You become pretty good when it comes to sussing out sales, taking advantage of happy hour and just all round deciding what you actually want to spend your money on.

Just thinking about money and how I was spending it meant I was able to save a significant portion of my pay checks from my gap year. And lemme tell you, it feels pretty damn satisfying to know that I won’t be flat broke within the next six months.

4. How to make new friends

Working in a professional organisation means that you are surrounded by people that have mostly been out of high school for a while. They don’t thrive on drama; a welcome change from the rumour mill of high school.

It’s an amazing feeling to go to work every morning and feel excited about the day ahead and a lot of that has to do with the people who you work with. The ability to form meaningful relationships is a pretty important skill in everyday life and one that is worth investing in.

5. How to prevent burn out

While having some time off from studying might not be ideal for everyone, it’s a key part for some people in stopping burn out.

It’s important to transition into uni or a career at a time when you are excited about it and feel ready to tackle it, not when you feel like you’re being forced into it or that it’s something you have to do. Let me tell you, there’s nothing better than binge watching Netflix all weekend without feeling guilty about not doing enough study.

There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself some breathing space from study. Your mental health should always take priority and if you need to give yourself a break, go for it.

At the end of the day, people take gap years for a tonne of different reasons and while some people will tell you that it’s a huge decision to make, in reality whatever decision you make will probably end up being a good one.

Whatever you decide to spend the next twelve months of your life doing is up to you and no matter what path you go down, remember that you’re not locked into your decision. We have so much freedom and so much opportunities; there’s plenty of time to try a different path.

by Amie Biggs