For those of you who grew up in Singapore, the road to adulthood is pretty straightforward: you enter primary school at 6, and graduate from junior college, ITE or polytechnic by 18 or 19. What usually happens after will determine the trajectory of your adulthood — you enter university or you go on to find a job. Let’s face it. Growing up, we often waltz through life, moving from one exam to next, and one institution to another.
Sure, you’re able to go on short breaks ever so often, but an entire year off? Unthinkable. Or is it?
A concept that’s familiar yet so alien at the same time, a gap year can take many forms, like jetting off to a foreign land and traversing parts unexplored, or in the form of working towards a goal, trying out different career paths before settling on one that you’re truly passionate about.
For those considering taking one, we’re here to tell you that no matter how many horror stories you might’ve heard, it isn’t a bad idea after all. We spoke to some JumpStarters who have lived through a gap year of their own, and here’s a roundup of findings, so that you’d be able to weigh your options.
First thing’s first — we could all use a break
We were all students once, and we’d be lying if we said that all the late-night mugging for exams didn’t take a toll on us. It’s easy to get lost in the rat race, leaving us with little downtime to think about what we want for our future, whether it’s choosing a course to study or an industry to work in.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a sense of FOMO seeing my friends having fun in university. But of course, there’s more than meets the eye. After an entire year of soul-searching, I found myself better prepared for university. In fact, I became the envy of my friends after they saw the growth I had undergone in that short year!” shared Stacey, a 26 year old who took a gap year right after completing Junior College.
She isn’t the only one who feels this way. Speaking with other JumpStarters, they all agreed that they were able to make more informed choices about life after spending some time away from the norm. Taking a gap year definitely does provide the freedom to think about your future without having to worry about the next immediate step.
It’s the perfect opportunity to discover your goals, hopes and dreams
As we’ve mentioned earlier on, before jumping into yet another (and very defining) chapter of life, it’s okay to take an extended break to explore the world, learn a new skill or even chase your passions, whatever they may be. In fact, as a young, bright-eyed individual, time is definitely on your side.
As you get older, it becomes harder for you to take gap years simply because of the ever-growing list of responsibilities you’d have to take on.
“When I was on my gap year, I decided to learn how to drive, take on German classes and travel the world, all while working part-time in a vintage good shop. Not only was I able to live my dream life, I was also able to meet new people, expand my worldview, and become a lot more street smart” said Joanna, a 23 year old undergraduate who managed to embark on larger-than-life adventures that helped her discover her passion for Linguistics — her current major in university.
You also learn how to be a more responsible adult
A common misconception people have is that taking a gap year means leeching off your parents as you stay home to Netflix all day, before heading out to party the night away. In fact, this is quite the opposite.
Taking a year off most certainly means learning how to be more mindful about your spending and your lifestyle. After all, you can’t expect your parents to pay for your frivolous spending especially after you turn 18! Taking on jobs in the gig economy, or finding internships in industries you might be interested in are great ways for you to develop a sense of financial independence and a better relationship with money, which serves to be useful in the long run.
Plus, who could ever say no to that feeling of cashing in your paycheck after a month of hard work? Add that to personal growth, and you get yourself a win-win that money itself cannot buy.
Tips on how you can overcome the fears of judgement and the unknown
At the end of the day, just do it! Often, we regret the things we don’t do, more than the things we’ve done. And being so young does have its benefits, such as lesser financial burdens to juggle (i.e. student loans, mortgages, jobs, etc.)
Our advice at the end of the day? Just do it! A gap year sounds scary no matter how we phrase it, simply because it entails an entire year of spontaneity and breaking out of routine — things you probably aren’t used after years of formal education.
But we cannot emphasise that this isn’t the case. Taking a year off is a good way for you to realign with yourself internally, and a good time for you to think seriously about your future, especially at such a crucial juncture in life.
Often, we regret the things we don’t do more than the things we’ve done. And like we said, being young has its perks — more energy, more curiosity and less financial burdens to bear (e.g. student loans, house mortgages and family etc.)
To start the ball rolling, have a think about these 3 questions: What do you wish to accomplish? How much time do you need to accomplish this? What is the budget you have to work within?
Now, it’s time to get going!
This article is brought to you by Standard Chartered Bank (Singapore) Limited. All information provided is for informational purposes only.