Starting college at the age of 20 after a gap year or two can be an off-putting thought for many reasons. All of your friends are moving away, going straight to college after the Leaving Cert while you’re stuck at home. Feelings of jealousy might arise when it seems like everyone else is off putting their dreams into practice while you have no idea what to do with your life.
Just a few years ago I was that girl, lost after school and trying to figure out where I belong. When I finished my matriculation exams in Finland back in spring 2011, I felt more lost than ever and I didn’t have a clue where to head next. As I was still wondering, everyone else fled home and started college and I consciously ended up taking a year out from school.
Looking back to that decision I made almost five years ago, I haven’t regretted it once. Taking time out from studying opened so many doors for me and made my dream of travelling possible. After graduating high school in Finland I flew to America with my family for a month and experienced everything from New York to Disneyland and divine Mexican food. During those two years between school and college I got explore many different cultures and see so many cities, such as Barcelona and Madrid in Spain and London and Manchester in England. Needless to say, seeing the world like I did would not have been possible if I began studying straight away.
In order to travel so much, having a job is essential. I was lucky enough to get a permanent job at the postal service. This meant I was financially independent and could do pretty much anything I wanted to. I got paid holidays and free healthcare and on top of all that I made great friends.
Nevertheless the best part of the gap year was that I had time to think about my life and where I was going. Really thinking about my future opened my eyes and made me consider different options. I could have stayed in Finland, and studied something I don’t necessarily like doing, but after careful consideration and plenty of time to think, I decided to take a chance and apply to DCU. After having the time of my life as an independent adult I was ready to take the next step and start studying journalism, something I knew I loved and wanted to study and I have never looked back.
I am amazed by how many people in my class alone didn’t go straight from the leaving cert to college. While so many of them say it suited them at the time, I can’t imagine how my life would be now if I took a year out.
I knew I wanted to do journalism since I was very young and so that aspect of not being sure of your course choice never occurred to me.
For many people, getting a year-round job after school is an option but for me I just didn’t feel like I would benefit from working when I knew the only job I wanted needed a college degree first.
Although I was sure of my college course choice in secondary school I wasn’t sure of much else, meaning my self-confidence was fairly low. I went to a school with less than 80 people and so I knew that the only way I was going to boost my confidence levels was to surround myself with a much bigger group of people my age, with the comfort of knowing that we were all in the same boat.
With shyness and anxiety being two major factors at the age of 18, the idea of travelling would be my worst nightmare. While I love sampling different cultures and seeing new places, I simply couldn’t be one of those people who takes a year out to go travelling the world alone or even with friends. Within my first year of college those things that held me back became minor issues that would rarely get in the way, but I needed the structure and comfort of routine to help me with that.
As someone who hates to waste her day doing nothing, taking a break between the leaving cert and college would have seemed nothing other than complete procrastination seeing as I know I wouldn’t have done anything life-changing.
I have never regretted coming to college straight away, I will be only 21 when I finish my current course, meaning I still have time to do all the things people do in a gap year, which I never would have had the confidence to do without my time in DCU first.