Hello everyone! My names Nathan Brandon-Bravo, im a law graduate from Sheffield Hallam University. and I have been kindly asked by Compare the Uni to write about Gap Years as, like many students, I took one!!
Many students contemplate the idea of taking a Gap Year after finishing their A Levels or College years, before heading off on another long stint of education.
Like all big decisions, its important to weigh up the positives and negatives; I hope to share some of the decisions I had to make, why I made them and why I am so glad I did!
I took my gap year after finishing my A Levels in 2008 before heading off to Uni in September 2009. I had deferred my UCAS applications as I had already made up my mind that this was what I wanted to do. Many of my friends however ended up having to reapply and I could see how stressful this was. Decide before you apply, as this will take a huge weight off your shoulders.
One of the main reasons many students take a Gap is to save some money to soften the financial blow of being a student! I already had a pretty decent part time job working for Apple whilst doing my A levels and, I was lucky enough to get full time hours as soon as I finished. This played a HUGE part in my decision making as, without a job my gap year would have turned out very differently! Start looking for work before the beginning of your gap year. By getting a head start you can start to enjoy your new found freedom straight away; begin saving some money and, reduce the stresses and panics of starting a gap year.
I’m sure many of you would or will have had conversations with your parents about your ‘financial responsibilities’ if you decide not to go to uni straight away. Like many of my friends parents, my parents took the “if you come out of eduction you are not sitting around all day doing nothing” approach. Work however isn’t the reason I took my gap year.. although I did spend the 1st 6 months of it working full time.. but like many, my gap year was to travel the world!!
In April 2009 I began my amazing 4 and a bit month trip around the world! I travelled South East Asia (Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore), Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and America. I also went to Egypt on a separate trip!
A trip like this of course costs rather a lot of money.. £5,000 if my memory serves me right; believe me when I say, this was the best £5,000 I ever spent!
I decided to travel on my own as, one of the main reasons I wanted to go traveling was to ‘grow up’ before the shock of university independence! I’m not suggesting everyone should travel on their own and, I did actually meet friends from home for parts of my trip, but being out in the world with just my rucksack was what forced me to think solely for myself..
One of the big challenges I had when I started my gap year was trying to save my money! For the first time ever I was earning full time money; getting paid never felt so good! All I wanted to do was splash out.. live a little.. do things I could never afford before!! Luckily the anticipation of a trip of a life time tamed my frivolous spending; I already felt like I was growing up fast!
After 5 months I finally had enough money to book my flights...this was really happening!! For anyone who is interested I used a company called travel nation who were fantastic; competitive and incredibly helpful!
I began to put together my budget for each of the places I was going; looking into how much I had each day for food and accommodation; how much it would cost to travel around, book excursions, sky dives etc. For S.E Asia I had about £15 per day for everything and for the rest of my trip I had about £25 a day. Not much when you think about it! Lonely Planet guides such as South East Asia on a Shoe String came in handy!!
So what did I gain from doing a gap year before university?
Learning how to budget, save money, plan how to maximize your time and resources made a huge difference to adapting to university life. Knowing when you can afford a heavy night out without having to go a week on just baked beans and bread to pay for it or; organising when to go food shopping so that you don’t go to the fridge one day and find the only thing left is last nights left overs. It helped me feel less home sick being 120 miles away from home, seeing as a few months before I had been on the other side of the planet. In the first 3 weeks of starting university over 50% of the people on my course had gone home for at least 1 weekend because they felt home sick.
Possibly one of the most important things I gained from my gap year, which I discovered as I was finishing my time at university, was credible ‘life experience’.
My ambition for when I left university was to join the Police as a Police Officer. A phrase I kept reading in books and articles for people intending to join the police was, “what life experiences do you have?”. In the last few months at uni I applied to become a Special Constable (a volunteer police officer with the same powers as a full time officer) and, during the application process the topic of ‘life experience’ came up numerous times. When it came to the end of my interview and finding out I had been successful, I was told that my gap year experiences played a large part of proving that I had ‘life experience’!! I have since been successful in my application to become a full time police officer; again, my gap year experiences were great examples of when I had developed life experience and skills that education alone can’t teach you.
So is a gap year the right decision for you? Well, the thing I always say to people who ask me whether they should take one or not is; I know for a fact that I couldn’t have taken my ‘gap year’ after uni because of all my commitments, the need to find a job etc and somethings really can only be done once.
By Nathan Brandon-Bravo, law graduate from Sheffiled Hallam University
Check out the course here: Law LLB
Check out: Sheffield Hallam's Compare The Uni Profile.