ANN/THE KATHMANDU POST – The completion of secondary education is a momentous occasion for a student. It is also a pivotal moment when they must decide their path to adulthood, weighing their career ambitions and life goals.
The step into independence can be an overwhelming one. This is where the gap year can help as students can give themselves time to play, explore and learn about themselves as well as the world before facing the challenges of adulthood.
The history of gap year can be traced back to the 17th Century when wealthy British students would go on world tours to learn about global cultures and widen their horizons.
Travelling the world during gap years hasn’t gone out of trend even today but the concept of gap years has evolved over the centuries.
Today, most students take on gap years to develop maturity and a sense of adulthood through internships and projects. Many choose to gain hands-on experience before starting college.
College counsellor at Rato Bangala School Bilquees Banu who has been guiding students through the college application process for four years, points out that a gap year can be both beneficial and detrimental to a student’s life.
“Gap year can go either way; it can be successful enough to change a student’s course of life for the best, or it can be so unproductive that it leads to burgeoning regrets and increasing stress for the students.
“Unfortunately, I’ve encountered instances of the latter more times than I’d like,” she said.
On the other hand, 19-year-old student Soujanya Aryal, who recently finished his gap year, sees the experience as an opportunity to seize control of one’s life, learn, and explore new avenues.
Aryal threw himself into internships even before his holidays began, working as a research intern while still taking his final exams.
His passion for learning and commitment to productivity fuelled his desire to acquire diverse skills.
“Time slips away quickly, so it’s best to plan your intentions before the countdown begins,” reflected Aryal, who has started his undergraduate studies at Brown University in engineering and computer science.
However, gap years aren’t without their challenges. After years of continuous studying, homework, and exams, the transition from the bubble of youthful exuberance to a more mindful, introspective state can be abrupt.
Another 19-year-old who took a gap year Aayushman Nepal has mixed feelings about his experience. While he appreciated the break from school, he grappled with self-doubt when comparing his progress to friends who had already started college.
Nepal shared, “There comes a point when you feel like you’re being held back, and the need to get ahead in life hits you.”
This realisation led him to pursue law at Symbiosis International College in India, where he shared he found greater contentment.
For some students, a gap year provides a much-needed respite from the physical and mental exhaustion of academic life.
Aliza Shrestha, who maintained decent grades until the 11th grade, encountered mental and physical health challenges in her final year of high school.
Despite her determination to attend a prestigious United States college, her dreams were shattered when she received disappointing board results.
Shrestha decided to spend her gap year studying for re-exams, a choice that eventually paid off.
She recalled, “It was not easy at first, but the gap year turned out to be the best decision for my overall health.”
Today, she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computing at Islington College.
Not all students choose to take a gap year willingly; sometimes, the lack of alternatives makes that decision for them.
Twenty-year-old Bindu Thakuri from Kathmandu had planned to study abroad for her master’s, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted her plans.
Additionally, the pandemic delayed the final year of her bachelor’s at Padma Kanya Campus. To support herself financially, Thakuri underwent barista training and started working at a coffee shop.
The gap year opened unexpected doors for her, and Thakuri is now preparing for the upcoming inspector exams.
“I learnt a lot in my gap year, and I’m doing things I never thought I would do. It taught me to take on the opportunities I’m presented with,” reflected Thakuri.
But Banu advised caution when considering a gap year. She recommended that students have a clear vision for their gap year activities.
In her experience, students who lack a focused plan can easily become overwhelmed, so she stresses the importance of using the year to develop essential skills and gain a deeper understanding of personal ambitions, hobbies, and career paths.
“Personality development should be a central focus of a gap year. Take internships, jobs, and projects that help you learn and understand your ambitions, hobbies, and career path. That is the key to a successful gap year,” she said. – Manushree Mahat