You might remember Lara Wolfe as the young women who stood on the stage with Rohan at the IB Open Evening when you were in Year 11 and told you, with excellent communication skills, about her enjoyment of and challenges in IB. You might remember her as the student who got in to Cambridge with 43 IB points. You might remember her as the one who loved China and wanted to pursue Chinese Studies at university.
You may not know, however, that Lara is currently on a gap year before taking up her place at Cambridge in September. In this special guest blogspot she recounts the advantages and learning experiences gained in a gap year…
“What do you want to be when you grow up?
Although asked many times, I have never been able to answer this question. I knew where I wanted to go to university, I knew what I wanted to study but even now I have absolutely no idea what I want to spend the next 50 years of my life doing. My gap year has allowed me time to stop, breathe and think.
Until March 2015 I had never considered a gap year. I was looking forward to university life; why would I waste my time with one? So when I was informed that I was going to take a gap year I was determined to come out with more than a suntan and an empty wallet.
My gap year was going to be about increasing my knowledge of my degree subject (China); making connections and gaining experience to improve my career prospects; and for the first time ever, earning my own money.
- Step 1: I ordered some of the books from Cambridge’s ridiculously long reading list.
- Step 2: I created a CV and sent it, along with a cover letter, to over 75 companies with offices in London that I had heard of or that appeared when I Googled “China + London office”.
- Step 3: I signed up to five different recruitment agencies that covered my hometown in the UK and applied to 50 or so minimum wage jobs (the only kind of job I could get with no experience and no degree).
- Step 4: I booked a plane ticket to England.
(WARNING: this entire process took me about two months)
So far, I have tried a job in sales and marketing; my next internship is at a newspaper and after that…who knows? If done well, that is the brilliant thing about internships. You get to enter those towering office blocks, gain an insight into the lives of the smartly dressed people who enter them and by the end you are able to answer the question “Do I want to do what they do when I grow up?” My hope is that by the end of the year I will be able to answer with “yes” but if not, well, what else are holidays for?
These last few months haven’t been easy. Whilst not quite as challenging as IB I feel I have worked as hard as (if not harder than) my classmates who went straight to university. My part-time job requires me to wake up at 5:30am two days a week and my Friday nights are spent scrubbing down a bakery. However, through my internship I have forced my foot through that metaphorical door: I have connections in London-so important in today’s society-I have experience and skills that many employers look for, and I know that when I leave university I am not looking for a job in sales (which before, had been something I was considering).
I suppose to conclude; I just want to say that whilst most people will take the conventional route and head straight to university this is addressed to the unconventional few. A gap year can be set into motion quite easily by deferring, by applying for 2017 or simply by waiting a year to apply.
My gap year means that I will start university next year ahead of many of my peers. Not just in terms of age, but in terms of experience.
So if you don’t want to jump from one school to just another type of school or if you are tired from four years of exams and feel you will resent being forced to start the cycle again after only a few months off, or if just don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Why not try a gap year?”
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