It’s that time of year when things start to get really overwhelming. I have learned that this is only exacerbated in fourth year, when you have the stress of figuring out what you’re going to do with your life piled on top of the usual finals stress. Most of my friends have already been offered their places at various grad schools. Although it’s scary to be leaving the undergrad bubble—I’m sure—it must be somewhat comforting for them to know their next destination. I don’t have that just yet.
I didn’t apply to any grad schools, you see. It’s not because I plan to go straight into a career; I know that I want to pursue further education. I just have no idea what I want to study yet, which is why I didn’t apply to anything. Now I’m feeling a little bit left out to dry. As my friends get ready to pick up and move on, my plan is to pick up and go home. I’m going to find a temporary job, save money for my next degree, and maybe travel a bit. It’s the typical “gap year.”
I have always hated that expression: “gap year.” The word “gap” implies absence, negation, a void, a hole. Is that really what those of us who have decided to take a year before grad school are doing? Are we really taking a break? Is this next year really going to be an empty one?
Despite what the name implies, I’m hoping a “gap” year can be productive. Throughout my undergrad, money has been a huge source of stress. Taking a year to save up for my next degree will undoubtedly lessen the burden I feel when I go back to school. I’m also feeling a little burnt out, as I’m sure a lot people do after four years of slogging away at their studies. Sometimes I feel as though I’m reading the same readings and writing the same essays over and over again. I’m hoping that spending a year away from academia will give me the chance to rejuvenate my love of learning. Think of all the books I’m going to be able to read!
The main goal I have for my “gap” year, though, is self-reflection. After all, I’m not going to grad school just yet because I don’t know myself well enough to know what I would want to study or where. I don’t think that’s particularly abnormal either; I’m only 21. I have plenty of life left to live, so I can afford to take some of my time figuring out exactly how I want to live it. If I manage to do all that, my “gap” year isn’t going to be empty at all, is it?
If you’ve got your life all planned out and you’re itching to get going, I applaud you and I wish you well! If you’re like me, unsure of what you want, then I want you to know that’s just as valid. We’re all different so we all have different needs and different paths ahead of us. We’ll all find our way.
So congratulations to the Class of 2016! This upcoming year, our first outside of the undergrad bubble, is going to be a whirlwind for all of us! Let’s stop framing it as “straight-to-career, grad school, or gap year” and just call it all “Cap Year.” After all, we all worked very hard for those graduation caps we’re going to wear come June, and those caps are going to lead us all to great new things.
So this is my last post for Life@UofT. Many thanks to all you lovely readers for following along with me throughout my fourth year journey. I have loved blogging for Life@UofT, and I have loved life at UofT in the more general sense, too!