I will be starting my Media Production course at Bristol UWE in September (2020) after taking what’s commonly referred to as a gap year. This decision wasn’t something I had quite intended and so feel it beneficial to share my personal experience.
I would also like to discuss how gap years don’t have to be, and often aren’t, a year full of travel and isn’t perhaps as glamorous as might be suggested. This most definitely wasn’t the case for me but I still learnt an awful lot and believe that it was ultimately a good decision.
After around three weeks at 6th form, I changed direction and began studying Creative Media at my local college. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and knew that media was the area I wanted to continue developing in. I had never been overly keen on the idea of University and had started believing that “working my way up” in the industry or getting an apprenticeship was the next way forward.
In the March of 2019, I applied for an apprenticeship in Factual Production at the BBC and was successful up until the final assessment at the end of June. The process itself was beneficial in giving me greater understanding of the industry along with improving my confidence, and so I have no regrets in applying. Ultimately though, the place was given to someone else and so I had to look for alternative options.
Making the decision…
It was during the summertime when I found out the apprenticeship result and so did briefly consider applying to University through clearing. Many family members were encouraging of this idea but I decided against it to avoid rushing into commitments too quickly. My partner Nathan was planning on doing a final year at college before applying to leave the following year. Therefore, I planned to apply for the same year, knowing that I could always change my mind if opportunities arose.
After settling on this idea, I then had to decide on how to make use of my time, otherwise it simply wouldn’t be worth it. Getting a job was important to me so that I could save money and keep active. I also knew that choosing the right university was even more important. In the past, Nathan and I had visited Bristol together on a number of occasions and really liked the city. We went to an open day and I’ll be honest, even then, I still couldn’t quite see myself studying there.
The more time that passed and the more people I spoke to, only then did I begin getting excited for University. When choosing to put it on hold, I heard a few people mention how if I didn’t go straight from college, then there’s a good chance I would never go! But for me, the time apart from education made me realise my craving for it and gave me the time to mature a little too. It was a gradual decision, but in applying just in case and allowing time to consider, I felt far more confident.
What I did for a year…
I was lucky enough to get a job relatively quickly and immediately started saving. I knew that I didn’t want to rely on my parents financially if I was to study, so I did my best to put money aside each month. I worked part-time which gave me the opportunity to still enjoy life away from formal education.
Now that I had an income and had continued to live with my parents, I was able to treat Nathan and I to small, spontaneous trips, something we hadn’t done too often before. It gave me a greater sense of independence and I enjoyed that freedom. The job itself was a new challenge as I had only experienced zero hour contracts prior to this. The working environment definitely helped grow my confidence and it also gave me something to focus on, after losing someone close in the family not long before.
In the January, I was able to get take a week off to do some work experience with a production company in Cardiff. I was so grateful that opportunity because, as with all work experience I’d done, it helped me to realise the areas I was interested in and what I’d prefer to avoid. Despite working part-time however, this was one of the only media related things I did for that year. Due to my varying hours and days each week, I wasn’t able to be as creative as I hoped but this most likely pushed me further in wanting to study again.
What I learnt…
Throughout my short time away from education, I continued to learn in different ways, both about myself and potential career paths. The most important recognition was that of my love for learning. I had adored my years at college and genuinely missed it. Work had left little time for creativity and I had started watching a lot of documentaries to get both my media and education fix. This time apart helped in my motivation in giving myself the best chance to be creative for as long as possible and the answer was University.
The work experience I’d done had given me a better understanding of the industry and therefore will help me when I specialise in my studies. It’s because of my gap year that I was able to make time to gain those experiences beforehand. The confidence I grew here, as well as at my workplace, will undoubtedly be useful for future projects. Hopefully, this will therefore mean the ability to get more out of my studies also.
Living at home with my parents whilst working gave me a deeper sense of gratitude for their support. Working part-time at almost minimum wage would have been almost impossible had I not stayed living at home and it’s something that I can now really appreciate. I had put all my eggs in one basket with the apprenticeship and I was lucky to have their support as I learnt from my mistake and created the back-up plan of University which turned out very well!
I’m really looking forward to University this year and taking the gap year helped me realise that further education was what I really wanted. Because of the time I spent working, I was able to save up enough money to move to Bristol in the July and have really enjoyed living here so far. Things may have turned out differently had I got the apprenticeship but having learned more about the industry since then, it probably wouldn’t have suited me in reality.
It’s definitely important to listen to the opinions of others around you however use them as a tool to come up with your own decision as opposed to doing whatever is told or expected. The saying is definitely not true, as much as I did enjoy earning, I was determined to pursue education and that’s exactly what I have done.
What do you think?
Don’t be shy – let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Taking a gap year provided a number of benefits for me and I’d be interested to hear about your own experiences of making decisions similar to this one, surrounding career path or further education.