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A gap year that felt like ten


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To know what you want to be when you’re older from a young age can have its advantages and disadvantages. The pros are the obvious: career choices and cramming work experience in from the word go.

But, when you miss out on the opportunity to begin to pursue the career, the cons come piling onto you like a million A-level law books.

ClockStanding in the toilet queue at a university open day led to me overhearing a melancholy mother’s meeting: “My Jennifer didn’t get into the university she wanted either this year. Even with four As, not a single one of the higher institutes will take her on!”

And this seemed to be the case for more than a few sorry students last year. Albeit, ‘Jennifer’ may have never done a day of work experience or exploring in the desired field in all of her life, but being declined with four As is always shocking.

I happened to be one of these students that missed out on As by a hairpin. After succeeding two As and two Bs at AS level, I thought I’d be on the road to Sheffield University like nobody’s business; even after I’d received an conditional offer of AAB for English Literature.

August 2010 soon came round and after trying to calculate the masses of numbers given at results, (which in a frenzied state, is not easy) I concluded with one A, which I cried in joy about, and three big B’s looking at me on the paper, which I cried in anger about. Yes, a B is great, especially in todays increasingly harder A levels. But for me it just was not good enough and this was my fault.

I had left no other choice for myself in what to do next. There was no plan B or alternative option as I wasn’t even satisfied with clearing that year, just a massive DECLINED staring at me on UCAS.

As depressing as it may seem, my life turned into a melodrama of emotional turmoil for weeks after this.

Dozens of pros and cons lists later, a decision was made to work for my father in a factory warehouse all year whilst retaking the exams I need to go to the best universities.  Not exactly what I had planned for 2011, but it meant money and possibly another go at Sheffield.

After retaking two sets of exams in January and June, I had finally become a sceptic and decided that Sheffield was not meant to be. Either that or I just didn’t work hard enough.

As embarrassing as it is, failure is a feeling that is never easily shifted. Even when I found out I had an unconditional offer from Swansea University for a great course, I felt completely ungrateful.

However, I did do what the likes of Orlando Gap Yah students do; I went travelling.

The European excursion only lasted two weeks and it did open to my eyes to why these itchy feet students spend the money doing this.

Also, I managed to get a week of work experience at the regional newspaper. Following this I was given a freelance writing job as a reviewer. This is one job I would have never had achieved if it wasn’t for my gap year.

Currently, I’m now studying English Literature at Swansea University and I have the choice to study at dozens of institutions over the world, a choice that Sheffield never realistically offered me.

A forced gap year was an option several of my friends had to take last year and in line with the stats, we weren't the only ones.

Eventually, I worked out, if I had put the 110% into my A level exams to bump a few extra marks on, I would have walked out with A*AAA.

Nevertheless, I am thriving at Swansea University with more opportunities than I could wish for.

My gap year felt as though it went on a lifetime, and is not the happiest of tales. I certainly didn't go helping the third world countries or building schools for the less educated, but I was forced to grow up in a blink of an eye.

Yet, I think I can honestly look back now and say: it was worth it.

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