At Moulton Sixth Form I studied French, Spanish & Economics and I received an offer to study a modern and Middle Eastern languages degree in French & Arabic at St. Anne's College, Oxford. I decided that I wanted to take a gap year pretty much as soon as I started looking at universities and I let the uni's know straight away by applying for a deferred entry.
I decided to take a gap year for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to buy myself a bit of time. I needed to achieve AAA to obtain entry to my course at Oxford and I was worried that I might not get the grades I needed. I wanted to be in a position where I could have resat some modules and exams so that I wouldn't have had to go through clearing and end up at a uni or on a course that I didn't want. I like spontaneous decisions, but not when it comes to where to go to university!
I was also a little tired of studying, revision and exams after 3 years of GCSEs and a further 2 years of A-levels. Because I was applying for a languages degree, I knew that my course was going to be 4 more years of exams and studying. So I decided I needed a break! I also wanted to travel and if I left it until after uni I knew I might not get around to it because I might not have the money or perhaps the motivation as I'd be focused on getting into the world of work.
I only began my gap year 4 months ago, but I've squeezed a lot in already. So far I have spent 2 months working at a campsite in France and had the most amazing time! I was responsible for the kids club, as well as putting on shows in the evening and organising entertainment such as quizzes, games and live music. During the days when I didn't have the children, we organised games and races in the pool for the holiday makers. After I'd finished I went straight to Spain with a friend from school. We spent two weeks travelling around Spain on trains from Barcelona to Valencia to Cordoba to Granada to Cadiz to Toledo and finally to Madrid, taking pictures of churches, drinking sangria and eating paella! Following Spain, I'm just finishing a month long intensive Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course in London. It's certainly hard work. 9am-7.30pm with the horrendous London commute, and then planning and evaluating lessons, but I've thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait until next Friday when I will be a qualified teacher.
There are lots of organisations that help you to plan and organise your gap year, but I have been organising mine independently. I applied for my job in France by sending them an email and my CV. Once they'd received my CV I had a telephone interview with them and got the job. I applied to a variety of different campsites as a lifeguard, as I have my RSSL Lifeguarding certificate, but France being France, they weren't willing to accept any of my English qualifications... not even my first aid! I found the TEFL course through a lot of research and talking to people. There's a lot of companies that offer a "TEFL" qualification, but they are not all internationally (or indeed nationally) recognised. They are expensive, but definitely worth it because they stay with you for life, so it means not only can I use it abroad this year on my travels, I can also give private tuition during uni or once I've finished, make a career out of it, or just keep it as a part time job to top up the beer money!
I would definitely recommend a gap year to students who are struggling to keep motivated in their A2s, who don't really know what they want to do with their life or indeed what they want to study at university. I would also recommend it for those who are aiming for high-entrance grade universities who are worried about not meeting the requirements. I found it to be of great comfort over exams season last year to know that worst case scenario, I had a year to figure out an alternative plan.
I'll be honest, when I found out on results day that I had got the grades for my first choice university, I was a little disappointed that I wasn't starting straight away. I hadn't really planned all of the activities I wanted to do on my gap year, so when I received my results I had only planned as far ahead as the end of September, so I didn't have that much to look forward to! Also, all my friends were getting very excited about university, going shopping to buy whisks and cheese graters... and I wasn't! Fortunately, it has meant that I've been able to go and see a few people at their uni's which has been nice. I'm also glad that I've chosen to do my TEFL course. I was worried that after a year of "bumming around" as some jealous siblings have referred to it as ( I prefer "exploring") that I might have forgotten how to so much as hold a pen, but this has definitely kept my study skills up, but in a completely different environment and context to school.
For the rest of my gap year I've booked a couple of city breaks for the end of the year, catching up with friends and family. Between city hopping, I have kept my job on as a lifeguard in Northampton so I am able to work a couple of shifts to fund my adventures.
I am in the process of job hunting as an English teacher abroad, with the intention of starting in January. South America is taking my fancy at the moment or Madagascar. I don't want to be over ambitious, so I plan to see 2 or 3 countries this year, that way I am looking for temporary work placements of 4-6 months giving me a chance to settle in and fully explore and immerse myself in wherever my teaching may take me. I intend to travel to places that either speak French or Spanish so that I can improve my linguistic skills over the year, before starting uni. I think that teaching will afford me invaluable experience, not only from a personal "character building" point of view, but also for improving my CV.
I am very excited for my year out now, and despite being initially apprehensive, and slightly wishing I was currently drinking my way through Freshers Week with the rest my friends, I don't regret it at all!!