Gap years are great. They can be inspiring, informative, educational, incredibly exciting; they can give you incredible experiences and friends for life. But don’t let your gap year story turn into a ‘gap yah’ lecture; don’t change it from something amazing and interesting into a yawn-fest that you bring up in every other conversation. Sure, some of it probably was life changing, but isn’t that enough in itself? Do you really need to explain to everyone you meet, in painstaking detail, exactly why it was life changing?
Here’s my guide on avoiding all the classic faux-pas made by gap year students. Freshers, listen up!
If people don’t ask, don’t tell
Perhaps the most important thing is not to assume that everyone wants to hear all about what you did on your year out, all the time. Don’t try and create a conversation about it if it’s not called for, it’s just a bit boring. Not everyone’s jealous of you, either.
Don’t try and drop it in subtly
It will probably be obvious. Casually mentioning in freshers week ‘obviously, cos I’m a year older than everyone’ – yeah, we get it, it’s because you went travelling for a year. Well done, you’ll be 20 when everyone else is 19. Big whoop.
Don’t start with ‘This one time in [insert country here]’
Does this even need explanation? Generally a funny story is funny regardless of where you were at the time. If it’s a good story, tell it; if you’re just talking about it because it took place in the Amazonian rainforest and you’re dead chuffed that you’ve been there, please stop.
Some things are better kept in the house
Gap year trousers are great in that they are super comfy and the best thing to wear if you’re feeling fat or are extremely hungover. But as a rule (unless you are really beyond functioning and have just blindly pulled something – anything – out of your wardrobe), don’t wear them out the house. Please.
It’s not a competition
You don’t have to try and out-do everyone else in how dangerous and daring and adventurous your gap year was. People do different things and have different priorities, and they probably had a very enjoyable time drinking cocktails and lounging around on the beach in Spain whilst you were bungee jumping in Nepal. And I really hope you didn’t do daring and dangerous and adventurous things just so you could smugly tell other people how exciting your life is.
Don’t judge or assume or compare
Not everyone who had a gap year will have travelled non-stop for 10 months; not everyone will have volunteered; not everyone will have visited far flung or off-the-beaten-path areas of a country or a continent. Doesn’t really matter. It wasn’t your year. Don’t turn your nose up just because someone had to work half the year to fund what they did, or because they opted for the well-trod backpacker route of South East Asia rather than hitch hiking around Colombia.
Equally, don’t be embarrassed about it
If people are actually interested in hearing about what you got up to, don’t be afraid to tell them! This is definitely a bad habit that I’ve got into; being too embarrassed about being a huge stereotype and therefore being very close-mouthed on the whole subject. If someone asks you about a trip you did or a project you worked on, don’t assume they’re just asking out of politeness; actually engage with it. Maybe they’re asking because they’re thinking about doing something similar themselves, you never know – your experience might be valuable to other people too!
Know someone who’s a gap year bore? Maybe this article is the subtle hint they need to shut up and get on with their life instead of reminiscing about that one time, on their gap yah…