How I (kind of) figured out my life in my gap semester
The idea of taking time off University can be daunting. When I decided in 2016 to defer the Spring semester, I was instantly bombarded with questions from concerned friends and family.
Why? What else are you going to do? What if you get too comfortable and never go back to University? Are you dropping out for good?
Regardless of these doubts, taking a semester off was one of the best decisions of my life.
As clichéd as it sounds, I learned lot about myself and the future I want to create for myself (without needing to take the stereotypical Europe contiki route).
I wanted to take time off because I felt like I simply was not ready for Uni yet. I wanted to try as many new experiences as possible and to feel secure in all aspects of my life, including my degree.
Something I constantly heard from people my age is ‘I don’t know why I’m doing this degree’ or ‘I have no idea what I want to do as a career.’ In my first semester of Uni, I felt the exact same, and I came to realise that I hadn’t ever actually sat down and thought about what career I would enjoy and thrive in.
I realised that part of the reason I chose my degree (Journalism)/Law) was based on what other people and society had informed me would be a good choice.
People would insist that I shouldn’t let my marks go to waste or pursue a singular Journalism degree. When I would tell people about my degree, most people would give a sceptical gaze or comment upon hearing the word ‘journalism’, but instantly light up when I mentioned that I was combining my degree with law. ‘It’s too hard to find a job in journalism, you need to have a back up’, I would hear constantly.
Although I had always had an interest in both journalism and law, I was doubtful about my degrees after deferring. I took on a number of opportunities that helped me to better understand my own interests and passions.
Equipped with my knowledge from Stories from the Streets (shoutout to Jenna Price), I e-mailed and phoned as many newspapers I could and managed to land an internship at one of the newspapers in my area. Being at a local newspaper, I was given more responsibility and was given a story to develop literally minutes after walking in and still trying to process the fact that I was at a real-life newspaper. Free from the stress and pressure of the first semester of journalism, I was able to fully appreciate and enjoy the process of the work I produced. I loved being able to observe and engage in discussions with journalists and to both witness and be part of the news-making process. With each piece I published, my passion for story-telling grew, and my outlook on my future became clearer.
Last year, I had the perception that internships were only for the later years of your degree, but I could not have been more wrong. My internship was the best way for me to gain first-hand experience and I believe the earlier you can do field-related work, the sooner you will understand more about yourself and what you do and don’t want to do. Having an idea of what you don’t want to do is fundamental, as it helps you narrow down what it is you truly want to offer to the world. After much reflection and research, I got honest with myself and concluded that I wanted to help others, but just not through the legal profession. Although the lead-up was difficult, I felt liberated after discontinuing law. I followed my heart and knew that it was the right decision.
Alongside my internship, I got involved in a mix of activities that were essential to transforming my life. When one of my friends asked if I wanted to get involved in volunteer work, I said yes not knowing how much it would impact my life. I volunteered at a youth leadership camp and am now working with Conviction Group, an organisation focused on creating a discussion about men’s mental health amongst young adults. Meeting and helping people, hearing their stories and seeing the power of words in their ability to raise awareness and inspire others has strengthened my desire to create a difference in the world.
While doing substantial paid and unpaid work, I also began to understand the full importance of changing up your routine and using different outlets for relieving stress. I got tired of the treadmill and cross-trainers at the gym and joined a kick boxing class, with its disciplined nature challenging me to push my limits and achieve things I didn’t think were possible. I picked up my guitar again, and rekindled my love for creating music and the process of learning and practising new songs and bringing joy to both myself and people around me.
All up, the key thing I have learned is that life is not about finding yourself; it’s about creating yourself. The best way to understand yourself better is to take initiative and try a range of different pursuits, no matter how intimidating they may initially seem. It is definitely easier said than done, but the reward of the knowledge gained from these experiences is worth overcoming any prior fears or doubts you may have. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m learning more about the world and myself each day and could not be happier.
Author: Patrick Hemmati