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Want to take a gap year? Five students discuss what it was like for them

Taking time off between school and college or JC and under-grad can bring clarity and perspective, but also confusion, loss of confidence, directionlessness.

education Updated: Jun 06, 2018 19:27 IST
Prakruti Maniar
Prakruti Maniar
Hindustan Times
Gap year,BTech,Mukesh Patel College of Engineering

Youngsters are taking gap years for a growing number of reasons — as a breather between two phases of education, to clear the head after graduation and figure out exactly what they want next, to explore career options, work on a project or learn a new skill.

It can help bring clarity and empower you before you strike out on your own, say students who’ve done it, but it can also lead to loss of confidence, confusion, even a sense of hopelessness. Five young adults share their gap-year experiences - how they came around to taking a year off, what they did with their time, and the difference it made.

The deferred decision

Not all gap years are planned. Krishna Devi Shetty, 23, finished her BTech, combined with a year-long MBA, from the Mukesh Patel College of Engineering in Vile Parle in 2017, and began to hunt for a job in a manufacturing unit.

“I was sure I wanted to work in a factory, so I refused campus placements. I thought that since I had studied chemical engineering, a factory would be the best fit,” Shetty says. “My initial plan was to work for two years, then head abroad for a Masters.”

A visit to a study abroad consultant prompted her to alter course. “She told me I didn’t have to wait for work experience and could apply right away. From August 2017 to January 2018, I focused on preparing for the GRE and applying to universities.”

At the same time, her father was setting up an aviation training business. “My MBA in operations helped as we laid the groundwork for the business,” she says. She also travelled, to France, Goa, Calicut and Pondicherry, attended weddings she would’ve otherwise skipped and spent more time with family and friends.

“It helped me unlearn a way of living by routine and offered me a glimpse of what I would want my life to look like,” she says. “It opened me up to the idea of having a business, where I would have more liberty to manage my schedule.”

Shetty is now preparing to fly to the University of Chicago for her Masters in industrial engineering, in August. “Helping my father taught me that if you give any industry some time, you can learn about it. After my Masters, I won’t be so rigid about my choices as I was after graduation,” she says.

A career in the arts

There is no fixed formula to succeed as an artist, but time off can help with some basics - building an industry network and fine-tuning your craft. Pranita Pandurangi, 23, who completed a BA in English literature and anthropology from St Xavier’s College in 2015, had no idea what she wanted to do after her last year. “All my friends chose either a career in academia or enrolled for a Masters,” she says.

She was interested in music, theatre and teaching. “I wanted to pursue the arts professionally but I did not know how,” she says. So she dabbled in all three. “I took a month working with an education NGO, teaching music to kids in Leh. I did my first commercial play, and performed live for the first time, all in that one year,” she says.

“This helped immensely. Not only did I learn the reality of working as a professional artist, but performing in a Punjabi play with Sufi themes made me realise that I express myself much better in Hindi and Urdu, so I also spent the year learning Urdu, reading and writing in it, and studying Hindustani classical music.”

She decided to enrol for a Masters in Ancient Indian Culture and Archaeology, of which she has completed her first year. “This helps me with my research about the music of ancient and contemporary Indian cultures and gives context to the songs I write, and the stories I tell through them,” she says.

“Acting, teaching art and music and making music all in one year also taught me that I can pursue more than one thing at a time, instead of having to stick to a job. It also gave me clarity on what I was more inclined towards, which is music.”

Pandurangi currently earns a living performing her music and conducting theatres and art workshops for school students with arts education company, The Pomegranate Workshop. “Long-term, I want to continue doing what I am doing but in a more commercial way,” she says.

Taking stock

A dormant aspiration of “wanting to act” prompted Aditi Joshi to take a break between school and college. “I didn’t want to jump directly from one to the other,” says the 25-year-old, now an actor and model. “So before doing my BA in English from Delhi University, I spent a year assisting on a film in Goa, travelling solo in south India, and learning about yoga. After having a small world in boarding school, this was a huge leap.”

Even if you have planned the year carefully, you may find that you have run out of things to do. Having an activity to build on can help you stay busy and build a stronger CV. “I was a city-level volunteer for SPIC MACAY (the Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) in Jaipur. My time off allowed me to have greater responsibilities, and now I am involved with organising their national convention,” says Prajjwal Kushwaha, 21, currently in his second year at the National University of Juridical Sciences, West Bengal.

In 2015, after finishing Class 12, all of Kushwaha’s friends were preparing for DU. “But I felt that the month between your results and the admission process is too little time to decide what you want to do and which college is best suited for it,” he says. “So I decided not to apply for a BA. It took me about three months to narrow down my options and decide to study law at NUJS. I picked it because I like the subjects, the moot courts and debate societies,” he says. The rest of the year went in preparing for the law entrance exam. “I am glad I made this decision, even if it cost me a year,” Kushwaha says.

Making it count

Around six months into the year, you may start to feel lost, Kushwaha adds. “Classes for my entrance exam took up just two hours a day,” he says. Your friends may also not be around, as they will have their own new routines and you may lose touch with them, adds Pandurangi.

“For eight months, I would read books and watch films to keep myself distracted and not overthink whether I was doing the right thing, and how everything would work out,” says Janhavi Panchal, 23, who completed her BMM course in 2016, realised publishing and mass media was not what drove her, and took time off to figure out how to pursue her real passions: art and design.

She is now in her second year of an MA in advertising and has completed an introductory course in Adobe. “It was difficult to believe in myself through those months. One thing I did was talk to my mother. Her support helped,” she says.

“This is not unusual,” says Mumbai-based psychologist Seema Hingorranay. “Internal issues, not just related to academics but also personal issues like an unresolved breakup, are likely to resurface in these gaps between school and college, junior college and the undergrad years,” she says.

First Published: Jun 06, 2018 19:27 IST