The decision to take a gap year is a formidable one. There are just so many things to consider and you don’t want to make the wrong decision – after all, it’s a whole year! A year unscripted by the familiar rhythms of school or university schedules. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a year brimming with potential and self-discovery.
While there were many reasons why I chose to take a gap year, the most crucial one was my desire for personal growth and an aspiration to become more independent so that I could make the most out of my university experience. In the hustle and bustle of school life, it’s easy to overlook self-growth. I realized that before committing another 4 years of my life to academia, I needed a breather. This gap year became a space for me to explore, learn, and simply be. Now, halfway through my first semester at college, I’ve come to realize that taking a gap year was absolutely the right decision to make!
Some of my favorite things I did during my gap year:
- One of the first things I did during my gap year was an internship with my gynecologist. I’ve always been really interested in the field of Women’s Health and Reproduction and felt like this internship would be the perfect opportunity to learn more and have my myriad of questions answered. Even though I didn’t intend for this to happen, I actually ended up witnessing a childbirth! It was NOT a pretty sight and I almost ended up fainting (so unlike me!) but it was really cool to know I just witnessed the start of a new life!
- I spent a month at a Yoga Retreat in India and earned a Yoga Teacher Training Certificate. This was a truly transformative experience for me and through the process, I met the most amazing people! I lived on an island in Goa (a state in India) with 21 other students, most of them from other countries (Sweden, France, Australia, Russia, Germany, and the USA to name a few) and I was actually the youngest of the group! Despite the age range spanning from 26-72, I never really felt like an outlier. Through our shared passion for Yoga, we forged deep connections and engaged in profoundly inspiring conversations, leaving the institute not only wiser but also with a network of individuals all over the world. This is what my typical day would look like at the Institute: We would begin our day at 6am and do Jal Neti (yogic nasal cleaning technique) followed by an hour of meditation or Karma Yoga (doing good deeds, such as cutting vegetables or gathering fallen leaves, without expecting anything in return). After breakfast, we’d have theory classes followed by a strenuous 1-and-a-half-hour Asana (Yoga Poses) class. We’d have more theory classes and another Asana class throughout the day and we’d end the day with a light, Sattvic (made from produce that makes you feel good) dinner. The weekends were a blast – we’d hop on the ferry to my favorite cafe to eat some Pastéis de Nata and then go to the beach and soak up the sun! One of the weekends, we even attended a concert and joined in the Annual parade!
- I traveled a lot towards the end of my gap year. After taking a lot of tests and working on my college application, I was finally done with all my work and could dedicate the rest of my gap year to traveling and seeing the world. While I traveled to Singapore and a lot of cities in India, the country that stood out for me was Bali. Bali is truly something else! It is a spiritual haven where I found a deep sense of peace and tranquility. The people of Bali are really just the nicest and I was showered with compliments everywhere I went! My last day in Bali was during Nyepi, which is a Balinese Hindu holiday known as the “Day of Silence”. The idea behind Nyepi is that the people of Bali have a parade a day before with amazing lights and sounds and then practice complete silence on Nyepi day to confuse any malevolent spirits that might be present, causing the spirits to believe that the island is uninhabited. In this way, the Balinese people believe they can protect themselves from harm and pave the way for a peaceful and prosperous year ahead. On a personal level, people refrain from engaging in any form of entertainment and fast all day for spiritual renewal and harmony. Even the lights cannot be turned on! I, too, practiced Nyepi on my last day in Bali, however, I did end up eating dinner because it was my last day and I really wanted to have Nasi Goreng (Balinese fried rice) one last time. I really hope to return to Bali once again and give Nyepi a real try!
Looking at myself, I don’t feel like I’ve changed that much at all. But as I sit here writing this essay and thinking about the past year and a half, it hits me – I’ve had more “first times” during my gap year than I did the 4 years in high school. It truly excites me for what the future holds next!