Going to Uni after a Gap Year
One of my first memories of uni life was sitting in my first lecture and the bloke beside me asking me what I had gotten for my A-Levels.
I looked at him with disbelief-come-horror, wondering what kind of random question this was to ask, especially given that I was struggling to remember the answer. It was only after I had reeled from the shock and made a mental note never to sit beside this bizarre little man again, that I realised our differences and why he has asked the question.
For Dara (I remember his name, and his impish face), A-Level results were a fairly recent thing. He’d gotten his a few weeks ago, and was suitably excited to find out how he compared with his peers (poorly as it turned out). For me, results day was a blur, a memory that had been overcome by experiences much more exciting, as I embarked on a gap year travelling and working around New Zealand. That my first gap year needed a second one to pay off its debt and to continue to outwork my travel bug only increased the haze.
Attending CU for the first time, I noticed a chap sitting on his lonesome. Assuming that he was a first year like me, I went over to welcome him, not fazed that I didn’t really know what I was welcoming him to. I was taken aback when it transpired that he was a final year student, and felt sure that it was he who was supposed to take the initiative with me. I felt a little bit like a girl asking for the bill on a first date.
It wasn’t that I was a mature student. It just felt that all those who started uni with me were immature students, timid and shy, requiring alcohol to tempt out their confidence. I gravitated towards final year students, or those in my year who had taken a year in between school and uni like I had. It wasn’t just that I was a few years older as conversations with second and third years seemed to testify to, it was the experience of travelling, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures or holding down a full time job that seemed to pull us together, and made us feel older than our peers even when we weren’t.
My gap year wasn’t especially ‘Christian’, in that I didn’t spend it with a mission organisation in Bangladesh, but nonetheless, the experience of exercising my faith outside of my parental confines was significant, and enabled me to better stand on my own two feet as a Christian in ‘the world’. Quite quickly I saw that this gave me an opportunity to get alongside and strengthen other Christian students who were away from home for the first time, and who weren’t quite sure what to make of the sensory attack that is freshers week.
But I didn’t always take this, and made massive errors in choosing to spend more time with those people I had much more in common with than with those who seemed much younger than being of voting age would suggest. I looked down on those I deemed to be immature, scoffed at Christians who I thought didn’t have much of a thinking man’s faith and ignored the socially awkward to be with those who better appreciated me for the awesome interesting guy that I am. I was certain of my social superiority to those who had trodden meekly through the system. My so-called life experience provided me with frustrations at some of the triviality of discussions I was a part of. I became a pretty arrogant grumpy git, and took a sadistic sort of pleasure in it.
For all the benefits that a gap year (or in my case a couple of them) can provide, I wish I’d better prepared myself for the sinful lens it caused me to look at uni through. Undoubtedly having a gap year puffed up my pride and made me feel better than those around me. It caused me to be selective in choosing who I spent time with rather than loving widely. I sought betterment for myself, rather than for others in taking opportunities to disciple younger Christians and encourage them in mission.
Taking time off between school and uni was a brilliant experience. I made the mistake of looking down on those who hadn’t chosen that route, and made myself a conceited fool by thinking of myself as better than others.
Robin Peake works in the Events Team for UCCF: The Christian Unions