Sophie's Gap Year Diary – How I Got Here

Sophie Rainbow rsz


I’m Sophie and I’m currently taking a gap year. Next year I'll be studying English at Durham University.

How did I end up on a gap year?

It was never my intention to take a gap year before university – as I traipsed through UCAS I applied for 2014 entry without even considering taking time off. I did want to take a year out eventually, but after university, not before it. I’m still not sure why this was the case, but I think it was based upon a conviction that three years of higher education would leave me better equipped for the big bad world, than having just finished my A Levels. The thought of being left to flounder in the real world after only just finishing school was one step too far for my institutionalised mind.

So I was left a bit bewildered (to say the least) on Results Day when I discovered that I hadn’t got into either of my university choices. After a couple of weeks spent frantically trying to piece together some sort of a plan, one of my re-marks came back a grade higher, which (luckily) meant that I had now met the conditions of my original offer. There was a catch, though; Durham was completely full up for the year, so they would have to offer me a place for deferred entry instead. I was nonetheless distinctly happier than I had been a week before. The prospect of retakes hadn’t been a particularly enticing one.

But as they say, as one door closes, another opens. Whilst it wasn’t the route I was expecting, having a gap year thrust upon me hasn’t turned out too badly. School leaves you a lot more stressed than you might realise, and so having a bit of time away from pressure and exams is actually quite nice. I particularly enjoy keeping up to date with the complaints and woes of my work-laden university friends – even though I know that will be me next year.

Gap year plans

I don’t intend to spend my entire year doing nothing. I’ve just finished a month-long internship at a PR firm in London, which has given me really valuable experience of working in the industry. I’ve also started teaching piano, and I’ve got a weekend job at a local rowing club working on the bar and making breakfasts. Whilst it’s probably put me off catering work for life, it’s good to meet new people, it’s nice to earn a bit of money, and having a job will give me valuable transferable skills I can utilise later in life.

Over the coming months I plan to try and find more work experience in a few different industries. I’m particularly interested in journalism, and perhaps in publishing, so it seems wiser to test the waters now than to get to the end of a degree and have absolutely no idea what to do with myself.

And of course no gap year would be complete without the quintessential backpacking experience. I’m still undecided where to go, but I do know that I would like to fulfil the dreams of my younger, Attenborough-esque self and volunteer with wildlife somewhere.

At the moment I think of my gap year as a happy detour. If I get absolutely nothing out of it (unlikely), then no harm has been done. And if I become a more mature, well-rounded and confident person along the way, then I will consider it a bonus. 

Catering volunteer