Thursday, 10 May 2012

Would You Like To Take A Year Off?

The Gap Year is slowly morphing into an independent travel in Malta and perhaps more so in England, tracing its roots to the hippy trails to India in the 1960s and 1970s just before the baby boom propelled their children to go on with gap years in the 1990s. 

How did it get popular? 

The popularity of the gap year in England is essentially attributable to Prince William and Prince Harry. Both members of the Royal British family, the two brothers had embarked upon experiences abroad. Working on farms, teaching English in a mountain village, assisting in the building of new walkways and clinics, travelling to southern Africa, and volunteering, were few of the several things they did during their year ‘off’. 


What do the Maltese think?

Unlike the British, of whom around 141,000 students defer their entry from university each year to take on their gap year, Maltese students are reluctant to ‘waste’ a year and tend to commence a degree just after they have finished their A-levels. What do Maltese think about the gap year?

A gap year is a very good experience in terms of change of environment’, says Glenn Micallef, a technical demonstrator at the University of Malta. He adds on, ‘It helps you get a break from the study life (exam, assignments, school, and so on) and throws you into the “wild”, so to speak. You will experience work life on completely different level. This will help you ultimately to adopt a more practical perspective of your work experiences and of life in general. However, one might find that a gap year could be much more attractive than study in terms of ‘adventure’ and the income, and therefore, one might change his or her plans to continue with his or her studies’. When asked whether he had took a gap year or wanted to at any time of his life, Glenn said, ‘I don't know it can be said to be a gap year... but my qualifying year for the masters, I had very little lessons and I started working almost full time. It was a good experience since I changed my everyday environment and also makes you realize how much is your skill set acquired during studies, valid to the industry (i.e. this was the year were I was convinced that I really needed my Master)'.

After completing her degree in English with the University of Malta, Giulia Bugeja pursued a gap year, perhaps incidentally. In her own words,

'I had never planned on taking a gap year, but when I finally completed my university studies, I was faced with the dilemma of what to do next. Should I further my studies? Master’s? PhD? Being a student was all I had ever known, but with the University application deadline soon approaching, I had to make a decision - fast! Taking a year off from studying was for me a way to gain some time until I decided what came next in life. Consequently, I found a job and haven't gone back to studying yet. Still unsure of what life holds, I don't know if I'm still on my gap year(s) or if my gap year wasn't really one to begin with. Only time will tell!'

Martina Muscat, who is completing her final year in B.Pharm (Hons) with the University of Malta, confessed that,

I will actually not continue my studies. But if I had to say enrol in a Master’s course, I would personally prefer to take a gap year or two so as to start working and gain some experience in the field, whilst getting back on one's feet financially. This would also help to choose clearly the area in which to further one's studies. The detriment to this is that one may actually lose the interest to continue studying since he/she would settle into the working life and may find it difficult to go back to university.’

Other interviewees however claimed that taking a year off would merely abet laziness among the students, who might find it increasingly difficult to ‘settle down again’ and to get down to some real hard work once the gap year has ended.

Roberta Cacciottolo, who has just finished her B.Ed (Primary) with the University of Malta, argued that, ‘I would never consider taking a gap year between 3rd and 4th year as I believe that I would then never continue my studies. Also, in order to stop completely for one year you need to have money’.

She moves on by saying that, ‘On the other hand, taking a year break between a degree and masters is okay. In fact, I think that in this case a gap year would be necessary as a person needs to take a break before embarking on another big project. During this time, the person can think better on how and where to further his or her studies’.

To build upon a metaphor mentioned by one of the interviewees, the Maltese seem to be ‘enclosed within a box’, which, because of its safeness and the security it emanates, one may find himself or herself agitated on the prospect of looking out of the ‘box’ and explore the world outside. Unfortunately, insecurities among the students re the gap year would be inevitable.

Muovo's views

‘Muovo does not look down on candidates who decide to take a gap year before starting full time employment or continuing their studies. On the contrary, recruiters and employers may view this as a positive thing – candidates who take a year off to travel could gain other necessary attributes such as independence & open mindedness. Moreover, employers may prefer to employ candidates who already took a gap year since this may prevent the situation of an employee leaving to chase their dream of travelling, saving the employer lots of wasted time and money!’

What do you think?

Is a gap year a valid way to learn, grow and ‘broaden your mind’, or is it more of an excuse to avoid work and school? Have you or someone you known taken a gap year? We would like to hear from you!

Nikita Pisani at Muovo


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