If you don’t want to hear my life story, scroll to the bottom for more general gap year thoughts!
With my gap year and last true summer of freedom coming to a close, I’ve been increasingly doubtful as to whether I’ve made the most of my time. Have I made enough meaningful memories and done as many wild and spontaneous things as I was able to before I no longer have that option?
When the weather warmed up in March, I made a goal to get out of the city at least twice a month. While it was short lived, my biweekly trips made up for all of the spring breaks, winter breaks, and summer breaks I spent working or studying, much to my mother’s dismay.
From Portland to Chicago to Los Angeles, I’ve been from sea to shining sea and even halfway around the world to Thailand. I’ve learned, seen, and eaten so much. No oyster beats those from Maine and no durian trumps those from Thailand. I’ve even eaten fried rat, which is considered a Thai delicacy. It does in fact, taste like chicken.
Each trip brought something new to my backpack of knowledge. I learned that I’m energized by New England’s intellectual atmosphere and for sure want to move to the region one day. I found that while Knoxville is no New York City, it has its own history and traditions and I’ve grown fond of UT orange. I realized that Chicago is my idea of a perfectly situated city, right on the beautiful Chicago River at the edge of Lake Michigan. I learned that Los Angeles was not as great as it was hyped up to be and that the SoCal lifestyle is not for me.
When I wasn’t travelling, I was working in the emergency department as a medical scribe, and when I wasn’t there, I was at the salon. I learned that emergency medicine is not a specialty I would be interested in for the long run and to appreciate how hard my parents work every day to support my dreams. Working allowed for many conversations with doctors, fellow scribes, and customers who have become my cheerleaders through life’s minor inconveniences and major milestones.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I started this post and in my last week of freedom, I was able to sneak away for a hike in Chattanooga and decompress in the following days. It gave me plenty of time to reflect on the past 12 months and see how much I’ve grown mentally and physically (because gym gains :-)). It has been a rejuvenating year with a much needed break away from the near constant stress of school and cleanse from toxic ideas and individuals.
I highly recommend taking time off before starting graduate or professional school because burnout is real! This period is for you to recover from the stress and horrors of undergraduate, find yourself, live your best life, strengthen your resume, make money and save for school, determine whether you want to continue your education, do things you haven’t had time to do before, mentally decompress, and figure your priorities among many other reasons.
Gap years are becoming more common and most medical students I’ve met have also taken time off from school. It’s not shameful or embarrassing to take a break and it is usually beneficial. For those continuing their education, applications and interviewers may ask about experiences or lessons learned during the time off from school, so make sure the break is productive.