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Gap Year Expectation vs. Reality

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Done with Matric, but no clue whether to study right away? Already got some gap year expectations or ideas? Céline recently finished her own gap year and reflects on what she expected from it, and how things actually turned out.

In 2014 I matriculated at the German International School of Cape Town, and could not have been happier to leave. I hadn’t had a very good time in high school and was very excited for the next chapter in my life. I wanted travels, new people, adventures, work experience, and lots and lots of exposure to my dream – the performing arts.

During my time at school, I attended the Waterfront Theatre School, taking classes in singing, dancing and acting. From a very young age, I’ve known that whatever career path I finally chose, it would most definitely involve the performing arts. I’m an entertainer. It’s what I do and love.

Having two older sisters who had both taken a gap year, I knew that as soon as I was released from prison (aka high school) I wanted to follow in their footsteps by purchasing a flight ticket to go abroad, allowing my soul free reign. Basically my gap year expectation was to head out and ‘find myself.’

Before heading out, however, I applied to Stellenbosch University for Drama, imagining that I’d return at the end of 2016 and then start my studies there.

As it were, things didn’t quite turn out the way I expected.

So Much for Detailed Gap Year Expectations…

I flew to Switzerland in January 2015, planning to work there and save up enough money that would allow me to do a Euro-trip halfway through the year. I expected my Gap Year to be a year full of gaining confidence, and to feel more secure within myself before I go to varsity. I envisioned work and travel, as well as participating in acting workshops and getting involved with many creative projects, not only to develop myself personally, but to get as much additional insight into the performing arts as I could.

I soon realised that these expectations, and many others, might have been a little too high, or just too specific.

Here’s a breakdown of 3 things I expected to get from my gap year, and how it actually turned out:


Work for 6 months, earn and save, then conquer Europe by train for the remaining six months and visit lots of acting schools in Switzerland and Germany.


“Worked for 9 months as a full-time administrative assistant in a corporate company and travelled for a total of one and half months (okay, that part was freaking awesome – New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and one or two cities in Europe). And though I visited only one acting school, I really loved it.


To find myself, and to know more or less what I want to do with the rest of my life.


I realised George Shaw’s thoughts ring truth when they suggest,

“Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”


Apply to a university in Cape Town to start studies in Drama in 2016, after my return back to South Africa.


I did apply to Stellenbosch University, but I decided I want to stay in Switzerland and audition at an arts college in Zurich.

Where did this get me?

After finishing my job just a few days before Christmas, I flew back home to Cape Town to spend the festive season with my family. I decided to stay for a month, since I worked for almost my entire gap year and felt like I really deserved a holiday.

Needless to say, along with quality family time came the countless questions about what I am going to do with my future, and when and what I will study. 

All. the. time. 

gap year epectations vs reality 2 s

Almost all of my friends are studying. Most of them also spent the last year on a gap year, but they are now studying towards degrees, and enjoying the benefits of a student ID. I feel like the only one who isn’t on that path (yet).  And to be honest – it SUCKS! I feel like a black sheep. And when my friends ask me,

“Well, what are you actually doing?”

I don’t really have an answer – because I have no idea about what is up in my life right now. I know I’m returning to Switzerland, and I am going to audition at an arts college in Zurich – but the academic year only starts in September. I don’t know what I will do until then, apart from working (no clue where yet). 

My time in Cape Town was amazing, but I have in the meantime returned to Switzerland. I do plan on working and then using last year’s savings to truly conquer Europe by train. I have started preparing for the audition already, and will give it my all. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t get in – cry? If that were to happen, I might study Psychology and combine that with Drama.

For now, I’m on the job hunt and going to interviews (I score about 1 interview for every 50 applications I send – just saying – it ain’t a breeze).

Would I Recommend a Gap Year?

My gap year experience might not be the most encouraging to hear, because unlike many youngsters who have a blast with travels, parties, and fun jobs, I was pretty much confined to an office cubicle for the majority of the time. It definitely wasn’t what I thought it would be.

Having said this though, I highly recommend that you take a gap year, even if you don’t emerge from it the way you expected. The amount of people you meet, stories you hear, and things you experience will without a doubt allow you to expand your mind. Whether this be a personal gain or a fresh view on diverse topics, taking the time to go travel or work in a different place for a while will be incredibly beneficial to you.

Sometimes you learn what you DON’T want, and that can be just as valuable.

For What it’s Worth

I don’t have the most stable vision for my near future, but with all my experiences from this past year, at least I know what I DON’T want.

  • I don’t want to work with computers.
  • I don’t want to work in a corporate office.
  • I don’t want to be in need of caffeine.
  • I don’t want to do something I despise yet endure it for the sake of earning a lot of money.

gap year expectations 3 s

I might not have travelled as much as I thought, or been involved with acting as much as I wanted, but I learned many other valuable lessons.

I have undoubtedly ended up with more questions than answers this year, but perhaps that is what a Gap Year is really all about.

FundiConnect 2cents

When you head out into your gap year, be sure to keep your mind and heart open to new opportunities, and not to let your expectations dictate how the year unfolds. Some people cut their gap years short – others continue with an open end. Learn from whatever comes your way, and take it from there 🙂

Just for kicks, check out the video Céline uploaded to her Youtube channel SceneCéline to update her friends and family after her first few weeks in the Swiss world.


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