Grad School: A Different Kind Of Gap Year

by

The summer before I moved to Toronto to do my master’s degree at Ryerson University, I was terrified that I had made the wrong decision.

Decisions aren’t my strong suit to begin with. During my undergraduate degree, I learned a bit of everything and, going into my final year, there remained one question that had me absolutely stumped:

“What am I going to do after this?”

Maybe graduate school is my gap year, working on program-approved internships, travelling to the big city and finding myself somewhere between new topics and exciting discussions.

It’s the same question that I faced at the end of high school, except this time around I didn’t have a solid answer. Graduation was approaching uncomfortably quickly and everyone seemed to want some kind of response.

I tried on a few different options: I’m running away to join the circus. Classic, but no. I’m going to ride elephants in Thailand. Nah, still not me. I’m going to New York to be a high-class nanny and fall in love. Hmm, pretty sure that’s from a movie.

The one thing that all my replies had in common was that, for the first time, I was leaning away from school. I wanted to take a year off – go travelling, learn without deadlines and figure out what I wanted.

I had applied to graduate school at Ryerson on a whim. It was a long-shot, so I figured I would write the application just to gain some experience in the post-grad admissions process. Getting accepted was not part of the plan.

When my letter came in the mail, however, I realized it was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.

As my graduate school debut drew closer, I wasn’t excited. I finally had a real and respectable answer to queries about my future, but I wasn’t sure it was the right one. Back to school was feeling all too familiar and part of me wondered if I had given up on adventure.

On the last day at my summer job, a friend of mine – who had just finished a year-long bike trip and was now prepping for law school – posed a new question:

“Why can’t graduate school just be a different type of gap year?” he asked.

Once again, I didn’t have the answer. What I did have was a shift in perspective.

A “gap year” usually refers to taking a year off in between major life stages. Yes, traditionally this time off includes working, travelling and finding yourself somewhere between the Andes and the Australian outback. But I’ve never been one for convention.

Maybe graduate school is my gap year, working on program-approved internships, travelling to the big city and finding myself somewhere between new topics and exciting discussions.

New grads tend to put pressure on themselves to make the right step at the right time. I had always seen my future in certain way, but my friend’s question made me step back and refocus, and from this angle things became a lot less stressful.

For those who know exactly where they’re going, and for those who are just figuring it out along the way, sometimes a little change in wording can make all the difference. Anything can be an adventure, as long as you let it be one.

Photo credit: bird girl and fence by sfgamchick on Flickr
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About the author

Ishani Nath is a proud McMaster alum, aspiring writer and current journalism grad student at Ryerson University. When she's not hammering out articles, she can usually be found on a patio or nestled on a couch trying to keep up with those crazy Kardashians. She hopes to one day have a job that makes her excited to get up each morning, or at least one that gives her free food. Intrigued? Enthralled? Learn more by following her on @ishaninath.