Making the Most of Your Gap Year
Amy has written a great post which needs no introduction - so, over to her! MP Team x
Gap Years are an amazing opportunity to grow in faith, explore God’s creation, and learn a little more about who He created us to be. Yet so often we can become distracted by a looming stress-ball of decisions, whilst everyone else has their Uni plan sorted and we don’t seem to have a decent answer to the question “What are you doing next year?”
So how do we make the most of our time spent out of the education system? I won’t pretend to be the fount of all knowledge, but here are a few things that I’ve learnt this past year.
1. Pray that God would put something specific on your heart.
I’ve had so many different ideas for this Gap Year, but the one that persisted was going to the House of Moses. When I contacted them back in September I didn’t know how it would pan out; however at each step I prayed and went for the next logical thing until the path was clear. The hardest thing to do was probably to send the first email to the House of Moses team because I had no idea what their response was going to be.
Have courage and put yourself out there - you may not know what the final plan looks like, but God does.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)
2. Everywhere is a Mission Field.
“Wherever I am, I am a missionary.
I am a missionary,
I do not live in Africa,
I am not reaching those you see in adverts on TV.
I am living in a normal city,
Living life for Jesus:
Cambridge is my mission field.”
Your mission field may not be Cambridge, but wherever you are, whether you’re on an expressly “Christian Gap Year” or not, you can impact people for Jesus.
3. Settle where you are.
Although visiting other people is great, put roots down wherever you spend your Gap Year. Have some regular commitments and build a life for yourself where you are. You’ll never feel at home if you don’t make it your home. If you stay in the same place try out older church groups or maybe even consider moving churches. Don’t spend all your time trying to escape, it’ll just leave you frustrated and discontent.
4. Don’t be too proud.
Some people’s gap years take them to far flung places that look great on Facebook giving them amazing stories to tell, other people stay at home and hide under the radar. Being a Healthcare Assistant and doing housework for people aren’t the most glamorous of jobs, and to be honest, sometimes I’ve been a little ashamed of the latter; however it’s serving people and loving them when they need it.
Everything you do is significant, no matter how small it seems.
These jobs have enabled me to do things that I otherwise wouldn’t have done. I’ve visited friends, helped out at home, and been able to support my old CU. I couldn’t have done this if I’d spent the whole year abroad or even in a full-time job. The most important thing is loving God and loving people. You can do that at any level of worldly success, but humility enables you to do it best.
5. It’s not all about money.
Even on a limited income it’s important to give some of your time and skills for free. Serving people shouldn’t always come with a price attached.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)
6. Be organised (as much as possible!).
If you’re travelling book tickets, accommodation etc. early. If you’re going to get a job start applying as soon as your exams are over and possibly even before. Also if you want grants for any travel plans start researching those ASAP, as the application deadlines can be quite early on.
7. Schedule time to see friends.
You are going to miss them, even if they are in the same place as you, it’s not the same as when you see them every day at school. Keeping in touch takes time and effort, but it’s well worth doing. I ended up choosing a handful of people that I would focus on, and even that’s been a struggle sometimes.
People won’t blame you for not being best buddies with everyone you knew at sixth-form or church, so choose a few key people and message/see the others more intermittently. Over the holidays, though, take every opportunity you can to hang out, and if you are able to visit them at Uni - do it!
8. Scrapbook/Make a record of your Gap Year.
And keep it up-to-date! (I’ve not been so good at this…) Sometimes I feel like I’ve done nothing this year and then I look at my scrapbook and realise loads has happened - both good and bad. I’ve tried to make it an honest scrapbook and not just all the nice stuff. One of my friends wrote down her hopes and prayers for the coming year at the start of her Gap Year and found it fun to see what had happened by the end.
Whatever happens in your Gap Year, the most important thing is to pray and trust God. He has a plan for you and loves you greatly. This year is an opportunity to impact the world for Him, and draw closer to Him.
My Gap Year has been far from perfect and I have learnt many things that in future I would probably do differently; but it has also been one of the most precious times in my walk with God.
There have been days I’ve woken up and have had no idea how it was going to pan out, simply saying “God do what you like”. And others where I’ve had it all planned to a T and it’s gone out of the window, yet God still filled me with His peace.
If I’ve learnt anything this year, it’s that God genuinely is in control - His timing is perfect, and if I can learn to relax in that, many moments of stress will be turned into moments of peace.
“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23)
A village girl at heart, Amy is moving to Southampton this year to study Medicine; and is looking forward to taking up sailing, finding a new church, and seeing God move at Uni. She has loved being involved in churches and CU at home and is super excited to see what God has planned for this next (quite long!) chapter.