The gap year. It’s a really popular option for a lot of people, typically depicted as a year out between the end of your A Levels and the start of university. People take a year off for so many reasons. To travel. To earn money. Because they don’t know what they want to do with their life. Because they want to wait for their grades. Because they didn’t get their grades. Because they aren’t ready to move out. Because they want cool social media pics. Because they want to explore and discover new things. Sometimes, it’s just because they want to.
It is estimated around 5% of people deferred their university places for a year in the U.K. The concept of a gap year originally emerged in the 17th and 18th century, when young’uns from the wealthiest families started taking a year to travel all over the world. In fact, to be considered a true gentleman at the time, this experience was entirely necessary. In the 20th century, it became more of a military thing as boys were essentially forced to take a two-year break from education at the age of 18 to complete time in a branch of the armed forces. In the 1970’s it was seen as an opportunity to gain life experience, a chance to grow up a bit before completing education. However, in modern times it’s become associated with the upper-classes, reinforced by the likes of Malia Obama and Prince William publicly taking gap year. It’s also become much more popular, but as taking a year out has become more normalised, a strong stereotype has grown along with it.
The idea of the ‘gap yah’ originated from a comedy sketch performed by an Oxford graduate, in which boys exchange stories of their travels prior to attending university. The concept of the video is centered on mocking the English upper-middle class younger generation, who typically previously attended public schools. ‘Yah’ is likely derived from the term ‘rah’ used to describe these particular members of society as well as poking fun at the distorted way ‘year’ can sound in a exaggerated posh accent. The idea is that these individuals visit typically third world countries with the view to ‘make an impact’ or ‘give back’ but realistically end up throwing up after each night at the local watering hole. As a result of this sketch, there have been subsequent releases of different media types (videos/songs) which have allowed the term to grow in prominence, and therefore use.
I’m sure as you read this you are picturing an individual wearing elephant trousers at sunrise in Angkor Wat.
I’m right, aren’t I? (Or at least something similar.)
And when someone mentions their gap year, the first question is usually a slightly mocking, ‘did you find yourself?’. The second question is probably ‘so, it was actually a gap yah?’. And you can probably bet they went skydiving, bungee jumping, hiking and ate some obscure creature from a street cart at the side of the road. But so what? If they did, they did. Why all the judgement?
The idea of the gap yah, in my opinion, is utterly ridiculous. It’s all a bit of a joke isn’t it? No one actually takes it seriously. On my year out, I worked in a school for a year before going solo travelling around Australia and New Zealand. So yeah, a lot of people say, well you had a gap yah then, didn’t you? And I usually respond with ‘Yes, obviously darling’, and then I laugh. Because its a joke. In actual fact, I earned my money, and traveled around running completely off of my own resources, bar the odd drink someone bought for me! If someone doesn’t know that, but wants to say I’m a stereotype because I went to Australia, I don’t care! I had the time of my life. So I laugh and joke and we move on. What’s the problem?
Let people judge you for what you did. Where you went. Who you spoke to. Let people assume it was your parents money and you stayed in private rooms or whatever. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you have no regrets. The gap year vs gap yah argument is so irrelevant. People can stereotype all they want – remember those who do probably didn’t take a year out themselves – it doesn’t mean you have to listen.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a position where you can take a year out and you want get away, maybe because the idea of travelling a bit before going to university appeals to you, or because you need a year to figure out whether you want to go to university at all, you should. Don’t let what people may say about your experience put you off; just try and enjoy yourself.
At the end of the day, the term ‘gap yah’ started as a joke; someone’s gap year alter ego on their YouTube channel. So, let’s leave it as a joke. Gap year, gap yah. Tomato, tomato. Who cares? Seize the day, regardless of what other people think or say.