I remember how exuberant I was during the period I was doing my college applications, in my final high school year. What excited me the most was the thought of getting admitted into an international university in the US. I was then struck by reality when three of the four colleges I applied to rejected me, with one of them waitlisting me. At first, embracing this posed to be a challenge, and aroused frustration in me. Nonetheless, I realized that the only thing I needed to work on was me. I then chose to give myself a full year of figuring out who I actually was.
The idea of taking a gap year had always seemed irrational to me. This was mainly because my mind was preoccupied with my parents’ stereotypical perspectives, who, from a pure heart, wanted me to ensure a continuous ‘learning’ experience, and then attain success in a very short space of time. Their definition of success was the process of me getting employed straight after graduating from university. I experienced a state of cognitive dissonance. I was unsure about whether to conform to my parents’ expectations or my own perception concerning my future steps. Looking at myself then, I did not feel confident enough, and I always thought I had to become more. After profoundly reflecting on myself, I chose the latter. My first step was to define my vision in life, which is to leverage my talents and opportunities available to me to yield growth and positive impact. This mantra became my everyday drive, and sparked a curiosity in me to thrive to make it a reality. I became enthusiastic about popping the bubble that enclosed me and broadening my horizon.
My gap year experience has been a process of self-discovery. It has enabled me to explore the things I value most. I have revived my love for reading and writing through attending an Introductory College Reading and Writing Course at Education Matters. I have done a couple of internships, all of which have proven to be relevant.
Despite having studied science subjects at Advanced Level, I gripped an opportunity to intern at a private school called Hellenic International Academy, in the Accounts Department. Initially, in my office, I was nervous as I thought I was prone to making a huge mistake. Ironically, that fear turned into my source of motivation as I became determined to prove the confines of my negative thoughts wrong. Gradually, the experience shaped me into an organised young man, through consistently and accurately following the accounting systems. During the beginning of every school term, there is always an influx of payments. That challenged me to work under pressure, whilst maintaining accuracy. Rectifying payment queries, and chasing debts moulded me into a diplomatic and polite communicator, as I regularly emailed parents and other school, clients. My time management skills have been fostered, as I made it an ambition to stay on track with deadlines.
The racial and cultural diversity at Hellenic Academy then enabled me to work successfully during my internship at the Yale Young African Scholars Educators Conference, where there were teachers and school counsellors from different African nations. It was a fast-paced program, which highly demanded me to work under pressure as well. My responsibility was to attend to the educators, ensuring that they had all the resources they required during the course of the program. At the age of 19, the process of giving instructions to the above adults initially seemed like a giant to me. Nevertheless, the communication skills I had gained from my job at Hellenic played an integral role in assisting me to interact well with the educators. I firmly believe that this also enhanced my leadership and public speaking skills. Moreover, the program afforded me the opportunity to interact with Yale University students, who enlightened me with first-hand imperative information concerning university life. It diversified my network of friends all over the globe, and this has shaped my perspective to think within global parameters.
Additionally, I have been able to participate in an action for community transformation project at my former school. I noticed that talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is limited, so I was curious about exposing the students to the feasibility of the coincidence between the two. I shared information concerning numerous scholarship opportunities with them, with the aim of igniting a drive in them to thrive to transform their dreams into a reality, with substantial hope. This was undoubtedly a meaningful activity for me.
While going to college just after finishing high school would have been a lucrative opportunity, it certainly would not have afforded me the opportunity to attain growth in the above imperative life experiences. Moreover, I have discovered that possessing the ability to embrace failure shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. Rather, yielding positive growth in the aftermath is key. I have become more confident, and I believe the skill set that the gap year has equipped me with is essential ammunition that will enable me to thrive well, not only in a college environment but also in life in general. It ignited an enthusiasm in me to be thrilled by approaching challenges, as it enables me to pop the bubble of fear of failure that used to enclose me.
Kuda Rumawu was part of the the YYAS 2017-18 program. He will be enrolling at the University of Rochester as a MasterCard Scholar in August 2020.