Nobody plans to become a mature student. If anything, a gap year is planned and that turns into a few years. I always wanted to go to university, you could also say I was excited to do so, but it didn’t work out that way in the end. It worked out eventually but I didn’t follow the same route as my peers and my friends who graduated the same year as myself. Many people have asked if I have felt left behind, or if I missed out and what that experience was like.
The years in between the leaving cert and my first year at DIT in 2014 gave me a lot of life experience and I witnessed a lot of changes happen, not only within myself but with those that went straight into University from my secondary school. I, of course, can’t say exactly what it would have been like for myself or anyone if I had have gone the traditional route and I cannot speak for anyone but myself.
So, did I miss out? I don’t think so. For me, I think it was the best possible route. Did I feel left behind? Yeah, occasionally I did. Those were usually with my secondary school friends going to events at their college or university that I may not have been able to attend because I wasn’t a student there or they were going because new friends had invited them and wouldn’t have known me. It could have also been that they had less time to spare outside of college-related activities, on top of part-time jobs, and my life at the time didn’t have more than one responsibility in comparison, so I found myself with a lot of free time which would make anyone feel left behind or like they had made a wrong decision in choosing this route.
A Different Route
You might also wonder what made me choose this route and what, for some, it entailed. After all, I had been excited to go to university with all my friends but then I didn’t. I didn’t for a very long time. In fact, I started university in September 2014 after many of my friends had finished their fourth and final year of university or had done so the previous year. Which also brought about a new feeling of being left out or left behind. My peers beginning their “adult” lives in new jobs, or further education and leaving the country for work. My decision to not go to university immediately came from the experience of secondary school in Ireland, including the school system, and from things that were out of my control.
Down this road there are lots of options to take that will suit anyone. From PLC courses, taking a year or more to work or travel, both if you’re lucky. I attempted some PLC courses and a repeat leaving certificate course and then went to Korea for a few months. Coming back from Korea I applied to the CAO and here I am now. I had found where I wanted to be and finally pursued something I was interested in. If I hadn’t of waited so long to go to University I would never have even done the course I am finishing this year. It didn’t exist, even as a field of study, it is relatively new. So, I am extremely lucky in that case that it all came together itself in the end.
The traditional route isn’t always the best route. Some say just go, do any degree and get out into the real world. That’s fine too. If you just want any degree you can apply to teach English for a year in tonnes of countries around the world, the pay is good and you can travel on all the days and weeks you have off. If you want to take a gap year or 5 gap years like myself, it’s pretty good too. You learn a tonne about life outside of education which you can use when you go back, you learn even more about yourself and people around you, can develop new interests that you want to study and will enjoy going into a classroom every day (Unless you choose to study my course, DT533, and only have a 3-day week and no exams EVER), and can gain work experience for your future studies which goes a long way in future job applications in your field.
For myself, going back at 23, was the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s helped me grow as a person and meet some amazing friends, young and old, and if you decide to go experience the world for a few years because you have no idea what to do or don’t feel confident enough to take the step yet then I’d recommend this path too.