Why I Took A Break From Studying
Before my last year at Oxford I took a break from studying, spending a year abroad in France for my studies. The one year break from studying was magical: I travelled to several new places, met interesting people with inspiring stories to tell and learnt so much French that I was the closest I could possibly be to fluency. When I arrived back in the city of dreaming spires I was eager to return to further study with a newfound sense of confidence and independence. My year abroad taught me to be fearless and to put my heart and soul into everything that I did. Only then could I see positive results.
Now I was a fourth year with Finals ahead of me. To tell the truth I was very nervous about the months to come. In some ways Finals is like being pregnant but not nearly as painful: you wait nine months for the final ‘due date’ of exams, you prepare immensely by reading up on everything there is to know and as the important day gradually approaches you start to feel slightly nervous yet excited for everything to happen.
For me, Finals was one of the biggest challenges that I have ever faced and having gone through it I feel more resilient. The days spent revising, stressing and working hard were worth it and my final grades reflected my dedication and determination to excel.
Finals is an intense experience and it can often leave you feeling drained and anxious.
Despite the stress of Finals and weekly essays, I was also thinking about my future.
I knew early on that I wanted to continue my studies after my undergraduate years. I loved learning and interacting with some of the finest researchers in my field of interest. Yet something was stopping me from applying for a master’s degree straightaway. I searched for hours to find a reason for such inaction. Then it hit me; I wasn’t ready to settle back into studies after Finals because of what I had experienced on my year abroad. I was pining for the chance to see the real world again and to experience life outside of the university bubble before returning to it. I was more than determined to return to university after taking a break from studying but a year abroad was something that screamed adventure.
This didn’t mean that I was going through some pre-mid-life crisis or that studying was ‘all too much’. On the contrary, travelling would add to my education or provide a different type of education. I didn’t feel like I was escaping ‘life’ for another year before making important ‘adult’ decisions, this was in fact one of them. I was ready to feel the adrenaline rush of jumping in at the deep end, no matter how crazy or ‘immature’ it appeared to everyone else.
So I took the plunge. I applied for a teaching programme in Spain for nine months. I worked as a secondary school teacher in the heart of Catalonia. Admittedly the fear of change hit me in small waves but when I landed in Barcelona airport I felt free. Fear became excitement. I spent my days working, studying and taking in whatever I could from the environment around me. I discovered new cities and cultures, completed a teaching course, learnt a new language and whilst juggling a full time job I still managed to apply for a master’s. I mastered the art of productivity and ‘figured things out’ whilst enjoying myself and taking time out for me.
A year has now passed and I am a week away from saying goodbye to Spain. I’ve achieved so much here, many highs and a few lows; none of which I regret. But now I’m ready to return to studies with a fresh new outlook and the same desire to learn and expand my mind. I’ve built on new language skills along the way and have strengthened skills which will remain essential to my studies: communication, organisation, inspiration and determination.
For those of you considering travelling before kick-starting your career or pursuing studies here are my words of wisdom: Though it may seem challenging or scary to dive into a new way of life, remember why you were evening thinking about travelling, what great advantages there are for exploring the world and focus on what you want to get out of your experiences across the globe. While it may seem easier to be a sheep and follow the crowd I challenge you to do what you really want, even if that is perceived as something ‘alternative’ to others. Whether it’s working as a teaching assistant in Spain or volunteering in the depths of the Amazon, don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and test yourself by doing something exciting.
Taking a break from studying was a decision that I will never regret. It has allowed me to grow and for that I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to see the world. I’m glad that I listened to what my heart wanted. If there is anything that I’ve learnt it is to follow your own dreams and to always put them first. You never know, it might lead you to explore the world! Do not hesitate to take a break from studying if you feel you need to.