Tak kenal maka tak cinta. Jom Kenali Universiti Awam (UA) Malaysia.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Things to Do During Your Gap Year

Posted by Celine Wan

After reading my post about my first gap year, I suddenly realized that I forgot to document my second gap year mainly because I was too busy. After all it isn’t much of a pivotal point as compared to my first gap year full of uncertainties.

First things first: I personally wouldn’t recommend people to have two gap years even though it is a fairly common practice in the UK. It really doesn’t hurt if you have the tenacity to make the most out of it but it takes a lot of emotional and mental strength to overcome such loneliness and criticism of having to start university late. Trust me; you wouldn’t like being associated as that crazy girl who didn’t go to university for two and a half years after graduating from A Levels. I got that just two days ago by my previous peer and despite completing my first year already, I felt very insulted as usual. By the way all the students who were once my classmate in high school just graduated in the UK.

Second Gap Year Period: October 2012 – October 2013

My first gap year was all about discovering what I want and finding out what my future path would be. This is a very common practice for people who take a year off from studies because they do not realize the importance of making such a decision. In hindsight I find it really ironic that I hadn’t a single clue about Higher Education at the age that mattered the most—and now this becomes something of a personal interest. Don’t you find it strange that in the present, I tend to advice people on this whenever I have the time? Maybe it’s because I do not want anyone to suffer the consequences like I did.

Anyway, the main purpose of this post is not only to archive my personal journal but to allow people to realize what they can do when taking a year off. There are many reasons and ways to use up your gap year: my first one was about self discovery and education mania, but if you’re the kind who knows exactly what you want to do already or have secured an offer or so, my second year may provide some guide on what else you can do to fill your time.

Events Organisation

So I got my life pretty much sorted out by summer 2012: It was to wait for another year before entering Cambridge University through Bank Negara funding. So great, this year was all about sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying life. Never have I felt more secured in a long time.

Since most of my friends knew that I had another year off and essentially had nothing to do, they got me involved in a UK university organization run by Malaysian students. That’s great for me because it is an opportunity to gain such experience to occupy my time. After all it can do good for my CV.

So I joined the Malaysian Public Policy Competition (MPPC) committee for two years and was the head organizer in 2013. That was the highlight of 2013 because not only do I feel more involved with people my age, I actually feel like I’m back in a scheduled and timetabled life. I got to meet new friends of my age as well and loneliness was a thing of the past.

Since I was the Malaysian representative as well, I got the opportunity to drive almost everywhere in KL and Selangor to meet organizations and learnt a lot in a professional sense. I did a lot of pitching for the event sponsorship and handled all aspects in the event since I took on a major role in this MPPC.

I’m not going to ramble much on the details of what I did, but the main point was I majorly occupied my time in such an event and I was very, very busy and happy. Eventually I changed from an introvert to a full blown extrovert—and that was one of my major character changes of me through my gap year. I guess it is a consequence of adaptation.


When I received my scholarship, I requested for an internship in the organization that I will eventually work in upon graduation. Therefore right after everyone left for their second year, I started off my second gap year working at the Central Bank of Malaysia (Bank Negara Malaysia, BNM). Being a Pre U grad from a pure science course, words could not describe the steep learning curve that I had to endure when placed in the Economics Department. It was a very good way to occupy my time and prevent myself sulking that my friends have just gone back to university to start their second year. Working in BNM was also the time when I learnt more about the organization to prepare myself on what I want to do when I step into that organization 4 years later— I’m bonded for 8 years by the way. Much to my surprise, the anxiety of transferring from an engineering field to the economics or finance world was much reduced after working in the banking industry. Since I knew exactly what sort of career I will be pursuing, I was previously an intern at CIMB investment bank. Summer holidays are after all the perfect opportunity to learn things not related to my degree (chemical engineering).

After completing my two-month internship, I was also actively involved in the education side of things, spending my time advising juniors and such. I was an active forum member in various forum services and wrote a lot of articles whenever I’m free—partly because I kind of like writing. I indirectly made a lot of friends along the way and since the first theme for the event I organized was on Education, Shifting Paradigms, I got to know of a non-profit organization called Teach For Malaysia and thus got myself an internship because it will be fun to spend some of my gap year time doing other things I’m passionate about. I was stationed in the Training Department, preparing final year examinations for form 3 till form 5 students in various subjects. I get to go on school visits in Malaysia’s underperforming schools which reminded me of my own past—that probably led me to be more passionate about raising education opportunities and awareness.


This was mainly during my first gap year but since I’m listing out possible things you can do while on a gap year—what the heck. It was my first time travelling alone to a foreign country:

Bali, Indonesia

Jeju Island and Seoul, Korea

London and Cambridge, England


Celine Wan's Solo Travel in London
first “solo” travel with a friend in London

In time I realized that I really love travelling which I cannot fully describe in words. The real experience is just so educational, fun, and eye opening it is just impossible for me to provide such vicarious pleasure through words. I used to think that travelling is just way too expensive because you throw in large amount of money for a short period of time—might as well invest them on fixed assets! Oh how wrong was I to feel that way.

Ever since my solo travels I made a point to travel during every university break since travelling from the UK is relatively cheap. To date I’ve visited London, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Vatican City, Porto, Lisbon, Prague, and Kutna Horra in my first academic year itself! Now that I’m back in Malaysia I’ve only visited Melaka again. It seems that eating is the only thing in my itinerary.

Society Involvement

I was initially involved in the Mensa society but transferred most of my time in the student run organization called the International Council of Malaysian Scholars (ICMS) through the Malaysian Public Policy Competition (MPPC). I was involved in a few other subsidiary organizations but most of these are overlapped with the events organization said above.

Sedentary Interests

This may seem the most boring but it’s also the most unique part of having a gap year, right at the comfort of your own home. I personally find this a privilege to actually set out a lot of time doing exactly what I like which include but are not limited to:

1. History

I read a lot of biographies, got lost in Wikipedia and Youtube, watched a lot of movies and dramas revolving around an era I was obsessed in at any point of time. I had spent a lot of time setting up a blog to express my obsession in history www.theirhistory.blogspot.com. Speaking of which I should revive it soon.

2. Beauty and Make Up

I ditched my nerdy side and started learning make up. I’m proud to say that I was the makeup artist for my friends for their May Ball event! This hobby is actually really useful in a University where formal events are a norm.

3. Education

As mentioned above, I dwell a lot in higher education side of things through forum discussions and reading.

4. Reading and Writing

Very miscellaneous. Everything mentioned above revolves around this sedentary activity.

5. Dramas

Hong Kong dramas, English dramas, American dramas, Korean dramas. Watch everything without guilt.

Family and Friends

I guess this is a no brainer but knowing that I will be away for a long time, I obviously had a lot of time to chat and hang out with friends and family. Visiting relatives during Chinese New Year, knowing that it will be my last for a very long time was part of the description but you don’t really need a gap year to do this. I guess what I mean is I took more time than a usual person to meet people, though bear in mind they’re usually professional in nature because even my friends in Malaysia have work and studies to attend to. So I spent most of my time Skype calling friends in the UK that I got so used to knowing what time it was in the UK when I was in Malaysia: sometimes 7 hours behind sometimes 8 hours behind, depending on the time of the year. All of this again, was part of the events organization. I had not physically met my colleagues in the UK when I first started out the event planning, but after 6 months of calling them almost every day, I didn’t even realize that I had not physically met them before by the time they got back to Malaysia. Talking to each one of them was so comfortable and natural it took us a while to even realize this!

Extra Studies

This is the most common fear and misconception of every Asian when a gap year is brought to mind—being rusty. On the contrary, I self studied extra subjects very regularly: Further Maths and I read up on Economics and Finance related books and websites to supplement my experience while at work (interning at a bank). I concede that I did not touch my sciences and have abandoned my Biology book a long time ago. Hence after the events were over, I dedicated a month just to find and gather all my books and notes in college and crammed 2 years of workload in a month minus Biology. Maths was very easy because I studied A Levels Further Maths so I totally dismissed this subject. Biology was unrelated in my course (for now) so I did not bother to revise. Hence a month for 2 A levels subject was very doable and starting university in my first year was a rather comfortable pace because it is like remembering “an old friend.” So don’t worry it’s easier to revise it back than you think—I left my Science for exactly two and a half years and at this moment after my first year, I’m pretty confident in giving tuition for the A levels Maths and Sciences!

Also, nobody really cares about my age, much to my surprise. Maybe it’s a UK thing, but a lot of them are actually of the same age as me, not including the Singaporeans.
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1 comment:

  1. Education should be the first priority for you. It's really important to be proactive in this case and ask help in essay in urgent cases.


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