Jess Murray

The Gap Year Farce

africa farce gap-year

The Gap Year Farce

I have always been sceptical of Gap Years. Especially when they are glorified. Admittedly, I hated where I lived (analogous to the desolate suburbia of Mad Max, but without the Mad part – so, basically just “Max”) to the point that I literally could not wait to leave and come to Cambridge. Thus, the whole gap year idea sort of passed me by.

But if I hadn’t – what would have been my options? I could have spent 8 more months in an architectural glory hole (though a really shit one where you can push your cock through but canʼt pull it out again), spending my day working at Morrison’s alongside the numbskulled cretins who needed assistance to figure out that the difference between 1989-2008 was over 18. A whole eight months I could have spent joining in with this total farce, calling for help by pressing the big yellow button conveniently located next to the till – though only when mentally able to find it – or otherwise just grunting in general into space hoping to be saved from the lack of a maths GCSE. But I got that qualification, so my chances of employment would have been unlikely. And even then, for what? Iʼve been blessed with a nut allergy so Asia would have been out of the question. Israel? I canʼt, Iʼve already been to Syria. Africa? Fuck off.

I am thus horribly biased and maybe somewhat resentful towards those that got to spend five days walking up some fuck-off sublime mountain in China, but letʼs take that methodological flaw and put it in the hypothetical shredder of validity, because one thing that we can all agree on is that said flaws are more fun in the form of hypothetical paper confetti.

Gap years tend to fall into three categories. The first category includes those that decide to spend their time selflessly helping those in need, in the form of some kind of ʻexoticʼ project. Such charitable work usually involves rubbing an oily seal with a sponge, saving reptile eggs from Nicaraguan frittatas, or trying to teach English to a Ugandan child who doesnʼt have the slightest fucking clue about what youʼre saying. Such students go home feeling satisfied that theyʼve done something else in their life other than moan, masturbate (occasionally to be caught by their under-paid, over-worked Eastern European cleaner) and sponge off their parents. They dream of a Nobel Peace prize on the plane back to daddy, but all they get is The Nutty Professor Two: The Klumps on a shit screen. Money and time well spent, considering thatʼs six months work and 1.2% of your life.

Then there are those that somehow managed to lose themselves during sixth form. Unsurprisingly most of this category K-holed every Saturday for the previous three years. They thus deem it necessary to spend two months amongst the company of palm trees so that they can find themselves once more in sobriety. This breed of gap year students will bang on and on about how great the people they met were. But Iʼm dedicated to the viewpoint that if the foreigners in question could speak perfect English theyʼd be just another dickhead. While Iʼm sure they took some lovely photos that definitely – no really – couldnʼt have been found a hundred times over on google images, I find that a less time-consuming and a hell of a lot cheaper method to ‘find oneself’ is to simply sit drunk in front of a full length mirror, naked, and stare at yourself square in the eyes for up to thirty minutes. Only at this point do you realize and admit that you have weirdly shaped breasts (boys and ladies included), spots around the mouth that make you look like Heath Ledgerʼs Joker, and that you live an empty, hollow existence. Only then do you find yourself. And only then can you legitimately convert to Buddhism.

The last group are those who took a year to recreate the rest of their life in just one year but with slightly scaled down aspirations. This is the perhaps the most useful type of gap year. The student in question gets to realize that they lack any potential without a degree to hide behind, ends up working in HMV for twelve months by day and hanging out with everyone they hated at school (who have also decided to take gap years) in Wetherspoons every other night. On the other nights these students find themselves playing Football Manager over and over again, wishing they got paid to do what is basically a simulated job. Occasionally they throw in a Dominoʼs with some newly found friend (an alcoholic, of course, they only socialise at Spoons) round “their place” (their bedroom) to inject a bit of va-va-voom into their life. They also find themselves a girlfriend/boyfriend for a month, but they, like my top of the range shredder from earlier, only exist hypothetically in the realm of the mind.

If the students that take exotic gap years were as progressive and left wing as they like to think they are, wouldnʼt it have been more enriching to work for 6 months in order to send a financially deprived teenager from Peckham to Asia instead of a middle-class student about to attend one of the best universities of the world? Of course not, because everyone (including myself) is a greedy capitalist pig.