How to talk about your Gap year

Twenty year-old fresher OLLIE COPLAND shows you how to tiptoe around the mine field that is the gap year conversation.

abroad five ways Gap Yah gap-year ollie copland

“I was inter railing round Europe when…”

Between you and me and the rest of Cambridge, no one wants to hear the monotonous drone which follows any story starting with this statement. In fact, tales of backpacking around Eastern Europe, island hopping in South East Asia, or teaching children English through the medium of dance in South America are certain to send the listener into a daze, making their eyes glaze over as they wonder what’s for dinner or whether their socks match.

But I recently met a first year student who’d been to Yemen on his gap year, and I wanted to know more. Once I’d convinced him that I was genuinely interested, and was not dickishly mocking yet another Gap-Ya storyteller, he went ahead and told me all about his time in Al-Qaeda’s stronghold. And I was fascinated. Promise.

This is a rare case – but maybe it shouldn’t be. If, like this guy, you’ve done some fucking cool and crazy things in your gap year, you should be allowed to spread your story-teller wings. Here’s how best to enlighten those around you who genuinely went straight to university after school.

If you’ve done the usual, keep your mouth shut. I don’t want to hear about clubbing in Gambia. I don’t care that you went to a full moon party in Koh Phangan. If you didn’t stray from the beaten path, don’t stray into conversation with me. Shush. It’s boring.

Exemplary eco-tourism

Exemplary eco-tourism

Avoid the term “Gap Year”. You could tell a mindblowing account of dodging bullets during a high speed car chase in the dodgy suburbs of a Russian metropolis, chased by the mob and KGB simultaneously, and then ruin it with “on my gap year”. Nothing but condescension and hilarity will ensue.

Stay sober and don’t lie. The exotic, jungle-themed decor of the LoLa Lo’s smoking area is the perfect place to recount stories of a unique and inspiring trip contacting indigenous tribes in the Amazon. But there’s one problem. You will be drunk. And you will lie. Picking up chicks by telling them that you saved a classroom of terrified children by wrestling a lion bare handed is doomed to end with your friend cracking up and calling bullshit. Cue an embarrassing fall from grace which may be impossible to come back from.

Do not be fooled by the tiki timber

Do not be fooled by the tiki timber

No photos. If you’ve finally got someone who’s interested – or at least pretending to be  – don’t ruin the fun by whipping out your phone and waiting for Facebook to load a selfie of you at the Taj Mahal. One quick way to kill their curiosity. Fast.

You kinda had to be thar

You kinda had to be there

Pick your audience. Let’s face it, an MML French and Spanish student doesn’t give a fuck about your trip to Bordeaux. Nor do your bedders as they try to vacuum your room to the sound of your rambling. Other gap-year veterans make the perfect interlocutors on this subject – you can both take turns recounting your wildest tales – finally, a use for that deer-horn talking stick you bought in Ulan Bator – while failing to listen to each other at all. This has the added benefit of allowing you to repeat the conversation every time you see each other without getting bored.

So, to conclude, if you want to transform your gap year into a ‘gap yeah’, follow these five simple rules.

Every staff member, student and sexual conquest you meet over the course of your university career will only thank you for it.