As a break between A-levels and embarking on the long road to becoming a doctor at Plymouth Medical School, I decided to take a Gap Year. The decision to take a year out was an easy one but to know how to fill it took a lot more thought. However, one particular piece of advice helped me greatly to structure this year…
At my school Speech Day, the guest speaker was Dame Julia Cleverdon, campaigner and head of the charity “Business in the Community.” She focused very much on the students who needed the extra stepping stone to progress, and not those who typically had not experienced rejection. One piece of advice that she gave was that a student taking a Gap year should divide it into four and plan and use the year productively.
One quarter should be about working to finance the rest – for this I spent the last summer working as a surf lifeguard in Bigbury Bay, South Devon alongside working in a cafe-bar as a waitress. Up until now I have also worked in an accountancy firm completing filing tasks and admin roles 5 days a week.
The next quarter that Dame Julia spoke of was that of “education and personal development.” For this I was very lucky to gain a voluntary role as a research associate, working alongside a couple of junior Drs and clinical nurse practitioners, on a research study at my local hospital looking into the use of catheterisation after primary knee and hip replacement surgery. This role has greatly developed my interpersonal skills with both patients and healthcare professionals as we work as a team to consent patients to the study as well as collecting data. I have also been able to understand the everyday life of medicine as a career across different areas of the hospital as well as learning to use the hospital computer systems and patients notes to seek out the information I require.
The last two quarters should be about experiencing another culture and helping others. For these I am going to Costa Rica and Nicaragua to volunteer on environmental and community projects with Raleigh International. A well-known charity which aims to sustainably support those in poverty in a variety of locations across the world, empowering young volunteers to make a sustainable difference to the lives of poverty stricken populations across the globe. For the charity I have raised £3000 through many fundraising ventures including running a sponsored half marathon, selling my handmade notelet cards and wine stands as well as setting up a just giving page through which I have received many generous and kind donations. One of the projects we will embark on is installing basic infrastructure to allow water into communities who are currently without it. With the Spanish I have developed as part of my school studies over the past few years, I look forward to being able to communicate with the local population in the remote areas I will be working in. After working for 10 weeks with Raleigh, I am planning to spend a week on the western coast of Costa Rica near the town on Santa Teresa where I will work on developing my surfing skills and enjoy relaxing in civilisation after 10 weeks camping in the middle of nowhere. I will then fly down to La Paz in Bolivia to start a 41 day road trip up the western coast of Bolivia and Peru, exploring these countries in depth as I go whilst white water rafting, camping, and trekking to wonders such as Machu Picchu and through the Amazon rainforest along with many more awesome adventures! I will finish this amazing South American tour in Quito, Ecuador, where I will once again spend a week in the ocean before heading back to the UK to return to the slightly colder English beach as a Surf Lifeguard until starting at university in September.
With the end of the second quarter of my gap year coming to an end, I look forward to departing to San Jose, Costa Rica on the 6th February to begin my cultural adventure! Throughout my time abroad I will post updates on my blog whenever I can.