What to expect when returning to post-secondary after your gap year with CanGap Ambassador AJ


AJ - 00:00

Hello and welcome back to the Canadian Gap Year Association channel. My name is AJ, one of the Canadian Gap Year ambassadors and today I'm going to be talking about something very exciting for me! But it's something that's probably pretty far away for you. Finishing your first year of university!


After taking a Gap Year my end to 1st year university was a lot further away than I initially anticipated when I graduated high school and that was something that I was pretty scared about.


I thought that taking a gap year I would forget completely how to study. I wouldn't know how to put my head down and read books and write exams and create projects and all of that. You know, good stuff, and so that's not to say that I didn't think my gap year was valuable.


AJ - 00:42

It was extremely valuable. It taught me some real world skills. I got to learn from starting my own social enterprise. I got to actually gain real world experience and internships. And if you want to learn more about that, go ahead and watch some of my other videos.


But the point is when it was time for school to start, I was extremely nervous. I genuinely thought I probably couldn't keep up with university expectations just because I wasn't learning the same way as I thought they expected me to, and so that presented a whole bunch of challenges that I thought I would face when I entered university.


AJ - 01:16

But it really wasn't as bad as I thought, and that's what I'm going to be explaining throughout this video, as well as a general overview of what my entire year looked like and how amazing it was for me before I delve into the specifics about my transition to university and how my gap year did or did not prepare me for university.


I wanna give a high level overview of how my first year of university was and hopefully incite some excitement about all the growth opportunities and learning and fun that can be had in university as a whole.


First and foremost, I had an incredible year. Obviously I had my ups and downs and it was genuinely challenging at times to deal with all of the real world things that I had to deal with as well as academics in schools and projects and exams and tests and all of those things that school tends to pile on, but nevertheless I had an amazing time.


I created some of my closest friendships and forged relationships with people from all around the world, and that increased my cultural awareness and taught me to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of different cultures and places all around the world.


AJ - 02:19

Beyond that, I learned so much academically. Not only did I learn about the specificities of what I was being taught from really renowned professors who have a lot of experience and knowledge in their fields, but I was also able to learn about myself.


How do I best learn? What are the best habits for me? What makes me happy and what lifestyle suits me and I think that flexibility of university with the extreme workload that comes with it at times allows you to navigate that in yourself and really understand and grow as an adult. Since you don't have the comfort of your home or your parents.


So where does my gap year come into all of this? How does it play a role in my transition to university or my whole university experience of the whole?


AJ - 03:01

Honestly, I can't even precisely answer that question myself. I can't imagine how different my first year in university would have been without taking a gap year, and that has to do with a variety of things.


The first one being mindset. I think mindset was the largest change that I had over my gap year, and it's something that sounds easy to communicate, but it's hard to really internalize. It's something that took a whole year of learning and failing and growing as an individual.


For me to really go into university thinking in a different way and what I mean by that is that firstly I treated my approach to studies differently whenever I was learning in a classroom, I always made connections to the real world. I always ask myself or even ask the professor or the teacher assistant about how can we take this knowledge and this theoretical concept and where does it fit into the real world.


AJ - 03:49

I think it ultimately comes down to that fundamental realization that you are at university, to prepare yourself for the future. You're not there to complete these assignments and tests and exams as your professor tell you, you're there to learn, and so the second you can understand that then you can approach university differently and look at opportunities differently and also assess your success.


In respect to that, one thing that I really cherished is that university is a whole sum experience. It's not necessarily just about getting good grades and acing your courses, or just about having fun and meeting friends.


AJ - 04:24

It's about the combination of everything. It's about meeting your new friends and understanding who you are and who they are and just having fun and exploring the city.


But it's also about doing well in classes and finding that connection between the class content and the real world. It's also about pushing yourself and putting yourself out there, joining new clubs, finding what you're interested in, and the only way to find what you're interested in is to explore everything you can, and university is the perfect playground for that.


There are so many opportunities. And scholarships and research projects that you can really get involved in. You just have to look!


AJ - 04:59

And that's another thing nobody is going to hand everything to you on a silver platter as they sort of did in high school.


You have to go out there for yourself and this is especially true for larger universities such as the University of Toronto that I'm in right now. I realized that I needed to take control for myself.

I have to go through every email that they sent me. I have to go through the various websites and departments and opportunities for scholarships or club memberships or different groups that you can join. You have to do that for yourself because no one is there to tell you or push you towards those objectives.


AJ - 05:30

And this is where my Gap Year really helped me. Throughout my gap year I was left alone.

I had to figure everything out for myself, define my own goals, define my own objectives and understand what I wanted out of my experience. And honestly university is very similar as much as there are professors and outline courses and structure.


There are also a lot of things that aren't structured and that's where you come in. That's where I talked about. You figure out what you want out of your own experience, and you decide for yourself how you are going to achieve that.


AJ - 06:01

However, because I took a Gap Year, I was quite scared. Coming back into University, initially I struggled to get back into the groove of studying that I did in high school.


I didn't even remember how to do basic things like structure my notes properly or organize myself or keep up with all the content, especially because university moves at a much faster pace than high school did.


But what I realized and what I came to know was that things just ended up working out and I was confused as to how I was doing it, but then I realized that during my gap here I developed these sophisticated time management organizational skills that allowed me to navigate a lot of things at the same time.


But more importantly, I learned how I learned and what I mean by that is that I knew what was effective for me and I knew for me that I wasn't really good at taking in information when it was given as text. I was horrible at reading, but I loved watching videos and so small metacognitive pieces of information like that knowing about yourself and what works for yourself, actually goes a long way and a lot further than initially anticipated.


AJ - 07:00

I knew videos suited my learning style, and so I learned pretty much everything through videos through YouTube through rewatching lecture videos, and pretty much everything that I could find that could be taught to me in the form of visuals or videos. And that really helped me.


I learned a lot more efficiently and I was able to understand and digest the content in ways that I didn't know previously, and that was because of the realizations I got during my gap.


Additionally, a lot of the things that I did in high school automatically came back. I knew how to manage my time, I knew I had to, you know, prioritize all the different courses that I had and how to get assignments done more efficiently.


AJ - 07:38

One thing that I really learned and took away from my internships is to really emphasize the objectives that were set forth by my manager, and I approached University as the same things. Understand what your professors are specifically looking for from you, and then deliver accordingly.


And that actually allowed me to achieve better results because I didn't get caught up thinking about trying to impress the teacher and whatever we had thought would impress them. I focused on what I knew the teachers wanted and what the learning outcomes were, and then I worked backwards to ensure that I delivered that, whether it was through my presentations or my exams.


Finally, a big realization for me that I had during my gap here is that school isn't everything, because that's how I thought it was in high school. And that realization pushed me to do things beyond school. I joined a variety of clubs.


AJ - 08:26

I sought part-time work and full time opportunities. I looked for research opportunities and different internships that I can do whilst doing school and put myself out there and realized that university isn't necessarily just about academics and achieving a good GPA.


It's about a lot more than that. And so I made the effort to go out every day just to spend quality time with friends to enjoy life and to also seek out opportunities that would develop.

Me and put me in an uncomfortable position because I knew that was what worked and so I encourage you to do the same during your gap year, meta cognitively reflect about what your own biases were and what were some of the things that you thought of before that wasn't necessarily the right way of thinking. I'm sure you're thinking the exact same way I thought about how I am completely unprepared for school after a year of not studying traditionally


AJ - 09:16

Everything will be OK. In fact, taking a gap year is the perfect opportunity to make sure, that things will be OK.


I suggest that at some point in your gap you reflect about your experience in high school and based off of that reflection cater some of the experiences in your gap year to develop those skills that you think would be beneficial in university and that you didn't do so well in high school.


Try to better understand your objectives and what you see yourself doing in the future and better position yourself to go into university to take the most advantage of the opportunities available so that you can do that for yourself. For example, If time management is a problem for you. Seek out internships or do online courses to really develop those skills.


If you think you're falling behind in technical skills such as math, for example, go ahead and do online courses on Coursera, just like I did to develop those fundamental skills so that you are ready to tackle all of the more advanced and exciting things that university has.


I think the most important thing to do if you're worried about going back to school is to reflect and to understand exactly what it is that you're worried about, and then you can take actionable steps to ensure that not only will you be less worried, you will actually be more prepared than ever to tackle all of the amazing challenges that university has to offer.


AJ - 10:30

University will not be easy. There'll be ups and downs just like I had, but the year will be incredibly fulfilling and you're going to have lots of fun.


And so I wish you all the best in your journey. And I know you're going to have an incredible gap here and first year in university, just like I did. Thank you.


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