Back to education after gap year travels- HELP!

I know the feeling. You’ve left home, seen the world, and then all of a sudden, you’re back in school again. What’s the point?

You go from this:


To this:

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I hear you say. Well, let me reassure you, I was in the same boat.

Here’s the rather unconventional way I decided which uni to go to.

I was in South Africa working with a charity in a township. I’d had my whole understanding of the world challenged. All I knew was that I loved where I was and didn’t want to leave (I know, I could not sound more cliche right about now). I loved the people, I loved the work I was doing and I loved the country.

I had received offers from all of the universities I’d applied for, apart from York. I’d sort of given up on that idea and decided I was happy to go to my second choice. It was then that an offer came through to study Psychology in Education, as opposed to straight Psychology. It had been two years since I’d visited York, or any other university for that matter, and it really was the last thing on my mind. I couldn’t remember much other than that I loved York when I looked round and had really wanted to come here. So I accepted my place on the course.

It is understandable to not really be in the zone after your gap year, but the fact of the matter is, York was the right choice for me. Here are some top tips for survival at uni after a gap year. Rest assured, York does a lot to help you settle in:

  1. Be prepared! One of the best gifts I’ve ever been given was a ‘uni pack’, given to me by a friend. It had all the little things (you know, besides your entire wardrobe and Supernoodles) that can make uni life feel more homely and help you adjust back to education:


  • Healthy snacks: because uni will undoubtedly be the most unhealthy time of your life.
  • Hot chocolate or coffee: (top tip – if you need to save money, have someone round for a coffee date as opposed to going out).
  • Colouring books: Uni can be stressful and busy. Make sure you take some time for yourself!
  • Glue dots and posters: Make your room your own. I made my room into a sanctuary where I could go and chill after a long day of lectures.
  • Music: necessary for study motivation and those intense gym seshs (HAHAHA like I ever go).
  • Cards and pictures from your travels: to remind you of your experiences.
  • Post it notes: A must (don’t be that naggy housemate though who leaves them everywhere, though!)

2) Get stuck in with all aspects of the uni experience. Keep using the skills you learnt on your travels and apply them to societies, placements and general university life. If you volunteered with children, why not do a YSIS placement? You can work in a local school for an afternoon a week at any stage at York to further your employability  skills. If you discovered a love for water sports, York has clubs ranging from Kayaking to Octopush.

3) Think about your course! A year has passed and maybe your outlook on what you want to do has changed. Your new experiences may have given you some inspiration. It may not be too late to change courses. Either way, give it some thought.

4) If you miss it, make plans to travel again. You’ve done it once, and our summers are 4 months long. Why not book another spontaneous trip to Canada, South Africa or Thailand? Or the Uni offers excellent study abroad opportunities, either for a term or a whole year, if you really have the travel bug.


5) Keep an open mind. Gap years hold exciting and different opportunities. I’d encourage you to keep up the momentum and be confident that you can meet new people, explore new places and try continue to try new things, just as you have been doing.

6) If you miss it, why not write about your experiences? Start a blog and share the people and places you visited with the world to inspire other students go and do the same.

7) Get to know your city. Consider York as another place to tick off your list and see as much of it as you can. You will undoubtedly get to the end of your 3 years here and still be discovering new hidden individual shops, cafes and pebble dash streets.


8) Consider uni as a different type of journey. Excuse the cheese, but your time at York will be very formative. You will develop as a person, your career path will undoubtedly change 100 times over and discover new things about yourself. Be prepared for a new endeavour.

9) Lastly, it’s ok to bring it up, but in moderation. Seriously, consider that others may have wanted to travel but couldn’t afford it or had unforeseen circumstances. A little consideration never hurt anyone!

Uni is a very different experience to travelling.  I didn’t feel ready to go back. It was through getting involved in similar things that I’d enjoyed on my gap year that I settled and started to love and embrace uni life. York has so many opportunities – should you chose to take them, it won’t be hard to find your niche.


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Hi! I'm Rachel. I am a second year Psychology in Education student and a member of Goodricke College. I am Secretary of York Anti-Trafficking Student Group and College Representative for Christian Union. Also a lover of all things containing coffee or chocolate!!