Gap year

20 Oct 2023

Graduating is terribly anticlimactic. You spend 19 years sitting in classrooms and lecture halls, reading papers and doing assignments, and then find out on some random Tuesday that you’re done.

I will actually receive the piece of paper that confirms that I spent 180 ECTS credits – which, according to the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System translates to at least 4.500 hours – and probably a small bucket of tears studying (mostly) dead people over the past three years. With distinction.

4.500 hours. You could walk from Nijmegen to Beijing in that time. And you’d still have one-and-a-half months left for naps and sight-seeing. You could learn a language, probably. Maybe two. Or watch at least the first half of Gray’s Anatomy.

I got a history degree with my 4.500 hours. And in November, I will have to pick it up, get a complimentary drink, and then think about what to do with the remainder of my existence.

Most of my friends are still studying – either to finish their degree or, per the general game plan, to get a master’s. I didn’t go back for a master’s this year. Not for some anti-intellectualist reasons, but, honestly, because nothing seemed to be the right fit – at least in terms of academic degrees.

‘I travel to places in Southern Europe and then complain about other tourist’

Instead, I have embarked on the path many white, middle-class women in their twenties have trotted before me: the gap year. I guess you need to call it something. Even though I am not quite sure if gap year is even the right term for it.

Post-grad life? That would imply I’m done with higher education – and I’m not sure that I am. Maybe a 19th-century grand tour? I have been to Greece since finishing my degree and I will go to Italy. But while I am many things, a kindred spirit to Lord Byron, I am probably not.

But then again, I, too, travel to places in Southern Europe and then complain about other tourists. I like looking at art and old buildings and then writing about looking at art and old buildings. I also enjoy getting a drink (mostly coffee) while doing that and calling the entirety of it ‘an educational experience.’ And, most importantly, while I have a general travel itinerary, I don’t know what this journey has in store for me.

It’s not like a graduation overhauls your entire life. My relationships and my work haven’t changed – but there is this large space of possibility stretching out in front of me. I barely remember who I was those 4.500 hours ago when I read the first paper of my degree – and I couldn’t tell you who I will be 4.500 hours down the line, even if I wanted to.

Read Antonia Leise's blogs here

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