What would we do without Gap Years; a whole year of so much to do or, in the twisted logic of a colleague, so little to do. A group of wide eyed teenagers, blindly following their golden moral compass, being lead by Fayed into a small clearing where they are to build that local hospital the disease-ridden villagers have been praying for from their apartments nearby. Then finally, at the end of it all when the cash has been counted and enough stories have been forged to fill later pub sessions, the hospital is torn down for the next group.
Hang on, so what your saying is these 18 year olds with no skills or medical knowledge do not have the ability to alleviate famine in Africa and the only actual use they have is determined by the amount of dollar their parents grudgingly coughed up for the trip? Surely not. What of those model students you always hear crowing in the background; ‘Ya, I’ve always wanted to help Romanian orphans.’ Well captain fucking fantastic Gandhi you can join the queue of all the other students desperately trying to score as many moral points as possible before they crawl, hands and knees, into their morally bankrupt university halls. The harsh truth is that in some places these aren’t Romanian orphans. They’re midgets dressed in rags who used to clean shoes but got a call from a mate in Nepal saying how much money he’s made from gap year students wanting to ‘do their bit’ for the world, and his bank account.
Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t, in any way, deny that there is suffering in places like Romania and there is definitely a lot to be done about it but there are some companies out there who have commercialized and exploited this idea of global suffering and that has to be wrong.
What’s left for the rest of us proletariat then; you could take the ‘no plans approach’ and see what happens. This involves casting aside carefully laid plans in favor of following nothing but your instinct in a far off country; which does sound a bit like the plot for Brokeback Mountain 2 but I’m told it’s a great adventure. This is all very Indiana Jones until you are kidnapped whilst backpacking in the Sudan by an Islamic fundamentalist Neo-Nazi group who hang you from your feet in a remote shed where you are forced to listen to their ringleader mock and humiliate you. ‘You Western dogs with your Samsung phones and Lynx deodorant forced to hear the radio waves of capitalist oppression in your miserable lives!’ Not for me.
It seems we have reached a conundrum on how to approach a gap year. How can we find our purpose on this great earth where the main skill we offer is how effectively we can bargain with our parents to determine our funds.
My, sound, advice is to work at a pub in Manchester; you will meet different cultures every time you walk into a Nando’s, you will get the genuine ‘sleeping rough’ experience in the local B&Bs and for those aspiring doctors out there I hear things kick off around 2 a.m. Some would say the experience of a lifetime. All I’m saying is; it ticks the right boxes for most students and a train journey will set you back a mere £35. Why not?