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Careers Guide

Student View: A gap year experience

As part of the Uptree Alumni Network and a Future Talent Award winner, Wezi shares his experience of being a gap year student after leaving school in September 2019.

Wezi Jolt session

Wezi (centre) on a leadership course through the YSYS

How did you hear about Uptree?

I heard about Uptree via a friend who I met at NCS.

Some of the notable Uptree work experience events I attended have been with KPMG, Facebook (software engineering) and a J.P. Morgan application masterclass.

I also won bronze for the Future Technology Student Of The Year (sponsored by UBS) in Uptree's 2019 Future Talent Awards!

Wezi FTA

At the FTA: Wezi (left) with Seun who won gold in the Future Engineer of the Year award

Why did you choose to take a gap year?

I chose a gap year to rest and reach my personal/career goals and potential. A-Levels for me were an exhausting period where I had to do early mornings and sometimes late nights. So taking a gap year was the best way to come back, restore and see reality from different perspectives other than full-time education.

How do you feel you have benefited from taking a gap year?

My gap year has helped me to enhance 3 main areas:

Personal Development

I was able to have a better understanding of who I as an individual actually am. By this I mean, I was able to see from the outside in, what my priorities are and what they are not. E.g. in school you tend to make friends who you can hang around with and study together with. However, I had to realise whether these are ‘school friends’ – people who I just study with vs ‘close friends’.

Understanding of my field

My gap year exposed me massively to the different avenues in technology and the different types of careers in tech. For instance, I found out recently, there is a thing called ‘EdTech’ which is the combination of educational theory and computers.

Also, in relation to avenues there are a variety of ways to enter the technology industry such as entry-level, apprenticeships (advanced all the way to masters degree), degrees (BSC and BA), contracting/freelance and more.

Networking

During a-levels, it was often hard to network effectively as my focus was on my studies. However, after starting a gap year I found it to be very easy to do effectively: making meaningful connections via catchups, as a supposed to just efficiently (connect with everyone in the room without adding value to them).

Wezi YSYS

Wezi with peers on the YSYS technology scholarship programme

What are the key things that students should consider before taking a gap year? 

My things to consider before taking a gap year were:

1. Purpose

It can be very easy to say, ‘I want to take a gap year’ and do one. However, what you may find is, if you don’t have some sort of reasoning behind it (e.g. get an internship) you could quickly become ‘bored’ or start to take things which are not really valuable to you.

2. Priorities 

It’s worth noting that when you start a gap year, there will be days where you may not feel like getting out of bed or applying to that job/apprenticeship/internship. However, these situations force you to see what you, as an individual, actually value in life – so that, if the adversity or challenging situation ever reappears, you know how to view it from a resilient perspective.

3. Your circle and connections

If you are ever in doubt of who to contact for mentoring, opportunities or anything – never feel afraid to contact people or organisations you know to ask for help and advice (even me! Wezi Mulenga). It is likely that you may be one of very few people in your year group who take a gap year and thus, using someone may be key to move forward with your situation.

What advice do you have for other students considering the gap year option?

  • Enjoy it! – this is time for you to recoup, restore your energy from whatever you did before and make a positive impact on your life and others.

  • Do something you like – no point doing a gap year, if you are not going to engage yourself in things that add value.

  • Be adventurous – as well as doing things you like; you should try do new things. For instance, I like tech, so instead of me doing coding courses all the time, I may decide one day to go to a tech event or attend a hackathon.

These steps are to make sure that when your gap year finishes, you don't have any regrets. Good luck!

Wezi internship

Wezi with new friends at a KPMG internship (summer 2019)

Uptree thanks Wezi for sharing his helpful insights and experiences in taking a gap year. We wish him all the best in his future technology career.