What did you do on your gap year?

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We’ve all laughed and joked about the stereotypical ‘gap yah’ where a young person goes travelling abroad for months to ‘find themselves’ or do voluntary work.

When people ask me what I did on my gap year, I feel that in comparison to back-packing across Thailand, my time was relatively dull. Despite this, my year in gave me the time I needed to prepare for the intensity of uni whilst enjoying a bit freedom, without responsibility.

Below are 4 of the most useful things I managed to do.

  •  Get a job.

Yes, It is quite obvious and not very exciting. I spent my year waitressing at one of the most sought after restaurants, Greens. I didn’t do a great amount of shifts, but I really enjoyed having the routine of going to work and socialising with customers. It enabled me to stay grounded and also gave me the extra funds to treat myself a little bit.

It was reassuring to know that I had a guaranteed part-time job already set out for when I started uni.

  •  Get a qualification in an area that interests you.

Having volunteered at The Diane Modahl Sports Foundation since 201o. I was fortunate enough to be given financial support towards my coaching assistant badge and I’m just finishing my athletics coach qualification. This was perhaps one of the bigger achievements during my year. This official role meant that I was able to step out of my comfort zone and coach. When you are solely a young volunteer, the challenge put on you cannot be as high, because it takes time to build up both confidence and experience.With these qualifications I have been entrusted with taking whole coaching sessions both in school and on the track, which is a major boost from anything I had done before.

If you have the opportunity I would recommend doing something that increases your skills whilst you have the time; be it anything from a touch typing course to German classes.

  •  Work experience.

This is a big one. One of my training partners said that he really struggled to find a job after uni, because not only did they want you to have a degree, but they wanted you to have experience as well. His advice – Networking is key. You’ll be surprised, you can find contacts everywhere. As you may know, I’m studying law. Whenever I tell someone the reply is often along the lines of “You’re studying law? My sister’s best friend’s uncle is a lawyer. If you ever want work experience let me know!”. Make the most of these opportunities. My most recent work experience was with King’s Chambers in the summer. I shadowed the high profile, well-respected David Casement QC. It was before I started my degree, so I didn’t do a lot, but the advice I was given was golden.

If you’re not 100% sure that you have selected the right course. Work experience will be even better. It will either leave you satisfied, or with the knowledge that you could never work in that profession.

  • Go abroad

Get out and use the time of little responsibility to appreciate the ability we have to visit different places. I frequented Italy, Norway and Spain. And worked out that I managed to be out of the country once every couple of months. There is something about returning home after being abroad that gives you a new perspective.

Being a part of the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation. Has given me numerous opportunities. One of which is to be able to go on training camp. Last year we were able to spend 3 weeks in December on Teide, the big volcano in Tenerife. It was such a peaceful experience. To be removed from the beaches and tourism at sea level was bliss. It made me really think about remembering to slow things down and appreciate the nature we have at home. I would definitely recommend travelling to a place which is different to the norm.

All of these things can be done whilst studying. My year out gave me clarity. In September I was hungry to study and ready for the mountains of books I had to read.

Top 5 places to study in Manchester this Autumn

Reading week has officially started at my university and I know that everyone wants a change of scenery. Below are some of my favourite places to plough through uni work.

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5. The Deli, Didsbury.

Reflecting the Italian coffee culture, The Deli had to be on the list. Visited by the masses, including footballers, I wouldn’t recommend it during times of deep concentration – it can get noisy. It is nice however, to take in a bit of life when seeking inspiration whilst brainstorming or catching up on current affairs. The food menu contains everything from a light bagel to delightfully stuffed peppers, for the days when you need a wholesome autumn treat.

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4. The Park.

The combination of autumnal colours and books is the pinnacle of inspiration. Being able to read for an hour whilst sipping a warm lemon and ginger tea is bliss. Then of course, you have the opportunity to watch the leaves fall when you need a bit of a break. It is known that Manchester is notorious for rain. What we often forget though, is that on dry days, we have a myriad of aesthetically pleasing parks. I’ll do a post on the best ones in the area at some point. The park in the photograph is Platt Fields, the best time of day is sunrise/sunset, when the colours are highlighted by the sun.

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3. Curzon Cinema, Knutsford.

Although studying in a cinema cafe may seem bizarre, Curzon Cinema is one of the most tranquil cafes I have ever visited. Often I’ll find that I’m the only person in the cafe for hours. There is a vast choice of nibbles, the seats are comfortable and the tables are perfectly sized. Technically Knutsford is in Cheshire and it is relatively far away – Don’t be deterred, you can make a day out of  it. After studying, there is Tatton park, shops or you can stay and watch a film in the intimate screening room which only seats 178.

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2. Foundation Coffee House.

This place was first introduced to me by the Costello brothers, Danny and Nick. It is in the Northern quarter. Unlike most of the cafes in this area, Foundation is very spacious. After reading full case reports (I’m studying law) its minimalistic charm can be a breath of fresh air to relax the mind.

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  1. Central Library.

Situated in the heart of Manchester, the newly renovated central library is of course my number one. Entering the reading room is like opening a wormhole into a parallel universe, the vacuum like silence is both alien and refreshing. Filled with  like-minded people, this is the place to visit if you want to be efficient and complete a big chunk of work with zero distraction.