Staying Sane In Uni After A Gap Year

Starting university is difficult enough if you’ve just made it through the end of high school. You might feel like you’ve only just finished writing exams and now you’re writing tests and essays and you’re back in the classroom already – holidays are over.

How To Not Scream In Lectures

Now, I don’t want to sound pretentious, but try doing that after taking a year (or more) off. That’s a serious loss of freedom.

I’m not saying that taking a gap year is a bad thing – anything but actually, you can read about what I have to say about the advantages of gap years here – but it does take some adjusting to get back into the swing of things.

I have now been a student at Stellenbosch University for three weeks, and I’m not quite there yet. I think, personally, its the adjustment to having to sit down and pay attention to one thing at a time for an hour lecture. I’ve gotten very used to being on my feet for at leat 7 odd hours a day waitressing, where you’re mind tends to jump around on different orders and different problems. So there’s that. The other thing is getting into writing again. I’m doing a BA in Humanities, taking English, History, Philosophy, Psychology and Ancient Cultures – and that spells one thing: essays. There is a lot of writing involved, and loads of online tests and tutorials, and did I mention the essays?


I’m not complaining, because luckily I love the subjects that I take, I’m just saying that if you also took some time off and are struggling to get back into it you’re not alone.

It can be difficult to come back to your old life after taking a gap year because you’ve experienced a lot of things that you’re friends and peers wont be able to relate to. You might have travelled, and seen some incredible things and you might feel like your friends and classmates aren’t ‘worldly’ or ‘experienced’ enough to understand you.

It can be difficult to not show your photos or relate stories of your incredible adventures to the people who are definitely over hearing them, and it can be difficult to understand why people don’t seem to care. Tip: you can always start a blog and annoy the internet about it instead, I don’t know, I’ve heard it works. 


Try not to get too down hearted about it, the people who stayed behind have their own stories to tell – their lives kept on going while you were away and even though it’s difficult, sometimes you just have to suck it up and tell your stories only when it comes up in conversation.

You have done amazing things, you have travelled, or gained work experience, or life experience, or a mixture of all of that and coming home to study wont change that – you’re a different person to the one who left a year ago, and that’s a good thing. That itching sensation to be on the road again doesn’t go away, and that yearning to learn to new things and meet new people – that doesn’t go away either. So, reel it in a bit, meet your classmates, learn their stories and find a method of studying that works for you.

You can also look for opportunities that will let you travel again while you study. At Stellenbosch University for example, their are opportunities to study overseas in second year and above. Globally there are so many exchange programmes and companies who look for people who want to travel and experience other ways of learning – so your experience in travelling might just help you out.


The world isn’t over just because you have to commit to one thing for a couple of years, studying is kind of fun too – you only get to use being a student as an excuse for bad eating habits, terrible dress habits and even worse drinking habits for a few years, so make the most of it.

And even though I wrote this mainly just to pacify my intense, chronic, crippling wanderlust, I hope that it might help a kindred spirit out there.



One Comment Add yours

  1. Erin says:

    I can relate to this so much! I didn’t really mind the adjustment of going from working to school work and life, but I found the biggest disconnect between me and other students. I overheard so many conversations that were just so ridiculous and a bit childish. All you can think of in those instances is ‘Really? Get over it, it isn’t a big deal.’ But you can’t say that because it’s rude and they just don’t have other experiences to contextualise. Thankfully I’ve graduated, haha!

    Good luck with your studies 🙂



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