By Ishaan Jolly:
A question which all recent class 12 graduates have been asked by either their parents, friends, uncles or aunties is- what do you want to study in college? I was asked this question by everyone but had no answer to it. As soon as one clears class 12, he or she is supposed to go to college and then go for graduation, do an MBA, eventually get married and have children. I never wanted to go the clichéd way in life. Initially, influenced by the herd mentality and the fact that my friends were doing the same, I sat in various engineering exams across the country and applied to a few elite universities in Singapore like NUS and NTU. At that point I had no particular fascination for engineering. My much yearning of getting into a foreign University like NUS and NTU went pale when I got my very first rejection letter even after scoring 95%.
I was stressed, depressed and angry with myself after receiving the rejection letter. I did not know if I could do anything in my life, and was much confused about what to do next. What helped me get over it was my family’s support. Somewhere between May or June I decided to imagine a bigger picture for myself and aim for Ivy League Institutions in the USA. In May, I went on a backpacking trip to mainly Switzerland, France, and few parts of Italy along with my sister. There I met different people who shared their varied life experiences with me, and realized that I must live every moment of my life. The trip changed my perspective and made me re-think my goals in life.
But a question still unanswered for me was, “What did I want to do for the rest of my life?” I was still thinking about doing engineering, so I decided to experience an engineer’s life. I joined an engineering firm as a trainee/intern. Having not studied computer science in high school, I still managed to contribute to the firm by helping design an application that allows them to track the status of their stations across the country. This, I believe was the moment when I realized that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, i.e., innovate.
After finishing off the project, I wanted to do something to contribute more to humanity. I decided to work on a project called “Goonj”. The project dealt with psycho-acoustics for visually impaired people. I also joined various NGO’s like Umeed and Wishing well to volunteer for them. Currently, I am also planning out fundraising events for them. Today when I look back I think that taking a gap year is the best thing that ever happened to me, as it helped me explore my interests, learn more about life and take a break from the regular grind.
I believe what I have done is neither a miracle nor something I had planned out. I faced a lot of criticism in and after my class 12 examinations for not being able to decide and enrol in a college course. At that point even my friends used to laugh at me for taking a gap year and momentarily, I had lost all hope. Looking back, I now realize I have become a better person than I was before and also learnt a lesson about life – that even though the problem seems big enough, there is still a way to get out of it.
I am writing this article to make people aware of the fact that you are not alone in this world even though your experiences are unique. If you have dreamt of something, plan it out and make it possible. You cannot give up thinking of what everyone will think about you. If any one of you is thinking of a gap year post school, I would definitely recommend it without any hiccups. Even before the year ends, you may not realize it, but you will definitely become a more happier and focused person than before. Also, I believe that it is okay to not know what you want to do for the rest of your life. I think we shouldn’t let people’s reactions or comments deter us from our goals. To err is human, but to learn from the past is also human after all!