While many students don’t even consider taking a gap year in Hong Kong, our intern Reika Nakagawa shares what she’s learnt so far during her year between high school and university
I was thrilled about my new university life in Canada until Covid-19 hit, leaving me wondering if I should take my classes online or take a year off. While taking a gap year in Hong Kong isn’t a super popular option for students, here’s why I decided to do it.
What’s a gap year?
For those who don’t know what a gap year is, it is a year off from schooling, whether it is after your high school graduation or your sophomore year. Gap years are not common in Hong Kong when compared to other countries. When I tell people about my decision, I hear questions such as, “Don’t you think it’s a waste of time?”, or “Will you end up not going to university at all?”, or “Are you chilling around for the whole year?”
The truth is, taking a gap year can be life-changing if you set a clear target for yourself.
Why a gap year now?
Typically, people take a gap year to boost their resume, develop new skills, or expand horizons. Although these reasons still apply, another popular motive has risen this year: saving tuition fees. As a fresh graduate from a private school, I have already lost $200,000 in boarding fees after my school closed down in March.
For three months, I have had unproductive online classes in Hong Kong in a Canadian time zone. While students studying socials and humanities could still submit assignments online, what happens to those who need laboratories and art studios? Is the expensive tuition for online classes really worth it? Isn’t going to school also about socialising and networking?
In fact, taking breaks from school gives students time to pause and unleash their inner potential. Famous people like JK Rowling, Elon Musk and Emma Watson have taken a year off from school to try new things. Not only did it not jeopardise their studies, but it even gave them new insights that later on boosted their career. As a lot of universities worldwide are moving towards online lectures, why not step out from the classroom for a bit and try something new? (fingers crossed: things will get better next year!)
What do my parents and friends think about gap years?
Initially worried about what others might think, I am lucky to have open-minded parents who fully support my decision. Although I did face some objections (they thought I wanted to not go to university at all), I managed to assuage their doubts after explaining my plan for the year. In addition, some of my friends were, out of my expectations, amused by the idea of a gap year. I even have two friends who also chose to take a gap year after hearing my story.
So what are my plans this year?
Despite being occasionally nostalgic about school life, I am currently enjoying my editorial internship at Honeycombers. Aside from working on weekdays, I use my spare time tutoring younger kids, taking free online classes and volunteering. Since I have an entire year in Hong Kong, I have more time to slowly admire the beauty of this city: the place where I grew up.
So far, I have attempted several new things, such as starting my YouTube channel, jogging along Hong Kong Island, and approaching people in different industries to hear cool life stories. I am hoping to push my potential to a higher level, as well as taking time to help those impacted by Covid-19.
What can you do if you want to take a gap year in Hong Kong?
- Work: search for internships and entry-level jobs on Linkedin, JobsDB or Indeed. If you think you are capable for a position, just ignore the criteria (e.g. you need a Bachelor’s degree) and send in your resume. Miracles might happen, just like how I got my current internship.
- Volunteer: there are tons of non-profit organisations that you can volunteer at, whether it is an animal shelter, guestroom for homeless people, or social enterprise. Check out our list of charities in Hong Kong for more inspirations.
- Learn: there are tons of high-quality free online classes out there. From Coursera, Udemy to edX. We particularly love the social policy course from Columbia University and writing course from the University of Michigan.
- Tutor: a perfect way for teenagers to work and learn at the same time. Tutor Circle and Kits-Tutor are agencies in Hong Kong that we have tried.
- Or whatever you are interested in!
Sometimes, we like to carefully plan out our future, but the truth is there are so many unpredictable changes waiting ahead. If you feel like trying something different, I’d say why not? Go with the flow, and if problems happen, know that you have the ability to fix them.