first_imgThe life of the Gap Year, though short (but such an amazing experience) was a blessing to all of us – temping agencies in particular, as swarms of students with good A-Levels pleaded for any work going for at least three months. The Gap Year was a close relative of the disapprovingly-named ‘year out’, but gained a few Oxbridge admissions officers as supporters and evolved into quite the social phenomenon – it had a proper name, gave middle-class kids a sense of purpose and even created a new form of rebellion for eighteen-year-olds to row about with their parents. Like vegetarianism and Doc Martens before it, the Gap Year was initially the proud preserve of that slightly left-of-centre girl in sixth form who wore coloured tights with her uniform and developed a social conscience when everyone else just wanted fake ID. She went to Ghana to dig wells, it went in the school magazine, she got into Oxford and now single-handedly saves rainforests. However, the break-through moment for the Gap Year’s relationship with the public came in 2000, when Prince William was pictured constructing a walkway in Chile, thus proving that even the richest boys from the nicest schools with the pinkest Pringle shirts can build things in foreign countries. Since this demonstration of the Gap Year’s disregard for class and therefore great unifying quality (see photos on walls of student rooms around Oxford of rahs with Oakley sunglasses cradling tiny underprivileged South American children), it has blossomed in popularity and now is the preferred form of self-discovery for around 200,000 students every year. Cruelly, this globe-straddling traveller has been hewn down in its prime by the introduction of Top-Up Fees. While it claims to rival the Gap Year’s universality with promises of hardship payments, the introduction of Top-Up Fees has so far failed to acknowledge that it will sadly force many would-be ‘gappers’ to get stuck into paying for their education while they still can, rather than hoping that the remainder of what they earned at Office Angels will get them through after they’ve taken out the budget for their TEFL course. In addition to the loss of an outlet for late-teenage philanthropy with an exotic backdrop, with the Gap Year dies a plethora of phraseology which otherwise lacks significance – “Full Moon Party”, “finding oneself”, “garp yar rah” and “STA Travel” to name but a few. We must also wave goodbye to several important modern social skills – namely the ability to discover someone in Fresher’s Week who was staying in the same youth hostel as you, having an unnatural sub-Saharan tan in October, and being able to write long essay-esque emails informing your friends quite how imperative it is they go to wherever you’ve been. Here’s to the Gap Year – its henna-tattooed, worry-beaded, Jesus-sandalled soul will live on in our hearts as an unprecedented example of mass UCAS-approved and often vaguely altruistic procrastination.ARCHIVE: 2nd week MT 2005last_img