I always had this mental aim while I was doing the IB: to get good grades and get into a prestigious university. I think it’s fair enough to say that my time in the Diploma Programme (DP) was the most stressful of my teenage years. As I was approaching the examination period in February, I felt like my academic-life was falling apart. I changed my extended essay (EE) subject twice, my theory of knowledge (TOK) presentation was not approved by my coordinator and I was so far behind in my internals.
However, I knew there was no one to blame but myself. At that time, I thought about either going for the IB certificate program or dropping the IB altogether, in order to avoid doing the EE and TOK presentation.
“Thankfully, my teachers noticed the efforts I put into my education [and] supported me with everything they could”
But then, I woke up to my senses and remembered the only aim I had in my life, at that point, and what I worked so hard for. So, I decided to be more efficient in time management. I wrote down an organized plan where I gave myself certain milestones to achieve by my timeframe, the end of February to mid-March. Thankfully, my teachers noticed the efforts I put into my education. They supported me with everything they could provide, from internal assessment exemplars to sacrificing their time in order to show me my weaknesses.
With the strong will I had in me and my efforts to organize my time, I managed to finish all my internal assessments and essays, relieving myself from all the stress and freeing up time to study for the external exams.
On the last day of exams, I was so glad that I finally finished a journey of two years, yet I was so shocked at how quickly my time in the DP went. All the stress, studying and time with friends, all that was over! Now, I would have to wait for my IB results for about two and a half months; it was such a tense period. But as time passed, I thought about how I had done everything I could and I should just wait for God’s plan.
July 5th, the day had finally come … all the tension was coming to an end. Here’s a little secret: during high school, I was not exactly the smartest kid. I was pretty average and teachers did not expect much from me. But it was quite surprising for everyone, even for myself, when I was announced as the class salutatorian!
Post IB: What’s next?
By July, I had already gotten my college acceptances and I felt accomplished knowing I got what I aimed for. However, it seemed there was another plan for my future, one which I was not quite aware of. Ever since childhood, my mother was quite attached to me. So, me going to college abroad in the UK was her ultimate nightmare. My family decided to apply for immigration to the UK, where I would be studying, so we could still be together.
The process took a lot more than expected and months passed until it hit me, we are already in September and I still didn’t have my visa. While I was talking to my mom about it, she shocked me with the “g word”—A gap year. I always looked down upon people who go for a gap year and I know that I am not the only one. I felt like students that take a gap year were just wasting their time or they probably opted for a gap year because they failed at school or something.
It took me a while to process the fact that I had no choice but to take a gap year if I really wanted to study abroad. Two months later, in November, my family and I were finally approved for immigration, so we travelled to Cardiff, UK to see the area and tour houses. It was a pretty fun experience because I also got to tour my university, Cardiff University and the Welsh School of Architecture. I met plenty of students there who were very friendly enough to show me around and tell me more about the program.
A few weeks later, we went back to Jordan because we were not ready to officially move out yet due to my sister’s education. I accepted the fact that I was on a gap year and I just had to make the best of it. I became aware that I had to take this as an opportunity for self-improvement and learning more.
“I became aware that I had to take this as an opportunity for self-improvement and learning more.”
In December, I decided to apply for a job at a nearby restaurant that I used to visit frequently. I worked there as a salad barista as well as a graphic designer. Working at a restaurant is often viewed as an easy job since it does not require a degree and I agree with that. Yet, in the short time I worked there, I learned a lot and it was quite the experience because I have never worked a day in my life. Working improved my skills dealing with people and communicating as well as with time-management and organization.
Not only did it improve my skills but after my experience working at a restaurant, I got a startup idea that was inspired by restaurants in general. I took workshops and courses on entrepreneurship, marketing and business and that really intrigued me into pitching my idea to venture capitals and investors.
A gap year is not a bad idea after all!
“If it weren’t for my gap year, I probably wouldn’t have known that I have a hidden passion for entrepreneurship”
With my gap year coming to an end, I realized that we should live life to the fullest and embrace anything that comes our way. Didn’t get into college? It’s okay … not the end of world, you will probably get into a different university where you meet the love of your life or explore new passions or interests. Didn’t pass the IB? Retakes are always available in the next examination session. Life is full of chances!
As for me, I got to travel to four different countries in which I explored different cultures and got to meet new people that I learned a lot from. But most importantly: I was able to discover myself and if it weren’t for my gap year, I probably wouldn’t have known that I have a hidden passion for entrepreneurship and I certainly wouldn’t have started my own business. Not to mention, being in classrooms for almost 12 years and then graduating only to start university in about 4 months is hectic. I am so glad I got the opportunity of taking a gap year and recharging myself before sitting in classrooms again!
Sanad Battikhi is a graduate of Asamiah International School in Amman, Jordan. He took a gap year after finishing high school and he will be studying architecture at Cardiff University—Wales, United Kingdom. During his gap year, Sanad attended several workshops and courses in business, marketing and entrepreneurship, which grew his interest in that field. A few months later, Sanad pitched his startup idea (Food Saver App) to local venture capitals. Connect with Sanad on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.
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