How to make your gap year worthwhile

By Frantzia Theodat

A gap year can be a time to distance yourself from life back home so you’re in a good headspace to think about what you want. You get the opportunity to figure your life out independently. That can be a daunting task!

It helps to distance yourself from suffocating relationships and focus instead on building authentic connections with people that are most important to you. Surround yourself with people you vibe with; this will clear your headspace.

Networking often has a sleazy connotation to it when it comes to building authentic relationships. People think it’s about schmoozing others in hopes of gaining something. Usually, this sentiment comes from trying to network with a person you don’t actually resonate with. To avoid this, and get the most out of building authentic relationships, I’ve put together some key learnings from my gap year.

Firstly, schedule blocks of time to focus on people who help you strive towards your goals and develop your priorities. You’ll get exposure to different ways of achieving your goals. You’ll also find professional support in forms that you never would have thought of before.

• Looking for ideas on how to prioritize your goals? Check out my previous blog post.

Secondly, be conscientiousness and open to viable connections. This was especially true while I was in Senegal, as the country’s ideals weigh heavily on community and extroversion. However, this isn’t only limited to extroverted people. Those who have a tendency towards introversion can still be conscientious and open. I noticed that it was easier to be open when I met someone I identified with. On the flip side, being conscientious means that you do not have to listen to everything and everyone to learn. One of the key aspects of networking is knowing when not to invest in building a relationship. This is not because you’re mean, but because you understand that you and the person you encounter are not at a point where you can develop an authentic personal/professional relationship. That is okay.

Thirdly, networking comes in different formats. In Canada, most networking opportunities concentrate on professional relationships. They present themselves via your involvement in an organization/activity. You work hard, move toward the vision of the organization, and show a track record of consistency by working well with others. In Senegal, you don’t need to be involved in an activity or organization to hear about an opportunity. It’s your overall extended social network that builds opportunities.

If people meet you through a friend or a family member, they will guide you to experience amazing things. Being a turondoo of another person can help you.

Turondoo: having the same namesake

For example, my Senegalese name is Fatima (the mother of the prophet Mohammed). I once was gifted multiple jars of Senegalese delicacies and driven 40 kilometres to a tourist destination I wanted to visit. This was done by a neighbor who’s boutique I visited every once in a while. He contacted his brother (a professional driver), and got him to take me on an amazing day trip. Why, you may ask? I had the same Senegalese name as his daughter.

This is my second last blog post for the gap year series. Prepare yourselves for the closing thoughts on my gap year.

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