The time of her life

EARLY this year, the Ministry of Higher Education announced the implementation of a Gap Year programme which will involve eight local public universities.

Set to commence in September, undergraduates can take a year off to work for four selected civil service agencies – the police, national service programme, armed forces and the civil defence department.

However, long before this was announced, Jane Lim (pix) had decided to take a year off to discover herself. Here, she shares her experience.

There had to be more than getting into a good university, Lim thought after completing her A-Levels.

Having applied to courses in the UK for the 2010 intake and receiving offers to do Natural Science or Medicinal Chemistry in various universities, she found those subjects weren't what she really wanted to pursue. That led Lim to take a year off between 2010 and 2011 to think things through.

"A year isn't very much in the grand scheme of things and yet, what one can get out of it is possibly life changing. It was so much better to be sure of what I am doing than to jump into what everyone else said was good for me," she said.

During that Gap Year, Lim worked with a team of doctors conducting research which involved her having to speak with patients and their families. She also got involved in playing the violin at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC).

"The time spent working in the hospital was incredibly informative. I often reflect on how much I have learned from the doctors I have worked with as well as my encounters with patients and their family.

"My time with KLPAC, on the other hand, gave me the confidence to join an orchestra in London, and I had the privilege of performing with them at the Royal Albert Hall," she said.

It was generally a slow-paced year as Lim gave herself much thinking space and a much appreciated break. She said it was both a challenge and relief to see her peers starting university.

"A challenge because at that time I wasn't completely sure taking a year out was the best idea and it was easy to feel left behind. But it was also a relief because I did not feel ready to be in their shoes and am grateful for the time I had. The time spent with my family and to pursue my interest was what I enjoyed most during that year," she said.

After taking a year off, Lim went to University College London to pursue an MBBS. In addition to the five years that it usually takes to study medicine, she completed an additional year to also graduate with an integrated BSc in Pharmacology in her third year.

She said the style and teaching at university is such a gear shift from school or college that everyone goes through a period of adjusting. Instead, Lim found herself recharged and ready to return studying at the very start. She doesn't believe anyone would lose the academic capacity for taking a year out.

"My advice is to do it, but be wise with your time. There is a fine line between resting and being lazy," she said.

Lim has just graduated, and will start work, equivalent to housemanship, in Reading and Oxford where she will be rotating between various medical and surgical jobs.