Students' gap year and travel plans get the flick thanks to coronavirus

A gap year is off the cards for most 2020 and 2021 high school graduates, thanks to COVID. Photo: Shutterstock
A gap year is off the cards for most 2020 and 2021 high school graduates, thanks to COVID. Photo: Shutterstock

Jakub Kamen put a lot of extracurricular activities on hold at the start of 2020. In his final year of high school, he wanted to focus on exams and get into his chosen university course. First though, he was hoping to get away with his mates and perhaps even take a gap year and travel overseas.

While he managed to get into the university course of his choice, that gap year never happened. Nor has his desire to embed himself into uni life quite come to life.

For other high school students, particularly those with performing arts ambitions, the impact of the lockdowns has been more severe. The future now looks quite different for the Year 12 students of 2020-21.

Jakub Kamen knew exactly what he wanted to do at the start of 2020. He took a step back from extracurricular activities, such as acting and music, with the mindset "it's just for a year".

He said almost as soon as the pandemic hit, he realised this might not be the case and that his plans for a gap year were likely not to happen. He managed to have a short break with friends at the end of Year 12 in 2020, but nothing close to their original Schoolies plans.

The biggest disappointment for Jakub has been the inability to fully engage in university life during his first year of studies. Studying criminology, he had hopes of diving into university life, with plans to join the university's amateur theatre group, the beer appreciation society and start a band. The reality has been quite different.

Instead of his first year of university being an opportunity to meet new people and explore his interests, he continues to study mainly in isolation, with most classes and tutorials taking place in the online sphere.

For students for whom remote learning isn't practical, they are considering more drastic actions. Arabella Keifer is a passionate dance student, and despite the impact COVID has had on the performing arts, she is keen to make it her career.

"One of the most important things about COVID and the performing arts is to try to think positively about it. We will be back on the stage no matter what. Because if you don't, you're not going to keep pushing forward with your training," she said.

Arabella sought support from her school, family and wider support network, including ballet school. She is considering relocating to further her studies and immerse herself into a residential ensemble. The difficulty lies in the stringent audition process to join these establishments, which require performance pieces she cannot complete due to restrictions.

Other students have to balance the choice between a university career and the potential border restrictions coming into play that could prevent them from seeing their families for months on end.

While gap years were on the cards for many students, many agreed the idea of getting trapped overseas or out of state without a family support network makes post-school travel plans unfeasible.

Alya Freeman said that while she would have loved to have followed in her mother's footsteps, who took a gap year to travel the world, she can't picture being able to do that.

"I just can't imagine wanting to be around crowds like that," she said. "I might go camping with a friend or two, but I would just feel too nervous around all those people."

While their options are starkly different from those their parents or even elder siblings had, it is evident today's students will find new, innovative ways to achieve their goals.

This story Students' gap year and travel plans get the flick thanks to pandemic first appeared on The Canberra Times.