As I drove down the very thin, hill sliced, country lane, my breath held in anticipated fear of meeting another car, I couldn't help but be taken with the beauty of the mist that filtered through the densely gathered trees on both sides of the lane. With the early morning sunlight highlighting the silkiness of the mist, the trees seemed more alive, more vibrant, yet softer in their presence. I didn't want to leave the peacefulness, but I drove on, determined for what was at the end of the lane ... what was at the end of the lane?
RYLA was at the end of the lane (okay, I hear you, I hear you, what is RYLA??)
Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (I was attending the camp for the recipients), is a wonderful opportunity for young people between the ages of 15 - 17 to learn leadership skills in an intense (but very fun) environment. I'm not going to give you a full run down of RYLA here, but if you want to know more, here is the website - RYLA.
SO what was I doing at the RYLA camp at 7.30am? I was their guest speaker for the morning! I spoke to last years group and had been invited back - which I was very excited about; these camps remind me of my own camping experiences with Brownies and Guides, and the camaraderie of the young people reminds me of the camaraderie of the national swim team. So I was there to speak and hopefully inspire a few of them to overcome obstacles and set out on their journey in life with a positive frame of mind and a belief that they could achieve their goals.
I did my thing, and then settled in to spend the whole morning with them and even, maybe, help them a little in the tasks they had to do. The group I was with were doing the Murder Hunt activity, a brilliant activity - but perhaps slightly too complicated to explain here, where they have to do a lot of activities and impossible seeming puzzles to gain resources to solve the problem.
I had a blast - I wanted to be their age again, and come on the camp!!
During a quick lunch break, we were visited by a very tame squirrel, who even came within a metre of my left leg, and looked at me with such pleading eyes, his little paw over his heart. I could hear him saying "please sir/madam can I have some more?" (literary reference, comment below if you see it!). Then it was time for me to wish the participants good luck, and head back down the thin, hill sliced, country lane.
But I'm not here to tell you just about my fun, awesome, morning with RYLA! What I want to do is touch on my previous blog topic about whether to go to uni or not and what it means if you don't.
Whilst at the RYLA camp it was bought to my attention that one of the young participants was in a bind, let's call her Kate (not her real name), was feeling very confused at the moment, because whilst she wanted to go to university and knew what she wanted to study etc, she actually didn't want to go to uni right out of school, she wanted to take a gap year and do some volunteering work overseas ... the volunteer work is where her heart is. The problem is she is feeling some pressure from her school to go straight to uni, she was being told that to take a gap year would disrupt her education and potentially set her back in life.
This is a common view, not just in schools, but with parents, and even peers - that you have to follow a particular path in life to have any chance to be successful. There are many pro's and con's with taking a gap year or going straight to university ... but there's pro's and con's with every choice that you make, and the pro's and con's will be different for every single person. Here is an article that looks at the choice students have to make, with an argument for and against a gap year - "The Big Decision: should I take a gap year?"
My advice to Kate was to firstly look at where her heart really was, if deep, deep, down she really wanted to go and volunteer overseas, then that is what she should do - take a deferred year on her course and go for it! I also told her to be open to all opportunities, to recognise that next week she might suddenly decide that, no, she really wanted to do her university course first ... she just has to ensure that the decision is her's and not her school's, or her parents, or her peers.
Uni will always be there, but that particular volunteering programme may not, way up the pro's and con's, and most importantly, look deep into yourself, your gut; your trusted instincts will know.