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"I took a gap year to..."

Taking a year-long break (or two) from your studies to pursue a passion could mean scrambling to catch up with schoolwork or graduating later than your peers. Peter Yeo meets three intrepid students to find out why they took that gap year

Chase my dreams

Grace Chua, Medicine, Year 1

3.5 years

I’ve been balancing studies and badminton since I started competing with the National Junior Squad at the age of nine. The lifespan of a shuttler is quite short with most retiring by 28. I wanted to see how far I could go if I gave all my time to the sport. I had also set my sights on competing at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. I’m happy we were placed fourth at the mixed team event.

Aha moment
I had been considering taking a gap year since secondary school. The aha moment came during a tournament held in the week my International Baccalaureate examinations ended. I did surprisingly well for the games. It made me think that if I could do well while having to prepare for examinations, what more if I committed to it full-time?

Pros & cons
I’ve had many great experiences that you can’t get in school. I was able to travel to different countries for competitions, including to Mongolia, Russia and Iran, and I made friends all over the world during my matches. However, taking a three-and-a-half-year break before joining NTU means I’m studying with much younger peers now. The guys disrupted their national service for medicine, so they are younger than me too. I also had to catch up academically.

Biggest takeaways
My journey has made me stronger. I’ve learnt to accept failures, pick myself up and try again. I’ve learnt that nothing in life comes easy, but when you work hard, overcome obstacles and eventually succeed, it makes the journey so much sweeter. Travelling to countries I normally wouldn’t go to has enabled me to experience different cultures and meet new people. When I retire and look back on my life, it wouldn’t matter if I’d worked 40 years or 37 years as long as the time spent was worth it.

What's next
I’m still training with the national team and representing Singapore in international competitions.