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This article, written by professional funny man David Mitchell, discusses whether young people should still be taking gap years. Do you think a gap year helps you grow as a person, or do you, like the writer, think it is just a waste of money? Read the article carefully then answer the true or false questions at the end. Let me know your opinion.
Lesson by Caroline Devane

A Gap Year: A yearlong break from study taken by some students on leaving school before starting university, often spent gaining work experience or travelling.

Student Gap Years

The race is on for A-level students to grab university places before the fee cap is lifted (the maximum amount universities can charge students). Pre-Christmas applications reached a record high as candidates scrambled for the last scraps of cheap education. Only the super-rich will be planning gap years at the moment. This, in turn, will create a gap for the rest of the world.

There'll be no enthusiastic teenagers to build schools in Mozambique and there are going to be a lot of unfound selves slouching around the Indian subcontinent waiting for their backpacking owners.

For Britain, this could be the one good outcome from the whole tuition fees betrayal. For one generation at least, our student population won't be contaminated by a vociferous minority who think they've seen the world and have the beaded bracelets and ethnic ponchos to prove it. And they haven't seen the world – they've seen Peru. The world's not like Peru – not the bit that Britons tend to inhabit when they graduate. It's more like Reading.

This year's nervous and bookish school-leavers, timorously arranging their mugs and kettle, and applying new Blu-Tack to their cherished "Kings and Queens of England" posters in unwelcoming university halls, won't be intimidated by the bloke from the room next door reminiscing about snake bites, snakebite and drug experimentation.

Before you automatically lump me in with the fearful kettle arrangers, let me say that I took a gap year. It was the last stage of my tentative teenage quest not to be a boring person – or at least to deceive the world into thinking I wasn't. Secretly, I knew I was boring. I pretended to be keen on lots of clubs and societies so I had something to write on my UCCA form, but my private shame was the knowledge that all I really wanted to do was stay indoors and watch television.

But a gap year was like a certification of interestingness, of roundedness – it showed that you were embracing life's challenges, not festering in a clammy fug of spot cream and self-doubt. It also delayed the terrors of university for a whole year, the first few months of which, as a reward for the stresses of A-levels, would undoubtedly be spent watching television.
As the summer holidays wore on, the pressure from my parents to find something exciting to do with this opportunity, and their disappointment at my defensive apathy, intensified. I was hugely intimidated by my peers' apparent fearlessness. Gap-year-taking contemporaries, particularly as described by their parents to mine, seemed desperate to get out there, see stuff, help people.

I glumly went InterRailing. I toured Europe's most beautiful cities as part of a bickering group of frightened nerds. I coped with youth hostels and handwashing underwear. I slept on trains. I went round art galleries and museums. There was not a moment when I didn't want to go home.

All in all, my year off was so stressful that being back on felt relaxing and I suppose I approached university with more confidence as a result – which puts me in the same category as all the dope-smoking orphanage builders, though I'm loath to admit it.

But times have changed. The country can't afford all that non-vocational time-wasting.

In an educational environment where students must borrow heavily to join an overpopulated graduate workforce, the less they know of the unreal world across the glittering sea, the less cheated they'll feel.

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Are the following statements true or false?

  • 1. More people applied for university this year than ever before.

  • 2. Because of fee increases, more people will take gap years instead of attending university.

  • 3. The writer thinks he is an extremely interesting person.

  • 4. The writers parents thought a gap year spent travelling or volunteering would be a complete waste of time.

  • 5. The writer ended up really enjoying his gap year.

  • 6. There are too many graduates today, which makes finding a job difficult.