How to have a 'gap yah' without taking a year out

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By Rai Zhang, RAG Social Secretary

The Croft Magazine // With Freshers’ Week out of the way and lectures being missed, the first year pleasantries of ‘Which tube stop are you?’ or ‘What even is bunker?’ or ‘How many times have you k-holed?’ have finally begun to cease.

But what if I told you there’s one topic that you can still strike up? Let me tell you about my gap yah (spoiler: I didn’t go on one).

Everyone knows that kind of person. You mention once about having a microwave curry and the next thing you know they’re on a twenty minute tirade about having ridden some ethically questionable elephants while exploring themselves and the lands of India.

And while the mere thought of their travels hurts you to the core, you can’t help but have an inkling of envy when compared to your summer of working in Tesco’s checkout aisle. It’s just the case though, daddy’s trust fund isn’t a thing and you can’t be arsed taking a year out. This is where the Raising and Giving (or RAG) society can sort you out.

Bristol teamed up with Bournemouth Uni last summer to climb Kilimanjaro | Epigram / Rai Zhang

Turns out, the Uni have been letting people sign up to raise money for charity. The reward? Climb the world’s tallest freestanding mountain and go on a safari to see the Big Five, or walk through Morocco’s Atlas mountains and explore the blue-walled city of Chefchaouen.

Oh, and the charity thing: providing education and food to children who haven’t had a full meal or full day of school in years. All because you decided at the start of the year that helping others might actually be a good thing. It’s as if they want everyone at Bristol to be like that.

The views from each campsite are breathtaking | Epigram / Rai Zhang

I decided to be one of those people last year. Having signed up to climb Kilimanjaro, I didn’t expect to be hosting poker tournaments, hitchhiking across England or running a speakeasy bar at house parties. I didn’t expect to raise £700 in a day bucket collecting, dish some juicy goss with Sandra while bag-packing or spend every Monday lunchtime selling dumplings (mum’s recipe). Ok, I didn’t do that last one because I’m terrible at risk assessments, and ate all the dumplings, but the attempt was there.

Every penny saved and every bag packed, all this so that I could go to Tanzania and almost die carrying a life-size cutout of Danny DeVito to the top of the world. I can tell you right now, it’s worth it. The flex on Insta is something not many can replicate. The scenery, the people you meet and the friends you make; it’s indescribable. A lack of oxygen to everyone’s heads just spawns some of the greatest in-jokes and memes between you and your friends.

Of course, you won’t forget the whole reason for doing this. The children I met are crazy, energetic and wholesome. Even the most cynical man can’t help but break a smile. For those wanting an authentic gap yah experience, getting that cover photo here is classic.

After the second day of trekking on Kilimanjaro, you are above the clouds | Epigram / Rai Zhang

And now, at the pub when someone asks if you did something over summer, you can smile knowingly and say ‘nah, not really’, because you’re a good person and don’t need the gratification of others. Or, be like me and flex it until your friends hate you. And then write about it in Epigram. Your choice.

This is an opportunity that I couldn't recommend more to anybody else. There are more events to do as well, such as living with gorillas or doing the Three Peaks Challenge. RAG have quietly hosted these challenges and it’s about time more people know about this.

I rate getting in contact, or checking out their Facebook. Who knows, they may be so desperate for attention they may have written an article about it.

RAG is holding an info evening for all the available challenges on Friday 18th October.

Featured: Epigram / Rai Zhang


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