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My Gap Year Story...

09/07/2009

Capture the Flag - Gap Year

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My name is Anneleen, I'm 19 years old and I am from Belgium. I have just finished my gap year at Cliff College, and would love to share my story with you.
Doing a gap year at a Bible college was not my initial plan. I was already planning on studying in the UK, but certainly not a subject like theology. I thought I would just start studying for a degree straight after school.  At the start of my last year of school I started getting a little nervous. Leaving home to go study at university is a scary thing, but doing it in a foreign country made it sound so much more scary. It was my mum who came up with the idea of taking a gap year, in the UK preferably, for the sake of getting used to the language and culture. That seemed like a good plan to me. Then she suggested I could do it at a Bible college and that didn't sound like the best plan to me -  more like the geekiest thing to do. I thought Bible Colleges must be full of holy nerds and that I would never fit in. I ended up looking at different Bible colleges only to please my mum. Cliff College seemed to be the best place and offered the best program to suit my situation. So I came to visit Cliff in October 2007. I wasn't exactly impressed with it because I wasn't convinced I wanted to spend a whole year of my life in a place with a bunch of theologians. But God clearly wanted me to go, so I applied and got accepted. And I must say, it was probably one of the best decisions I ever made.

Firstly, I would like to say, Bible College is definitely not full of geeks. I have met amazing people here, people I have learned so much from and really look up to. There was so much encouragement to be gained in my spiritual life. When you're surrounded by Christians all the time, their godliness simply rubs off on you. It was wonderful to be able to go to someone and ask for prayer, and this was a totally normal thing to do. I have been challenged in my faith in so many ways, and I have grown a lot. At Cliff everyone gathers every morning for, what we call, morning prayers. Now this sounded horrific to me at first; getting up early, every morning, to pray. But it was such a good discipline to practise and I got a lot out of it. As a gap year student I was appointed to a ‘mentor'. My mentor became more like a friend to me and someone I could confide in. I didn't see her as someone who was going to tell me what I had to change and how to do things. It was really nice to know I was able to fall back on someone if I had any problems or anxieties.

As a gap year student, I was given the freedom to choose what lectures I would sit in on, which essays I would write and which exams I wanted to take. Other students hated this (they were just jealous!), but I loved it. I chose to sit in on all the lectures because I wanted it to be a real part of my year and I wanted to learn things that I would otherwise never have the chance to learn. By writing essays and doing one exam I was able to learn how to write properly in English and in academic language. Most students don't get the chance to practice writing; they just have to get on with it. I was very happy I was able to do this, for now I know that I can write properly for next year when I'm at university. As a gap year student I got the opportunity to do more placements than the other students. I did do some extra activities like after school drop-ins, working at a church, helping and attending at a church weekend and just general helping out at different events. Gap Year Student - Anneleen Verlinden

I would recommend taking a gap year to anyone who wants a year out with God. Cliff College was like a home to me. The tutors became like second parents and the students were like brothers and sisters. Living in a close community like Cliff shapes your personality. I have become more patient with people (something I struggled with before I came to Cliff) and I have become a lot more open minded. Don't get me wrong, it has been very hard at times, being confronted with people I didn't always like. But I believe it was beneficial to me. I learnt a lot more about other cultures, different ways of worship, prayer and meditation. Something that I learnt as well was getting on with all people of all ages. Before my year at Cliff my friends were people of my age group. At Cliff my first close friend was a woman who is over ten years older than me and from a completely different culture. This friendship was so enriching to my life.

I'm leaving Cliff now, and going to Sheffield University to study Speech and Language Therapy. I do this now with more knowledge about the Bible, a better and stronger relationship with God and some amazing, supportive friends at Cliff. I wouldn't have had this last year any other way. Praise God!

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Anneleen Verlinden

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