If school was a tough 13 years and you thought you needed a bit of a break before you nosedived into another 4 years of college right away, you probably relate better to this. I had decided to take a gap year in advance, but when I finally graduated, I had no clue what I wanted to do during that year! My rationale behind taking a break was so that I could explore my strengths and weaknesses better; to take an informed decision of what I wanted to study in university. What started off as merely a part-time job at Café Kumbuk, which started on the day I graduated coincidentally, transformed into an experience that proffered so much more than I expected.
It definitely taught me a thing or two about timing!
If you were never a morning person, finally having finished school you badly want to sleep in till noon, but having a job (or rather keeping your job) means you have to make it to those 7:30am shifts religiously – even on weekends! In fact, this can help you become as close to being a morning person as your body would allow which becomes helpful when you have to wake up for early classes or just to revise before an exam. Timing also meant that you show up to the time you commit. This is understandably not always possible due to the precipitous traffic on the roads, but it is always best to keep your co-workers informed of any delays ahead of time.
Confidence is always a good thing to pick up.
Working in client servicing – that is being the first face that a customer sees when they walk into the establishment – meant that you had to be presentable and confident to engage and interact. This makes the customers’ experience better, but can be an introvert’s nightmare! Kumbuk encouraged us to go beyond the general niceties and engage with clients a tad more; this often meant that guests were comfortable enough to share stories, ask for directions, get a local’s tips on navigating the island etc. while I would improve on my communication. This is a very handy skill to pick up for when you venture out into an unknown country and have to mingle with people from so many different backgrounds. It makes your overall settling in experience a lot easier. Same goes for when you actually go to work after your degree!
You start to realise the importance of completing those chores that you kept avoiding!
Part of the job meant that you have to clean floors, do the dishes and dust off everyday things in the café – a job that you can conveniently avoided at home! Although this seems so trivial and might not be likeable, it goes a long way when you have to move out and live on your own. Prolonged engagement helps you identify when things need cleaning. It was almost intuitive when the shelves needed cleaning or the floor needed a quick sweep. Likewise, you know when your fridge back in college needs to be cleaned out. It also keeps you organised so that you don’t drown yourself in a clutter of physical things as if the studies weren’t tough enough!
The connections you make can go a long way…
The people you meet: your employers, your colleagues, your clients – they are all important connections you make. Technically known as networking, this can help in so many unimaginable ways! Having to work with people day in and day out means you build a lot of friendships and have a lifetime of memories. If you also follow a good work ethic and impress your employers, you will always have a glowing reference when you need one for that dream job!
These are just a few takeaways that my time at Kumbuk offered me, not to mention the extensive technical knowledge on the administration and function of a café that I learnt. Admittedly, I had some cool mentors who invested their time in me as well, but if you really want to make the most of a gap year, you can regardless of where you are! You really don’t realise the importance of all the knowledge and skill you gain until you get to college. When you eventually do, you’ll realise you’re a step ahead and that’s a good place to be.
By Ashan Wijesinghe