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If one door closes, open a new one. That’s exactly what I did after being rejected from Oxford. I put in the work to fund my desire to see the world.

A Reputation

After not being accepted into Oxford in 2004 I eventually made the decision not to go to university.

Though I didn’t get admitted into Oxford, I was accepted into King’s College London- a fantastic school with international repute and recognition. Even though King’s was a great school, I was still feeling pretty upset about missing out on Oxford. I couldn’t help but feel going to King College was just… settling.

Gap Year

Despite the acceptance into a great college, I decided not to go- I would, instead, take a year off to sort some things out.

After making the decision to take a year off, I was really at a loss as to what to do with my time. I remember talking to my cousin, Shiva, about it and asking what he thought I should do with the year.

He suggested I travel, saying that, “It’s what most people do”.

Why not? I thought.

Travel Plans

I hadn’t done any research on the possibility of travel before, but it sounded like a good idea to me.

However, In order to do the traveling, I needed an income to support it.

I remember telling my parents of my plan to set out and find work so that I could eventually go out and explore the world. They weren’t exactly happy about the idea. I attempted to bargain with the deal that I would accept a place in one of the universities that offered me a place if I was unable to find decent work.

They weren’t exactly happy about the idea. I attempted to bargain with the deal that I would accept a place in one of the universities that offered me a place if I was unable to find decent work.

I attempted to bargain with them by offering a deal: I would take a place in one of the universities that accepted me if I was unable to find decent work.

They still weren’t fond of the idea, even after my stellar negotiations.

Nevertheless, I set out to make an income, even though I was already working at The Odeon Cinema – of which I still have fond memories.

Working at Odeon

I was 18 at the time I started working for the company and it was a very enjoyable time in my life. My work there varied and included:

  • Ticket sales.
  • Ripping tickets and greeting guests.
  • Working the food area selling popcorn and sweets.

A great perk of working for the company was that when I wasn’t working, I could go to the cinema for free- it was a great way to save money on entertainment.

Overall, the atmosphere of Odeon fit well with my 18-year-old self and looking back on my time there still manages to leave me with a smile. It was a youthful environment full of laughs, jokes, fun and occasionally stealing little bits of popcorn here and there.

The only problem with working there was that I was only making, at most, 5 or 6 GBP per hour at the time and it wasn’t a prestigious job by any means.

The job also wasn’t enough to help me gain the savings I needed in order to travel. Meaning, I needed to work more.

Growing up Traditional

At the time I decided to start working rather than going to college, everybody in my family had finished A levels and gone straight on to university at my age.

This made me the wild card – I’d chosen a different path with The Odeon being the start to it all.

What do the Parents Say?

Growing up in a rather traditional Indian family, with parents who were both born and raised in India, I can say that my mum and dad were a bit flabbergasted with my decision not to go straight to a university.

They said:

  • You’re going to find a job.
  • You’re going to start making money.
  • You’re not going to go back to school.

My mum was particularly adamant about this idea which she saw as a fact and I saw as something for me to rally against.

Working to Save-  Natwest

Even with my parents’ reservations, I feel fortunate to say that things did work out OK for me on the job front. I did, in fact, end up making more money.

I was doing the round-robin of recruitment agencies at that time and I managed to land an interview at Natwest Bank shortly after deciding to take my gap year.

As it turned out, Natwest Bank was based in Uxbridge and that’s also where the Odeon cinema I worked at was. They were literally about three hundred metres apart – the cinema and the bank.

I got the job at the bank after my interview – which meant I could put a serious dent in my savings plan.

After accepting the offer at Natwest, I quickly put it together that I could work during the day at Natwest doing the typical 9 – 5 and then walk over to the cinema to work the evening shift.

By virtue of a good relationship with the team at Odeon, they allowed me the option to work both jobs.

And that’s exactly what I did. So, at 18 years old, there I was working 14 hour days 3 days a week while keeping a full-time job at the bank and working at the cinema on the weekends.

So, at 18 years old, there I was working 14 hour days 3 days a week while keeping a full-time job at the bank and working at the cinema on the weekends.

Unlike the Cinema

The bank was a step in the right direction for me, but Natwest was so much different than working at Odeon. It was my first taste of the more structured, serious, corporate environment.       

It was the kind of job that sent you away for training sessions in places like Brighton and central London. It was a company that truly had the intent of grooming me for a career in retail banking and financial services.

It was, what most would consider, legit as far as careers go.

As it turned out, I was getting about £9 per hour and I was the highest paid of the new employees at the bank. I found myself getting paid more than a lot of the recent university graduates and I believe this was partially because I’d gotten the highest A level results at my school within the last several years. It put me ahead in the game.

It put me ahead in the game.

A Future Life

Upon being hired, the bank manager, Neil – a brooding chap in his mid-40s who wore glasses – asked of my future plans and if I had planned to go back to university. During the conversation, I was adamant in saying that I was set on trying to build a career at Natwest – going to university was not for me. This was, of course, a complete lie.

Such is life. Banking would never be for me, but I was willing to say whatever it took for me to keep the job that would eventually allow me to travel.

Banking would never be for me, but I was willing to say whatever it took for me to keep the job that would eventually allow me to travel.

On My Own

Even though I had secured a decent job, my parents refused to support me on the journey of saving and the desire to travel.

I remember saying to my mother,  “I’m going to go travel; I’m gonna go backpacking”.

To which she replied: “If you’re going to do that, then you can do it yourself”.

So that’s what I did- I went at it alone and I continued to work as hard as possible to realise my goals.

Working Too Hard

The beauty of working so hard is that you don’t have much time to spend money.  

On the other side of this, however, I started to lose weight and got a bit ill because I was so drained from the hours I was putting in.

I was not used to working these 14 days – it was my first experience with some of the harsh realities of working to support myself.

It was tough, but the whole first 6 months of my year after deciding not to go to university was a huge lesson in entering the workforce- a lesson I’m glad I learned.

Ending 6 Months

Those 6 months of working non-stop were a wild adventure that taught me a lot in a short amount of time. And it all started with:

  • My decision to not enter into a university
  • Which led to my cousin’s suggestion of backpacking
  • That pushed me into the working world for the first time in my life

Ultimately, I ended up saving 6000 GBP to start my backpacking adventure.

I won’t lie – it took a lot of work, literally and figuratively, to get there. 

And I would do it all over again without question.

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