All the way through school I had the clear idea that I wanted to go to university. I hadn’t stopped to consider taking time out for a gap year. So, it was a surprise to me and my parents to suddenly find myself applying for the SU Scotland Gap Year Programme just 24 hours before the deadline.

I was in my sixth year, had made my university applications and was waiting to hear from my top choice. I was praying about my next steps and had the clear sense of God pointing me back to the Encounter prayer event and the chat there about the Gap Year options.

Now, a year on, I am making plans to study computer science at Glasgow University. I will be heading there having had an amazing experience for the last year, with a range of transferable skills to take into my student experience.

Throughout the year I’ve been based at Gowanbank in Ayrshire, one of SU Scotland’s three residential activity centres. Gowanbank has a close-knit team of six staff (not all of them full-time like me!) and it has been a really fantastic experience to get to know them well and to work with them on what is truly a very varied range of tasks. I get involved in everything… practical things like catering, cleaning—lots and lots of hoovering—and outdoor maintenance as well as working with the young people directly, including activity instructing.

The teamwork experience has been great—even tasks like washing up are fun because you are working alongside other people and knowing it’s in service to God. I’ve learned an amazing amount from all of the people that I’ve worked with this year. I know that I’ll be able to use that experience in future volunteering and all sorts of other ways too.

My final term here is proving to be full-on, with school groups here all the time. I now have the skills and experience to lead some of the outdoor activities and that’s going to be useful for future work and, as well as for my own interests. I really enjoy outdoor activities
and it has been great to be able to go climbing with some of the others on the team just for fun.

Throughout the year I’ve benefited from being part of the gap year programme with links with the other participants, a mentor (he’s actually in Canada, but that works fine!), an active church in Townhead and time to get into reading the Bible. I’ve been able to explore more about God and what it means to be living my life for him.

During the summer I am heading to Hungary with the rest of the Gap Year Team to support some SU Holiday clubs there where the children and young people get to find out about Jesus and also practise their English. I’m hoping we can be genuinely helpful while we are there!

My gap year has given me an incredible breadth of experience that, starting out, I had no idea I was going to get. Moving away from Callander into Ayrshire has been something I never expected, never planned, yet this God-given opportunity has done so much for me. 

Finlay Murphy | Gap Year 2022/23

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This article was taken from the July 2023 edition of @SU Magazine.

Editor: Hilary Phillips |

Design: Kimberly Wray |

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