A few years and a few months ago, I was just as excited as the next person to get to university. September approached and day by day, the prospect of starting the most anticipated period of my life bloomed before me.

I had always been a bit of a nerd. It quietened down during secondary school, where it wasn't cool to be clever and to be seen striving for the best of the best was the surest path to self-alienation around, but the nerdiness remained. I longed to be in a new place, standing on that proverbial blank page, with other people just like me all around. Those who would understand my need to drive myself into the ground to achieve my potential but who would also want to hit the pub and fill it with our laughter and wit. We would support each other through the deadlines before grabbing each other by the hand and running out into the world to shake our hair loose and enjoy the best time of our lives.

Life doesn't always go to plan.

One minute you're planning your future, the next you're eating Ben & Jerry's from the tub. Two tubs. (Yes I know there are bowls but look how sparkling clean they are and look at the ice cream level in that tub. I am the new Sherlock.)

Joking aside, not getting into uni sucked. Suddenly there was a year stretching ahead of me and I had absolutely nothing to do except work in a clothes shop where the customers insulted me for being a sales girl (really). The first few months were seriously depressing but after a bit, I began to perk up.

Here's why and how you can too if you find yourself in a similar situation...

1) I had an image overhaul.

Why the hell not? I had nothing else to do. It didn't put my feelings of failure to rest but suddenly having flaming red hair got people talking about something other than accommodation, freshers fairs, societies etc.

2) I went exploring.

I didn't have the time or the funds for a traditional "gap yah" experience so I stayed at home, earning some money for the costly years ahead (not enough money as it turned out, oh second year you absolute beast).
With all of my friends gone away or otherwise occupied full-time, I had lots of time on my hands and there's only so much Gossip Girl you can watch in one go. I slung my trusty DSLR over my shoulder and went for long walks in the area, ambling down roads I had only ever driven down. It gave me a completely different perspective on the area and helped me see that life wasn't so bad after all.
(Disclaimer: the whole of Thanet is most certainly not as picturesque as the quaint country road above).

3) I reconnected with old friends.

Most of the people I had spent most of my free time with were suddenly off carrying on with their lives. Luckily for me, there were other people still stuck at home! (Although notably doing more productive things with their time such as studying for extra A levels and going to college and working full-time...)

Some of the people I spent time with on my gap year were people I hadn't seen properly for a few years and it was really great getting in touch with them again.

4) I let my hair down a little bit.

I'm not sure that Magro knows this but this guy was actually the first Italian who kissed me (on the cheek). My friend Tam and I went to Brussels for a long weekend to see the Christmas markets. It was absolutely freezing so the only option was to drown the frostbite in mulled wine and mulled mojitos (yes really!) We managed to get mildly assaulted by these two Italian guys trying to lure tourists into their restaurant but we were too drunk to care.

5) I went on holiday!

Saving up for uni didn't go 100% to plan... my trusty travel buddy and I booked up a trip to the USA for two weeks. I was never going to be able to do the six-month-travels-in-Asia package but it seemed right to treat myself to a proper holiday after months of sorting coat-hangers.

It's funny because at the beginning, my gap year was one of the worst periods of my life. I felt like a failure and was overcome by loneliness and jealousy as my social media feeds filled with excited updates of freshers week and new friends. 

But as time went by, I began to appreciate the time out. I could read whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted and do whatever I wanted. I loved having flexible shift work as it meant I could fit my working life around the things I wanted to rather than it being exclusively the other way round. Friends would come and go as they visited home for weekends and at holidays and I began to form a different kind of social life.

By the end of the year, I was confident that it had been one of the best years yet. 

Just before I went on to uni at the end of the year, one girl at work insisted that uni would change me.
"It's just the best experience ever." She said in a matter-of-fact tone. "It changes you. It just... changes you."
"I'm pretty sure that this year has changed me too though." I said.
"No, trust me." She replied. "There's nothing quite like uni."

And whilst I can't dispute what she said, I have to tell you now that I was right. My gap year changed me - for the better - like no year at uni ever would have been able to. 

It's easy to feel negative if your life doesn't go to plan. But just remember that there are still opportunities out there for you to grab and that by the end of it you will have learnt the greatest lesson;

It's really not the end of the world.