How to plan my Gap Year

Are you thinking of taking a gap year? If so, we’ve put together a guide about everything you need to know. From what is a gap year to how to tell your parents that you’re flying the nest. Taking a year out can be extremely beneficial when well researched and planned. There is so much to think about. From what can you do in a gap year to how to fund it, gap year internships and different gap year ideas. We’ll make sure you’re in the know so you can make a well informed decision about whether it’s right for you.

What is a Gap Year?

Each year, thousands of people take time out of education or work. This is called a gap year and the good news is: it can be whatever you want it to be! A gap year can be anywhere, doing whatever you want, for however long you want. It’s all about finding what is right for you.

A gap year typically involves travelling, working abroad or volunteering and it’s an option which is becoming extremely popular among students in the UK. Taking a break from study, can help you to return feeling refreshed and motivated plus you’ll get to experience a whole new culture.

What to do in a Gap Year?

Gap years are a great way to give your CV a boost, learn about different cultures, build new skills and can help you to find yourself. There is so much you can do during one and we have plenty of gap year ideas for you to explore. 

Gap Year Ideas

There are so many beneficial gap year ideas available to you, think about how you could get the most out of taking time out and look at what you could be doing during one:

Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way for you to travel the world while giving something back. From volunteering on a wildlife conservation project to helping children learn English as a foreign language in a developing country. 

Supporting a meaningful cause can help you to gain invaluable experience. This type of gap year programme really does give you the chance to make a difference to the world. Other volunteering options include:

  • Community projects
  • Animals
  • Children
  • Conservation projects
  • Sports coaching
  • Teaching
  • Medical Electives
  • Humanitarian projects

Travel

On a travelling gap year, you can go on an adventure, meet friends for life, experience new cultures and grow independently. From backpacking around Australia to experiencing what Europe has to offer – there are so many options for you. You might even choose to book a round the world plane ticket.

Here is a list of some of the most common destinations for UK students to travel to:

  • Australia
  • Peru
  • USA
  • New Zealand
  • Argentinia

However, it’s always best to check the government’s foreign travel advice, to ensure its safe to travel to that country. Another thing to take into consideration is whether it is advised to have any vaccinations prior to travelling and if it is, make sure you have them!

person looking at the map deciding where to travel

Paid Employment

Another option for you to do is to take time out of education to work. Whether that be employment in the UK or travelling the world while getting paid for it. You could be working as an outdoor instructor in America or on an outback farm in Australia. Do you love skiing? If so, you could even train to become an instructor – there is so much for you to do. 

Gap Year Internships

Whether you’re interested in taking a gap year internship in the UK or abroad, it can open up many opportunities for you. Gap year internships enable you to gain relevant experience and skills which are sector specific to the career you are planning on pursuing. Taking time out to gain experience gives you the chance to develop industry knowledge and you may even earn a salary, however this isn’t always the case. Gap year internships are highly competitive so it’s always best for you to apply early!

Part-time Courses

Do you love learning new things? Taking up a part time course during a gap year can be extremely beneficial. You may choose to study abroad or in a different UK location. Part time courses provide opportunities for you to develop key employability skills such as IT or business. Depending on the course, you could get additional qualifications too.

Another option for you is to gain knowledge in subjects you are passionate about, for instance, drama, music, art, conservation. It’s worth bearing in mind that you will most likely need to cover the expenses of undertaking these courses. 

Is there such a thing as an adult gap year?

You’re never too old to take a gap year! Adult gap years are great if you fancy an escape from 9 to 5 life or want a career change but don’t know what yet. Taking time out as an adult can give you the chance to gain life experiences and develop your hard and soft skills. If you have a full time job, it’s worth checking with your employer if they are happy for you to take an unpaid break for a year. Wondering if an adult gap year will hurt your career? In short, no it won’t! It will demonstrate your skills, adaptable approach and experience. So if an adult gap year is what you want to do, we say go for it!

How can I fund my gap year?

Gap years can be quite expensive. In addition to potentially not earning, there are many extra fees that you may not have even considered. Fees include:

  • Gap year providers
  • Travel expenses
  • Living expenses
  • Spending money
  • Driving permits
  • Visas/work permits
  • Insurance
  • Equipment
  • Internet and mobile phone bills
  • First aid kit
  • Passport renewal
  • Prescription and health charges

You may want to use a gap year provider, who offers starter packages, to help organise your bank account, medical insurance, airport transit, finding a job and medical insurance. Gap year providers help ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible and can help you to create a budget plan.  

Here are some gap year ideas to help with your funding:

  • Open a savings account and add to it on a regular basis
  • Work prior to when you go
  • Work during your gap year
  • Ask for money as a Christmas and birthday gift to add to your savings
  • Sell some of your unwanted items
  • Apply for a grant/loan from a funding body or for a Career Development loan at the bank
  • Fundraise by participating in sponsored event

Why do people choose to take a Gap Year?

Students choose to do a gap year for all kinds of different reasons. Since the age of 5, you have been in non-stop education so some may choose to break this up with travelling, working or volunteering. Here are some reasons why you might decide to take a gap year:

  • Gives you more time to figure out your next steps after school or college
  • Gain your own independence
  • You can earn your own money
  • Take time out of education
  • Develop new skills
  • Gain work experience
  • Experience different cultures
  • You have no responsibilities at the moment
  • You'll return feeling refreshed for university or other education and career routes

Busting the myths about Gap Years

There are a number of myths surrounding gap years, partly due to the bad publicity you see in the news. What these don’t highlight is the thousands of young people who embark on a gap year and have the time of their lives. We’re here to bust some common myths and misconceptions about gap years. 

Myth 1: A gap year will negatively impact my career path

Wrong! A gap year can actually help make you become more employable and help you to stand out from the crowd. Today’s job market is highly competitive and doing a gap year demonstrates to employers that you aren’t afraid to step out of your comfort zone. It also highlights how independent and mature you are because you will have to make some pretty big decisions on financing, budgets and work during your time out. 

Myth 2: I won’t be safe

To keep safe when embarking on a gap year you can take some precautionary measures. It’s advised not to take with you expensive gadgets and you should only take the absolute necessity. A good idea is to take spare copies of travelling documents too and photocopies of your passport. 

On arrival, you should purchase a cheap mobile with a local SIM card. If your accommodation has a safe, then it’s best to just take out enough money for what you need. You should also keep your wits about you when out to prevent having your money stolen. It’s often advised that travelling in groups is a lot safer than solo. It is important to do your research about the country you are thinking of going to. Look into which areas to avoid and which are considered safer. 

Myth 3: I won’t want to go to university when I get back

Most students who take gap years actually report feeling refreshed and ready for the university term ahead. Visual and experiential memories provided through gap years can help make learning and studying more fun and interesting, so you will be in academic mode for when you return.

Myth 4: Gap years have to be a year long

Wrong! Gap years can be however long you want them to be, whether that be 3 months, 12 months or even longer. It is only an expression – ‘gap years’ are completely flexible and all depend on the person taking them. 

Myth 5: Taking a gap year is only for children from rich backgrounds

Anyone can take a gap year! Although taking one can be expensive, if you feel your studies and career goals will benefit from taking time out then it is definitely worthwhile. There are many organisations that offer work in exchange for an international experience.

Pros and Cons of a Gap Year

Like anything, there are pros and cons to gap years. What is right for one student isn’t necessarily right for another and you need to take this into careful consideration. 

Gap Year Providers

There are a number of gap year providers who can offer more information. These include:

G Adventures – G Adventures offers small-group tours, expeditions and safaris. 
Raleigh International – For volunteering opportunities abroad. 

Nonstop Snow – Home of skiing and snowboarding instructor courses and wilderness adventures. 

i-to-i – Teach English in foreign country.

Ripple Africa – Voluntary projects to help local communities in Malawi.

Facing your parents

Convincing your parents that can be the difficult part. Your parents may be 100% on board with you taking a gap year or still a little on the fence. Your parents might give you the third degree when they find out but if you prove to them that you’ve put in lots of thought and highlight how you will ensure your gap year is a productive one then you might just win them round. A parent’s natural instinct is to protect and worry about you, but if you’re halfway around the world they won’t be able to do this. If you’re serious about taking a gap year then being able to explain the questions below to your parents might help seal the deal:

  • Where are you going?
  • What will you be doing?
  • When are you going?
  • How long for?
  • Are you going alone or with a friend?
  • How do you plan on being safe?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How will you pay for this? Do you expect us to make a contribution?
  • What if there is an emergency?
  • Why do you want to do a gap year?
  • Do you plan on returning to education after your gap year?
  • Do you realise you’ll be going to university with people who are now younger than you?
  • How do you intend on staying in touch?
  • Have you really thought about this?

If you can answer all of these questions then it means you’ve done your research and it’s time for your parents to do theirs!

It can be daunting thinking about your next steps after college, if you want to take time out to do something productive while considering your options, then go for it. It’s all about doing what is right for you and your career aspirations. Just make sure to prepare and you’ll have a whale of a time no matter what you decide. 

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