Choose what you want to do early onThe first step of organising your gap year will require you to decide on what you’d like to do, thinking about what you’d like to achieve during this time gap. Speak to careers advisers at school or university, friends and family to air out your ideas and get some more. Typically, there are 4 strands to a gap year:
- Travel: you can go speak to a flight agency, such as STA about travelling the globe or a particular continent. They can also help you set up activities on your route, so you could just as easily be chilling out in the Full Moon parties in Thailand as helping out working in Australia, or even learning some Spanish in South America.
- Work experience: find a job overseas or back at home to put your gap year to professional use. The advantage of finding work abroad means that you can simultaneously improve your working skills as well as learn or perfect a language. Internships or casual bar work tend to be the most popular routes for gap year activities, yet you can also find more challenging work from a selection of websites.
- Teaching abroad: teaching abroad is also a popular way for students and graduates to get teaching experience in another country. Some work requires a CELTA or TEFL qualification, though there are plenty of outfits that offer placements (paid and unpaid) to choose from. Check the British Council Language Assistantship page for more details.
- Volunteering: sites such as WWOOF or GoAbroad.com have brilliant suggestions, though some volunteering organizations can charge pretty hefty fees. The Dodwell Trust, based in Madagascar, offers teaching work in primary schools, too. Work out what sort of field you would like to volunteer in (NGOs, conservation work, teaching, construction...) and don’t keep your mind set on a particular country as you never know where your skills/ideal work may take you...
Bear in mind you can also choose to do a variety of things on your gap year - should you wish to mix it up, by sharing working with travelling etc, some organisations let you do so. Read more about what to do when plans fall through here.
Going it alone or with an organisationAnother aspect of the gap year is deciding whether you would like to organise yours from start to finish, would like to with a group and be left to your own devices out there, or would like to build up rapport with an organisation back home all the way throughout your work abroad. With organizations, you may find that some are cheaper than others, though you should check carefully what you are fundraising for: some offer accommodation and food as part of the package, making the initial price a lot more worthwhile than other quotes. You should make sure that your gap year organization is recognized by the Year Out Group to make sure it is legitimate. If you decide to go solo, you can find communities on places like Couchsurfing and the Lonely Planet Forum to find like-minded people and advice.
Raising money for your gap yearYou can raise money by fundraising, working for a few months or working out there. Speak to friends and make sure you check the grantsforindividuals website.
Benefits of taking a gap year- If you’re staying within the UK, you can get a foot in the door in terms of work, gaining valuable contacts and finding out whether you’d like to work in your chosen industry. You can also learn more about the British work structure and don’t miss being ‘out of the loop’.
- If you choose to go abroad, you can try out many different fields of work, and also see what the culture is like should you choose to work abroad. You can also gain valuable linguistic skills, making you stand out from the crowd.
- You will gain maturity and independence, as well as communication skills and show initiative, all well-respected from future employers.
To conclude, make sure you plan and prepare effectively, listen to advice and speak to others who have been through it all. You can make this year really stand out, whether you’re looking to boost your CV, pack in some travelling or give something back!