What is a Gap Year? What can I do?

What is a Gap Year? What can I do?

A gap year, also known as a year out, is that year taken between high school and university, or after university and before getting a job, to travel and explore the world. It is that year that you set aside to become an adventurer and have fantastic experiences doing things you have never done before. It is that gap in your life when you break your routine and do something completely different!

There are so many ways to spend your gap year, from volunteering on a wildlife reserve in Africa, to learning Spanish and kitesurfing in Ecuador! For those who are on a tight budget, working abroad can pay for itself. If you’re more career minded, there are thousands of International Internships which will give you hands on experience in your field of study, look great on your resume, and give you a great excuse to travel. You can also spend a year studying abroad at a foreign university and earn credits towards your degree at the same time. Or maybe you’d prefer to spend you time learning to scuba dive in Fiji while working on an environmental conservation project.

The options are endless, but below is a little taste of some of the more popular ways to spend a fantastic gap year:

Volunteer Abroad
There are literally hundreds of organizations and charities out there that place volunteers on projects around the world during their gap year. The two main categories of volunteer projects are community projects and environmental projects. Community projects include teaching English and other subjects in local schools, building projects like building houses or wells in small communities with sparse resources, or working in health care facilities among other things. Environmental projects on the other hand focus on being immersed in nature, perhaps researching wildlife which is becoming extinct, or working to protect forests which are in jeopardy. Volunteer organizations tend to send volunteers in groups, so that you can get to know the people you are working with. Accommodation and food are generally provided as part of the package, and there are often side trips and excursions planned for the group. Volunteering can be an immensely rewarding experience, and a great way to really get involved in the culture you are staying in. Not only will you do a good thing for others, but you will have amazing stories to tell when you get home.

Adventure Travel
Adventure travel is a relatively ambiguous title, but this category includes the sort of gap year travel that gives you an adrenaline rush! Have you ever wanted to try scuba diving? Sky diving? Kiteboarding? Surfing? Skiing or snowboarding? How about going to mountaineering school in Patagonia? Well this is your chance! If you’re passionate about scuba diving, why not do it at the great barrier reef in Australia? Spend a few months and become an expert, get your PADI certificates and improve your skills. Or maybe you’re a surfer at heart but born in New York, why not learn from the best surfers in Costa Rica, and pick up a little Spanish along the way. Or for those that like the cold, you can spend a while in Switzerland learning to be a ski instructor on the great Alps! Adventure travel lets you really test your strengths and weaknesses, and gives you the opportunity to learn something profound about yourself and the world. Many Adventure Travel companies will offer packages including room, board, and training and equipment needed for your adventures.

Internships and Work Experience Programs
So you finished school, and now it’s time to get a job, but you have no experience to show on your resume! A gap year internship is such a great way to gain experience which will prepare you for the work force, and why not enhance your experience by doing it abroad! Europe is a particularly popular place for doing internships these days, but its best to go where your industry shines, for example an interest in Fashion can be nurtured with a fashion internship in Italy, home of the great designers. Or a business internship can be conducted in China, what a great asset to have behind you when you later apply for a corporate executive position. From engineering to graphic design, there are all sorts of great companies out there looking for eager young people wanting to get their feet wet. Internship programs usually include room and board, and often include language lessons to help you get by in your new culture.

Study Abroad
If you’re intent on finishing your career studies without taking a break from your schooling, then study abroad during your gap year! Speak to your own school or university and ask for the guidelines regarding transferring your credits, educational institutions tend to respect the value of travel and almost always grant credit for such programs. Imagine spending a semester in Spain or Italy! Learn a bit of the language, live with the people, enjoy the cuisine and continue your studies, it will only enhance your employability later. There are lots of study abroad programs to choose from, some are focused on a certain area of study while others are focused on relationships with particular institutions. Consult your own school for credit information.

Work Abroad
A lack of money is a poor excuse not to travel and take a gap year. If you can do it at home you can do it abroad. No matter where you go in the world every restaurant needs waiters, and every office needs someone to answer the phone. And what better way to see how the average person lives in a foreign country than by joining them for the 9 to 5! Find a job that is similar to what you might do at home, this will help you to surround yourself with people you would normally hang out with. But don’t work too hard! Make sure you find some time to spend that money on sights and side trips. There are lots of jobs available to travelers, you can easily apply before you go and secure your position before you get there. Jobs may or may not include your room and board, and weather they do or not will be reflected in your salary earned.

As you can see, the gap year opportunities are endless and there is definitely something for every type of person. A gap year provides a way to see the world, to experience other cultures, meet different people, and also to learn new skills. A gap year can be personally enriching, and at the same time gives you great experience to enhance your resume when you return home.