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Taking a Gap Year

Many students opt to take a year out between finishing school/college and starting at university, this year out is known as a gap year. You can also take a gap year during your university course (subject to approval from your university) or at the end of your course.

There are many different options for how to spend your gap year, and what you decide to do with your time will be dependant upon your personal circumstances, interests and financial situation. Many students spend their gap year travelling, volunteering, working, or a combination of the above.

 

Travelling

Many students choose to spend their gap year travelling, with backpacking around countries such as Australia, New Zealand, India and Thailand proving popular options for many young people. Travelling, whether alone or with friends, can be a great way to see the world, experience different cultures, meet new people, and can even enhance your CV.

Numerous companies, such as STA, Real Gap Experiences and many more, specialise in providing round the world experiences and will help you to plan and book your trip.

Working as you travel can make a trip around the world much more affordable and a number of websites provide advice on this issue, as well as practical tips for planning your trip. You can find a list of web links at the end of this article.

 

Working

Spending all or part of your gap year working, either at home or abroad, can be a great way to either save some money towards university, or fund your time traveling. Any relevant work experience will also look good on your CV and could provide a significant boost when it comes to applying for jobs after you’ve finished your degree.

Hint: If you can’t afford a whole year traveling the world, you could always work for nine months, save your money, then use the money you’ve saved to pay for three months traveling the world.

 

Volunteering

Many students choose to spend part of their gap year volunteering, and this can be a great opportunity to add valuable experience to your CV, as well as greatly reduce the cost of your trip if you’re going abroad. There are numerous opportunities available, from volunteering in your local area, to teaching English abroad.

A relevant volunteering experience can not only greatly enhance your CV, but could be that crucial difference between getting your dream job and missing out. For example if you’re training to be a teacher, a volunteering experience teaching children abroad can really make your application form stand out, and give you something to talk about at an interview.


What do Students Say About their Gap Years

"I really wanted to do a degree in Community and Youth Studies, but all the courses required a minimum amount of work experience before you started. When I spoke to the course tutors they advised me to take a gap year so that I could build up the necessary hours. I stayed in my home town and volunteered with the Citizens Advice Bureau. Doing this work experience made me a much more confident person – I learnt lots of new skills and got the opportunity to meet loads of different people. Sometimes it was hard seeing how difficult some people’s lives were, but I felt that I was able to make a difference. Most importantly doing the volunteering made me realise that I definitely wanted to do Community and Youth Studies."


"As well as doing the voluntary work I also worked part-time in an office doing administration. This was great because I am able to get work with them in the summer to supplement my student loan. I think that I have become more independent because of my gap year and the experience I have gained will make me more employable once I have finished my degree."

Lucia, Community and Youth Studies Student