Almost every student dreams of taking a break from school and travel the world. Every person almost always has the thirst of adventure and trying something new. There are those who can’t wait to graduate from high school and spend an entire year of adventuring before jumping to college. College students are also excited in taking a break before another chapter in their lives begins and they fully become part of the work force. That is why people take what they call a gap year to fulfill this thirst for adventure and freedom.
So what is a gap year? You may also know it as a year out. It is the year taken between high school and university, or after graduating from university and before getting a job, to travel and explore the world. It is the year you have been waiting for as it is set aside to become and adventurer. It is the time of your life to have wonderful experiences doing things for the first time and going to new places. It’s like a break from your normal routine and you will be able to experience something totally different!
If you are planning on taking a gap year or will be soon, there may be a few things that you already have in mind in doing during that time. But if you are still on the fence about it, you don’t need to fret. There are many ways to spend your gap year effectively. You will definitely be able to find something that suits your interest.
You may find yourself volunteering on some medical mission in Africa or teaching English in China. You may also be learning Spanish or playing some local football in Spain. For people with a tight budget, going abroad and finding some work there will help you with your expenses. It also helps you experience more of the local culture if you stay in one place for more than a month. You can also go the route of an intern. You can look for available International Internships to give you first-hand experience in your field of study. It would be a notch in your resume and it is the perfect excuse to travel. A year as an international exchange student would also be something worthy to try. If your university has an international partner, you can try applying through the available programs and study abroad. It’s studying and exploring both at the same time!
There really are a lot of options to choose from. But to make it easier for you to decide, I’ve listed down some suggestions. Here are some great ways for you to make the most of your gap year and enjoy a year of adventure:
1. Volunteer Abroad
If you know how to look, you will realize that there are hundreds of organizations and charities out there that put volunteers on projects all over the world. You can apply as a volunteer and spend your gap year contributing to the good of your fellow men. There are two main categories of volunteer projects. One is community projects and the other is environmental projects.
In community projects, activities that help enrich the community are done. Projects like teaching English and other subjects in local schools, building projects like houses or wells for small communities with little resources, or projects involved in working in health care facilities are some of the things you may be involved in. In environmental projects, you will be involved in activities that help preserve or protect the environment. These projects focus on being immersed in nature like researching wildlife which has become extinct, or working to protect forests or natural habitats that are currently in jeopardy.
Volunteer organizations usually send volunteers in groups so it would be an opportunity for you to get to know other people, the ones you are working with and the ones you will be helping. Accommodation and food are usually provided as part of the package. Oftentimes, your group may go on side trips or excursions to explore the locality or go sight-seeing. Volunteering can be a very rewarding experience for you. It is a great way in immersing yourself in the culture of the place you are staying in. Not only will you be able to help others, but you will also have great stories to share with your family and friends once you get back home.
2. Adventure Travel
It’s the sort of thing you do in your gap year if you are looking for great adrenaline rush! It is for the more adventurous types. And if you are one of them, this may just be your cup of coffee. There will be various activities you can do in your gap year for your adventure travel. Do you want to try jumping out of a plane and sky dive? Are you an enthusiast and want to peak one of the world’s tallest mountains? Challenge Mt. Everest or K2! How about skiing in the Alps? You can try to learn how to be a skiing instructor there. Do you want to explore and see the beautiful wonders of the sea? How about going to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? Hone your skill in scuba diving and take a few months to get your PADI certificates. Or are you on a mission to find the biggest waves to surf in? Try your luck in Hawaii or Costa Rica. You can pick up the language of the place where you’re staying as well.
Adventure travel is like a test of how far you can go. You will be able to learn new things about yourself that you may not have known if you stayed in your country. It is a valuable opportunity to learn your limits and test out your strengths and weaknesses. You get to learn a lot of things about the world and about yourself as well.
You can check with many Adventure Travel Agencies for packages that correspond to your needs. They might have offers that include room, board and equipment you will need for your adventures. There is always something for everyone. Many Adventure Travel Agencies have websites so make sure to do your research and get the most out of your gap year!
3. Internship and Work Experience Programs
Once you graduate college, it is now time to join the work force. But before you do that, you can take a gap year and get an internship. If you have no experience to show in your resume, an internship would be a great help to improve it! A gap year internship is a great way to earn experience that will prepare you for joining the working class. It’s a great opportunity. And to make it more interesting, why not do an international internship?
Europe is growing in popularity as a place for doing internships. But it is always best to apply for an internship in the industry where you can practice your education and skills. For example, if you took Fashion Designing in college, better try your luck for a fashion internship in Italy, Milan or Paris. These three are famous fashion capitals in the world. You will not just practice your craft but also get to see wonderful and historic sights! If you are a Business Management student, why not apply for a business internship in China? If you are a graphic designer or an Art student, you can apply for an internship in Paris. If you are a Film student and like anime, why not apply for an internship in an animation company in Japan? There will always be all sorts of great companies out there that would be willing to have young people like you get their feet wet. The internship usually comes with free room and board. It could also include free language lessons to help you learn the language of the country you will be staying better. It will also help you better adjust in the new culture you will be exposed to.
4. Study Abroad
There are people who are dedicated in improving themselves academically during or even after college. If you are one of those, then you can study abroad on your gap year. Some universities have international partners or “sister schools” that have an exchange student program. Try to check your own school if things like exchange student programs are available to you. You may be surprised on what you can find. Like in my university, we have a Korean partner school, so students can apply for a semester in Korea for Korean studies and such. Any Korean lover (or K-Pop fan) would grab a chance to get this!
Just imagine a semester or a year abroad while studying. You can be eating kimchi right now while studying for class in Korea or having pizza after your class is over in Italy. You can be with other international students in the same program as well. Some programs are focused on a specific field of study while others offer courses in various subjects. Make sure to consult your school for credit information if you are interested in schooling abroad.
I have known people who have studied abroad for post-graduate courses through scholarships. If you bag one, you get free room and board and get to learn more and explore a new country. You will get to learn the language, meet new people and eat new food!
5. Work Abroad
Lack of money is not an excuse not to travel and take a gap year. If you can work at home, you can also work abroad. Wherever you go in the world, you will find a myriad of jobs that will let you earn cash for living and travel expenses. There will always be restaurants that are in need of waiters or offices that needs someone to answer the phone, make coffee or photocopy documents. Find a job that is similar to the job you do back at home. It will help you get used easily to your surroundings since you will be with like-minded people. Just don’t work too hard! Leave money for your trips once work lets out.
There are a lot of jobs available to travelers. Just make sure to apply and get work even before you get there. Although jobs may not include room and board, there are still some that may provide them. That’s already a jackpot if you get one!
There definitely are a lot of opportunities to find the right things to do during your gap year. Making the most out of your gap year will let you meet new people, immerse yourself in a different culture and learn new things. It is a rewarding experience that will enrich you and add color to your resume once you return home.