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Study breaks

24th June 2011
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If you didn’t take a gap year before university, and are tired of jealously listening to how your friends spent theirs, it’s not too late to take some time off yourself. While the easiest time to have a gap year is before or after uni, having a break after your first or second year could really help both your degree and career prospects.

A gap year during university is sometimes called a sandwich year, meaning a year that’s not spent at the university, but can part of the degree programme. This can be spent on work placements within the industry you’re studying, or other practical experience that will help you with your degree. Courses that offer this sometimes have the word sandwich in the title so you know to expect this – it will add a year to the overall programme, but give you valuable skills to help you find work after you graduate. Some companies offer year-long placements that are ideal for this, but you need to get your applications in early as spots are very competitive.

You don’t have to study while you’re on your gap year, though if you’re desperate for a break, it may be a signal that you’re not really enjoying your degree. Having some time off to think about what you’re doing could be really helpful, especially if you feel like your academic life has been pretty full on since secondary school. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind about what degree you want, or what career you hope to have afterwards. A little down time could be all it takes for you to have a good think about your interests and ambitions.

Down time doesn’t have to mean sitting around at home – you can do anything you want! Gap years are increasingly popular among students and graduates, so there are plenty of options for how to spend yours. You can sign up to a volunteer programme that will allow you to experience another culture in a fantastic way, or jet off with your backpack, travel guides and a good pair of trainers to see the world. If you’ve been thinking about a different degree or career, why not take this time to check it out? Job shadowing and internships can tell you exactly what the business is like, which could be the deciding factor as you sort out your goals.

Before you decide for sure not to show up to your autumn term, talk to your university about your plans. All degree programmes are different, and it may be that holding off for a term or waiting until the following summer might be the best option. Asking for gap year advice is always a smart idea, even if you just want recommendations on the best programmes, internships or hostels. Perhaps the next time you talk about gap years with your friends, it will be you making them jealous with your stories!




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