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Types of gap year

16th August 2011

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If you ask 20 different people about the first thing they think of when you mention a gap year, you could get 20 different answers. That just shows how many possibilities there are for what you can do. It’s not just for rich people, or students who want to avoid going to university as long as possible, or someone who doesn’t mind living out of a backpack for 12 months – it’s for you, and it’s up to you how you want to spend your year.

BackpackerProbably the most common time to take a gap year is before you start your degree. You’ll have finished your A Levels and got a place at a university, but just want a break before getting back into study mode. But then, it can also be nice to have your gap year after you’ve finished your degree, as you’ll want spend as much time as possible with your mates before getting into the daily grind of the working world.

Backpacking is a popular choice for a gap year, as it’s great to do in groups, follows as strict a schedule as you want to and is a fantastic way to see different countries. The biggest drawback is money, but you can try to fit in some work around your travels to fund the next venture. There are lots of programmes that help students find short-term work, so starting off with that and then hiking off into the sunset afterwards is also an option.

You can also spend your gap year volunteering in the UK or in another country. Check out organisations that set up opportunities like these for students, which will not only give you a great cross-cultural experience but also the chance to make a huge different in others’ lives. You’ll meet loads of people your own age, and bring back stories you couldn’t have got anywhere else.

You can get as practical as you like in your gap year activities. For instance, if you’re interested in teaching, you can join a TEFL programme (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and use your abilities to work in schools and training institutions abroad. Or, you can work as an au pair for a year, which will also give you the chance to learn another language and experience a culture from a family’s viewpoint.

You don’t have to choose just one thing to do during your gap year – you can combine all these things with a month or two of work, travel and volunteering to have a well-rounded experience.

Gap years taken during university are sometimes called sandwich years – and no, it doesn’t mean that you get free sandwiches for 12 months. It’s a year spent in one or more work placements, or in a special programme organised by your university. This can give you a huge advantage when finding a job after you graduate – the amount of experience you have counts for a great deal when you’re competing with other applicants.

The world is yours to discover, and a gap year is the perfect time to do that. Think about what you want to get out of it, and have fun!

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