I think it's fair to say that the idea of a ‘gap year’ has been wrung for all it’s worth. It’s been taken, fed very strong cocktails, painted with fluorescent paint and doused in glitter to make it a highly attractive, fun and tempting prospect for all students approaching their mid-teens. But what is a gap year anyway? I don’t even know exactly, so I looked it up.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a gap year is:
‘a period, typically an academic year, taken by a student as a break between school and university or college education’.
So, it doesn’t really
give much information, I suppose, which is great – it’s free to make what we want of it. But at the same time, that’s a little overwhelming. What do
we do with a gap year? There is an awful lot of pressure on students to filter straight from college or sixth form into university, but it shouldn’t always be so. There are lots of choices available to students, and here’s some of them.
Volunteering definitely has great appeal. Some might say this is the most enriching way to spend your academic year – professionally and personally. Despite the fact you won’t get paid, volunteering often gives back huge amounts
in terms of satisfaction, since you are genuinely making a difference to the service and people you are working with. It can range from a number of things; from helping at a local charity or community centre to conservation or education in less-developed countries. It’s a great embellishment for your CV
, too – it shows dedication and commitment, a willingness to make good use of your time and passion for a particular cause. There have been many volunteers, who inadvertently find future employment within organisations they once volunteered for, and so volunteering could open up a whole world of opportunities.
Work experience and internships
You could be particularly keen on improving your CV and getting as much work experience as you can in your gap year. If you are, then a gap year is indeed the prime opportunity to get a real taste of the working world in a sector you are interested in. Home or abroad
, work experience gives you the flexibility to try various things without long-term commitment, and an internship provides a more intensive opportunity within an organisation, giving you a deeper insight into how a company works. These days, employers are especially keen to see work experience on their candidates’ CVs, and if you are willing to put yourself to work (often for free), then this is something employers are happy to see.
Study something new
Being in education for twelve years or so means so many students leave education a little fed up. They’ve grown tired of studying the same things for years and years, which is why a gap year is a good chance to try something different. Perhaps there’s a trade you’ve always wanted to learn, or a new language, or an instrument? Incorporating this into your gap year could provide a refreshing change to what came before it, and even open up new doors in terms of enjoyment and employment. Looking at local colleges and universities for evening courses
, for example, is a good way to see if there’s anything that interests you.
Don’t be put off by how scary it sounds! Many people work during their gap year
before carrying on with university, travel or future employment. Whilst you’re young, it’s the ideal chance try your hand at different skills
, earning money in the process and gaining plenty of work experience for your CV. The events and hospitality industries
always have plenty of short-term positions available, from casual bar work to hotel work, meaning that you can save your pennies
for the year to come, whether you decide to start studying again, travelling or carrying on with a new job.
Perhaps the most attractive, and definitely talked-about, option for a year abroad is to pack your bags and see the world.
Indeed, most people don’t get this chance again, and it is the perfect opportunity to explore the planet when you have the energy, youth and general lack of responsibilities. The options are endless – be it trekking in South America, interrailing across Europe or touring now-clichéd Far-East Asia. Of course travelling for such a long period of time requires financial support, so it can’t be done at the drop of a hat, but it will certainly give you a renewed appreciation of life, change your outlook on a number of things and memories to last a lifetime.
And who’s to say you can’t do a bit of all of these things on your gap year?