Why try a gap year after college or university?

College and university leavers often choose to take a year off before further study, or going into the world of work.  Not knowing whether to commit to studying for longer or really focus on the first steps of a career can send many people into a spin.  Taking the decision out of your hands for a year is often the perfect answer.

Another reason college and university leavers decide on a gap year is to gain some life experience.  Most people will tell you that there is a great deal to learn from education but experiencing new situations for yourself will make you wiser and benefit you in many areas of life, including study and work.

Independence, prioritisation, personal safety, budgeting and planning are all great skills that you can benefit from for the rest of your life, by jumping feet first into a gap year.

Things to include in a gap year after leaving college or school

If you have decided to take a gap year – good for you!  The next question is, what should you do?  Here are some options to help get you thinking and planning.

Dive into another culture

What better time to change what you surround yourself with on a daily basis than after leaving college or university?  You’ll have spent most years of your life so far surrounded by the same people for long periods of time.  Now may be the perfect time to get away from being comfortable around the people you have known for years and explore something entirely new.

Experiencing another culture is a great way of jumping in at the deep end.  And like anything else that you may have been nervous about doing before – you’ll find that the deep end is the best way to go!  Live and work alongside local people and find out more about them from the things they do every day to their special occasions and celebrations.

Try Rio at carnival time, India at Diwali or Australia over Christmas and New Year for a truly different life experience.  However, whatever you choose to do, make sure that you budget well and find somewhere to stay before you go.

Build a school

Whether you loved it or hated your years in the education system, helping others who are desperate to achieve an education by being part of a school building project will be extremely rewarding.

From Cambodia to Nepal, Jamaica or the Philippines, you’ll experience another way of life as well as an entirely different climate whilst you’re helping children to have access to education.

There are specialist companies who arrange school building volunteer trips, such as Gapyear.com.

Teach English abroad

For a familiar structure to the day but from an entirely new perspective, have a go at being a teacher.  You’ll be helping others and experiencing their culture whilst living away from home and meeting lots of really interesting new people.  Plus you’ll be able to spend the weekends exploring or doing whatever you like in a completely different country.

There are lots of gap year teaching opportunities available in countries including Bali, Costa Rica, Fiji, Madagascar and Peru.  Take a look online to find out more.

Teach something else

If English isn’t your thing but you have other skills that others might want to learn (and which could earn you some money) see if there are any vacancies abroad for whatever you do best.  This doesn’t even have to be something you have learnt at college or university. Have you got sports related skills?  If so you could teach skiing, diving, surfing or golf.

Whilst you may be the master of a skill, teaching others how to do it will help refine your skills around customer service as well as other people skills like patience.

Wildlife conservation

According to Endangered Earth, there are currently 41,415 species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, 16,306 of which are threatened with extinction.

I’ve had a quick look at the type of programmes college and university leavers can get involved with and here are just a few to consider:

  • Manatee conservation in Belize
  • Sea turtle conservation in Kenya
  • Bear tracking in Sweden
  • Desert elephants projects in Namibia
  • Amazon Basin research in Peru
  • Ocean research intern projects in South Africa

Go on an adventure

If all of these places sound great but you don’t want to teach or work for a while after leaving college or university, then just go on an adventure during your gap year.  Of course, the type of adventure will depend on your budget, but going somewhere you have never been before will almost always be well worth saving for.

Whether in the Alps or the Himalayas, try trekking up a mountain.  Or for something a bit more relaxed check out the fjords in Norway.  With a mixture of exhilarating experiences and time away from everything else to collect your thoughts, working out what you want to do when you get home might become that little bit easier

Get a job

An obvious option, but not necessarily one most college and university leavers connect with a gap year is getting a job.  If you’re thinking of going to university after leaving college, making some money whilst learning a bit about the world of work can really help when it comes to living life at university.

Similarly, if you’re a university leaver who doesn’t know whether to continue with education or to take the steps towards your dream career, getting a job for a year whilst you learn more about what you do and don’t want to do, will only help you out, both financially and in terms of learning new skills, in the long run.