Can Students Benefit From A Gap Year?
If you’re coming up to the end of your time at school and you’d like to do something different before you go to college or university, you may be thinking about taking a gap year. What exactly does that involve?
There are lots of different ways to go about it. Some people continue to live with their parents and simply spend it working or seek out an internship in the field of their choice, but what most people want to do is travel.
This could be related to volunteering work, or it could simply be an opportunity to explore the world and, in the process, learn more about yourself. Could it be the right choice for you?
Are you ready to expand your mind?
The really valuable thing about getting out into the world is that it gives you the opportunity to expand your horizons and see things in new ways.
To make the most of this, however, you’ll have to be ready to open up to new experiences. It’s not an escape from learning but an opportunity to engage with it in new ways.
It won’t do much for you if you insist on trying to speak English everywhere, refuse to try the local food, and stay in chain hotels.
You’ll need to be ready to talk to different kinds of people and try to see the world the way that they do.
Some people find that this makes them feel homesick and long for the familiar culture that reinforces their sense of identity. It’s not a small thing to take on – you will need to be brave and willing to let go of cherished ideas.
Are you ready for the challenge?
Travelling – however you go about it – can also be physically exhausting.
Although it’s possible to do it with a disability, and more and more people are choosing to take it on despite health problems, you need to plan well if you face any such issues, doing thorough research to make sure that you can access any necessary medication or support.
Even if you’re in good shape, you’ll need to be ready for long journeys with very little sleep, sleeping on buses or trains or outdoors, managing for days without a shower, doing a lot of walking, and other such inconveniences.
You may have to face very hot or cold weather or illness caused by contact with unfamiliar bugs.
Most seasoned travellers say that it’s absolutely worth it, but it’s not for everyone.
Do you know how to stay safe on the road?
Parents often worry a great deal when young people go travelling because they expect them to fall prey to violence or have horrible accidents in circumstances where there’s nobody to help.
While stories about incidents like this turn up in the news from time to time, the only reason they are news is that they’re unusual – most people come through the experience with no serious problems at all. You will need to keep your head screwed on to stay safe, however.
The biggest risk is having your money or documents stolen, so make sure that you have a good money belt or similar to store them in.
You’ll need to have the confidence to assert yourself in situations where you feel pressured or intimidated. Use good sense about the countries you choose to visit and the risks you take.
Do you have the money?
Gap years were once seen as the exclusive preserve of the wealthy, but things have changed.
Today, they’re more widely affordable than ever. Even when travelling to exotic destinations, many people pay their own way by working in simple manual jobs, which can actually be a great way to get a flavour of local life and get to know local people.
For most people, the most expensive part is the initial flight, boat ride or train ride before the adventure proper begins.
If you don’t have family members who can look after the belongings you leave behind, you may want to consider renting a storage unit in London.
It’s worth investing in a good-quality backpack, but most of the day-to-day gear that you’ll need can be picked up very cheaply.
Could it help you build a better future?
When it comes to your application to study, many institutions will look more favourably on you if you’ve taken a gap year.
That’s because they expect it to have made you a more mature, more capable person who is less easily intimidated by hard work.
If you really feel ready for this kind of challenge, you’ll come out of it a stronger, more confident person with a richer appreciation of life, which can not only improve your potential as a student but can also help with your future career and personal goals.