The basics
Study abroad : Before you leave

What to do during your gap year

Thinking if you should take a year off? Here’s a guide on why you should take a gap year and how to make the most out of it!

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Being a student, we tend to encounter a few crossroads in our lives that are due to various reasons. For some of us, we’ve planned a year away from school after successfully completing a major examination (for e.g: A Levels) or finally graduating from university after slaving away for 3-4 years. A few of us would see unexpected events throwing a wrench into our plans (e.g: a loved one falling ill) and we need to put our education on hold to take care of them. Most of us however, usually just have no inkling of what exactly it is that we would like to do once we’re done with college or university.

 

While, joking about how doing nothing but sitting in front of your television or your computer might sound ideal after so many late nights cramming for assignments and mugging for exams, realistically speaking, trying to find things to keep you occupied for 365 days can be challenging. There’s only so much time a person would enjoy their solitude before going stir crazy. Having an unplanned gap year can make you feel like you’re lagging behind all of your peers, but with proper planning, you can make the most out of your year. We’ve gathered a few ideas that have been tried-and-tested that you can think about doing.

 

Start packing

 

I’m sure like any student, you would definitely have a bucket list of things that you wish to do and the places that you want to visit. A gap year is the best time to check off as many items on this list! You would be the envy of the rest of us who aren’t or weren’t able to take a year off! Take out a piece of paper (you may need more than one) and start listing down all the countries that you would like to visit and things that you would like to do- perhaps go skydiving in New Zealand? Or hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? There are lots of companies such as Frontier, Oyster and STAtravel that offer special package deals for the sort of country-hopping that you intend to do, for any length of time. They will help you make all the arrangements and can also tie link you up with volunteering or part-time gigs as well as tying you in with fellow like-minded travellers depending on the duration of your trip and the locations. 

 

Want to fully experience a foreign culture as one of the locals not as a tourist? Au pair placements are a great way to earn some money while living like a local in the country. This is definitely worth some consideration if you want more independence than what an interrailing pass will give you.

 

An interrailing pass will enable you to hop on and off trains all around Europe. You can choose to stay in social hostels or even expensive hotels if your budget permits. These passes are easily available for purchase from the interrailing website and can be bought up to three months in advance of your trip. If embarking on a round-the-world-trip is not within your budget, you can always do a small-mini trip by visiting all of the different places that Asia or even Southeast Asia has to offer! To save costs, you can go through websites like Couchsurfers or Airbnb for cheaper accommodation.

 

Fatten up your savings account

Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a large trust fund to pay for our education, so for everyone else who is looking at the huge amount of student debt after graduation, taking a gap year to work and earn some disposable income might be ideal. Unlike the mad dash that you’re used to doing every summer- shoving your resume to anyone and everyone with a vacancy, finding a potential employer is a whole lot easier when you have flexible hours to offer. With no exams take or classes to sit, you are free to choose any time slots.  You can decide work the night shift in a call centre or take on multiple shifts for a logistics company.

 

Not sure what you want to do with your life? Or want to try out a job that is completely different from what you studied? This is the best and might be the only time you can do it. There are increasingly a lot of short-term internships and apprenticeships available worldwide. Internships and apprenticeships are a great way for you to gain experience in a certain sector in a year and you usually obtain a qualification upon completion.  For those who want to work and travel at the same time, you could try doing a season at a ski resort as an instructor or become a counsellor in Camp America or Camp Europe. The latter two options usually allot you some travel time either before or after becoming a counsellor.

It doesn’t matter if that job that you end up taking is directly related to your future career or completely different from what you had in mind, it is still valuable life experience that you’ve attained and a bit of financial security for the immediate future.

 

 

Pick up a new hobby or two

 

Staying with your parents might mean that you get to enjoy good food every day and not pay rent, but you won’t have much opportunity to socialise when compared to your time in the dorms with your buddies just a room or two away. Don’t fret, there are still clubs, gyms and teams that you can join to find a new hobby and meet new friends. Pick up a skill- learn how to cook a ten-course meal, or master a new language! Often times these courses cost money, even with government subsidies, they might set you back quite a bit, so we recommend you work part-time (as mentioned in the previous paragraph) and take these courses during your spare time.

 

Discover your inner philanthropist

Something else that you might want to think about is taking part in some voluntary work locally or overseas. There are various websites that offer student placements for volunteering opportunities overseas such as International Volunteer HQ, One World 365, BUNAC, VSO International to name a few. Some of these organisations can even help you find internships abroad! No matter the mode or method of volunteering that you choose, you can be sure that there will be a lot that you can learn- expanding your outlook on life, developing meaningful relationships with people (these can even serve as your networking platform when you embark on your future career!) and of course it’ll look good on your resume.

 

 

 

 

Whatever you decide to do during this precious year, just remember to plan and you won’t have any regrets at the end of it! All the best!!!

 

Contemplating studying abroad? Check out the courses available here.

Or download a university’s prospectus now!

 

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About Author

A fan of anime and all things Japanese, Khai has been writing professionally since 2010 and “unofficially” for much longer. In her free time, you will often find her baking, reading, travelling and doing everything else in between.