With A-level results out this morning, hundreds of school leavers are planning impromptu gap years after missing out on places at uni.
While it may seem like a catastrophe at the time, having to take a gap year can be a great opportunity to broaden your horizons and develop new skills. Even if you’ve made the grade you may want to defer your place at uni until next year to avoid burnout after three solid years of exams. Either way, if you take an impromptu gap year you can:
Improve your skills
Taking a gap year isn’t just about having a good time: volunteering abroad and teaching English abroad can both help you boost some of the ‘soft skills’ that university admissions tutors and potential employers are so desperate to see. Work on your leadership skills as you teach a class of rowdy teenagers in China about the present continuous. Boost your teamwork as you work with other volunteers to build homes for families in Honduras. Improve your interpersonal skills as you bridge cultural and language barriers to work with others on a community development project in Kenya. By taking the plunge and going abroad you’ll also see your confidence soar and all that booking of flights and getting sorted will do wonders for your organizational skills!
Gain some perspective
Sometimes it’s difficult to see how lucky we are with our lot in life. The best cure? Spend some time volunteering with people who are less well-off than you and you’ll find yourself feeling a lot better about the cards you’ve been dealt! Hannah Wright, who went to build homes for underprivileged communities in Kenya, said: “The slum where we would be building was probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life, all those people living off a dump site just made me realise how much we take things for granted and think we have problems but they’re nothing compared to what these people live in everyday!”
Cases of depression and mental illness at universities around the UK are rising fast. After Sats in Year 9, GCSEs in Year 11, AS levels in Year 12 and A-levels in Year 13, it’s no wonder today’s school leavers are feeling a tad overworked. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that studying, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take some time out before starting uni refreshed and raring to go next September.
Earn some cash
While you’ll need to save your pennies if you want to head abroad to volunteer, there are some gap year options that can see you earning some cold, hard cash! For example, the massive demand for qualified TEFL teachers means that fluent English speakers are able to get TEFL qualified and pick up work around the world quickly and easily using i-to-i’s hassle-free TEFL courses and job placement service. Courses cost from as little as £175 and the earning potential is pretty decent. Or, if you want a little extra support, i-to-i’s China Teaching Internship (http://www.onlinetefl.com/teaching-internships/china/) is a fantastic option: you can get TEFL qualified, gain valuable teaching experience AND get paid for your efforts. So, not only do you get to live in an amazing country, you could also come home with money in the bank! Or take a working holiday with i-to-i in Australia and earn as you travel – check it out on our site i-to-i.com for more information.
Have some fun!
While you probably don’t need any pointers on how to have a good time, taking a gap year and going abroad is one hell of an adventure! Maxine Campion, who went to teach English in Honduras, described the experience in four words: “Amazing. Exciting. Liberating. Fun.”
For some ideas of where to go on your gap year check out our travel guides: http://www.i-to-i.com/campfire/travel-guides/categories/1-Gap-Year, take the volunteer test or check out http://www.onlinetefl.com for information about TEFL courses and jobs abroad.
I’m totally passionate about travel, it’s been my life and work for a good few years! My travel adventures haven’t really been about seeing monuments etc but far more about people and getting off the beaten track. Even in a country that has large numbers of tourists you can still find hidden places if you look hard enough, living and working in country gives you such a different perception of it and more of a chance to absorb the local culture. I would like to share my many experiences and offer a little advice if I can to fellow travellers or anyone who is just about to set off on a life changing trip!