After the frenetic studying for A-levels and leaving certificates the thought of wandering the world, carefree and unattached, seems highly appealing. The gap year has now become something of a rite of passage, with many seeing it as a natural stepping stone between school and the world of work or university – according to UCAS and the CAO, around 30,000 people annually defer for 12 months once they’ve been accepted at a particular university. Here are some ideas for things to do on your gap year, from volunteering in Africa to learning a language abroad.
While it may not sound fun, finding a job while away can be a great way to meet new people and try something new. More importantly, a stint of work can help fund further travelling. While it’s relatively easy to find mundane jobs such as fruit-picking or bar work while away, it’s worth putting a little effort in beforehand and finding something a little more unusual.
Crewing a yacht provides a way to island hop while being paid for it, while becoming an adventure tour leader or overland tour driver will provide access to some of the world’s wildest regions. Travellers who find themselves in Mumbai could even try their hand as an extra in a Bollywood movie. The pay is only around £6.35 a day, but the respect it gains back home is priceless.
Learning a language
As well as being a CV-boosting skill, the ability to speak another language enhances the experience of travelling. Those that only speak English tend to restrict themselves to areas already well-trodden by tourists, whereas those who can converse with the locals are free to roam.
Learning a language while abroad means you learn fast, as you’re having to use the language every day. Being able to speak even a few words and phrases can make the difference between, for example, being able to order food at a local eatery or having to visit the over-priced tourist restaurant. There are numerous ways to being the learning process – from home stays with local families to class-based learning in cities.
Many of the countries on the gap year trail are relatively poor – a fact that travellers exploit to their benefit. Volunteering is a great way for people to give something back to the places and people they visit. Whether it’s teaching English to primary school children or helping conserve coral reefs, volunteers can make a real difference and gain a valuable life experience in the process.
While voluntary placements can be arranged independently, third-party organisations such as projects-abroad.ie speed the process up and provide on-going support during the placement. The type of placement depends on the country and continent being visited. For example, those volunteering in Africa could become involved in anything from helping to protect wild animals in Kenya to working as a radio journalist in Senegal.