Whether you’ve just received your A-Level exam results, graduated from university or are at a point in your career where you feel it’s time for a change, a gap year may well be the next step for you. So we’ve put together 10 reasons you should consider taking a gap year before you head for university, full time employment or a new career!
1) Have a breather & reward yourself
College, 6th form and university can be pretty intense, with coursework, dissertations and preparation for exams to worry about. Once you’ve finally cleared the hurdle of education, you may feel like you need a long and well deserved break. If you’ve worked really hard, why shouldn’t you reward yourself with a year out before you start university or working life?! With the average retirement age being between 61 and 68, one year out really is nothing in the greater scheme of things.
2) Get to know yourself
When travelling, you’ll start to find that you get a better handle on the things you enjoy and what you want out of life. Sometimes when people decide on what they want to study at university or the career path they would like to follow, they can often find that this doesn’t always pan out how they expected. In some cases, students end up switching courses after a year, as the subject area they chose to study just wasn’t right for them, or they may even drop out of university altogether. It’s important to get to know yourself, your likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, then you can use this information to make a more informed choice about your future.
3) Learn new skills & develop existing ones
Travelling around the world is a great way to pick up new skills and develop some existing ones. You’ll find that after a few months of travelling you’ll have brushed up on your foreign language skills, as well as organisational, planning and communicative skills. You will also learn how to adapt to new and sometimes stressful situations (travel isn’t always plain sailing, unfortunately!), and this skill can be utilised when you return home and start work or university.
4) Do something worthwhile
Volunteering may or may not be something you have in mind for your gap year adventure, but it will certainly be looked upon favourably by potential employers and will help you gain a better understanding of other cultures. Volunteering abroad could involve teaching English to children, working with animals or working with communities on conservation projects. There are so many options available to suit each individual, and you can really help make a difference, even if you only volunteer for a couple of weeks or month or two of your trip. Volunteering is a good way to help you gain some work experience for your CV, too.
5) Save money for University
University is an expensive few years for students, so many people who choose to take a gap year before they go to uni often opt to do some paid work while they travel. Not only does paid work help fund their trip, but it also ensures they can squirrel some money away for when they return home and start university life. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand are popular choices for travellers looking for paid work, but you will need to obtain a working holiday visa before you can work there.
6) Experience other cultures
Taking a gap year is a great way to experience other cultures, and get a better understanding of the world we live in. If you visit developing countries during your trip you’ll find that you will leave with a new found appreciation for your life back home. Travel can be a real eye-0pener, and can really make you realise how lucky you are. Experiencing other cultures helps to broaden the mind, which will help you to understand and appreciate others from all walks of life.
7) Gain confidence & independence
Travelling is a great way to boost your confidence and independence. Getting around and keeping safe in unfamiliar surroundings can be pretty scary at first, but you’ll soon realise that you’re more than capable of taking care of yourself, and travelling alone in some cases. There are a number of things gap year travellers will feel anxious about, you don’t speak the language, everything is unfamiliar, you’ll probably feel homesick at some point and maybe you’ve never travelled alone before…all these things can be overcome and when they are, you will feel like you’ve accomplished something, which is a massive confidence boost.
8) Decide what you want to do with your life
It can be easy to think that university is your only option after college, or that if you take a year out before going to university or starting your career, that it could have a damaging affect on your future. The truth is, taking some time to unwind and work out what you really want from life will help ensure that you make the right decision in the long run. You might find that you discover a passion for a particular subject area during your trip, which you never realised before.
9) It’s more difficult to travel when you’re older
Sadly as you get older, financial commitments will make travelling long term much more difficult, so travelling when you’re younger and don’t have any responsibilities is a wise move. Once you have a mortgage and other financial commitments, taking a year out to travel won’t be so easy!
10) Meet new people & make new friends
This one is pretty obvious, but travelling opens up the opportunity to meet so many new and different people! Whether you know them for a matter of minutes or forge a life-long friendship, travelling brings you into contact with people from all walks of life, and you’ll probably end up sharing some unforgettable experiences with them, which will stay with you for the rest of your life.