Taking a gap year, either before or after university, has become a rite of passage for many young people. Often this is driven by the desire to spend a few months travelling the world and meeting new people, without the pressure of study or work. Yet with the proper guidance and a little planning, a gap year can both be a fantastic learning experience and a useful building block for future career success.
This is because people on a gap year develop key skills and experiences (often without realising!) which make them extremely employable. The stereotype of the gap year backpacker on a quest to ‘discover themselves’ may have become the butt of many jokes, but in truth travelling gives people the space to learn about themselves, their skills and their values, insights which help them to understand the direction they want to take in life.
At the same time, the sense of adventure which leads many to take a gap year soon turns into a lesson in independence as you are robbed of home comforts and the security of family and friends. You are forced to navigate countries where you do not speak the language, an experience which teaches you to be flexible and adaptable. Through this you quickly discover new ways of communicating with those who do not speak English. All of these experiences can then be called upon when back in the UK, especially as gap year returners enter the world of work.
Such skills can be developed by anyone on a gap year, whether they choose to spend this time working, volunteering or backpacking abroad. However, in order to make the most of these opportunities, it is key that young people choose the right gap year option for them.
The wealth of companies now offering gap year ‘experiences’ can be overwhelming and so it becomes difficult for young people to know if a working holiday in Australia, backpacking around South America or time spent as a volunteer English teacher in Thailand (to name just 3 popular options!) is the most productive way to spend their time out.
To address this we have updated the gap year section on Venture (our study, work and volunteer abroad resource). In particular, we have broken down the gap year experience. Our rewritten guides offer impartial information to help young people find the path that suits them, whilst our new gap year travel section offers hints and tips on where to go and what to see.
Whether young people need guidance on the opportunities available, the costs involved, or the practicalities of travel, the website now acts as their first point of call, guiding them through the process of planning a successful, enjoyable and worthwhile gap year.
Visit our gap year section to see all of the new content