Exploring “The Gap Year” and Summer Holidays
Everyone has that one friend that goes on and on about how amazing their year in Thailand was and how it “opened their eyes to the real suffering in the world” from their air-conditioned hostel bed. But the real value of the gap year is widely misunderstood as being something that broadens the mind or opens you up to new ways of living. More and more these days it’s becoming an essential part of your career; a respite from academic work to allow you to understand the practical underpinnings of a discipline you want to enter. Always travel when you are young if you have the ability to, not only will you regret it later if you don’t, you won’t have a choice in the matter when you are older, and filled with responsibility.
You never get the swathes of free time at a full-time job like you do when you are at College or University; 10 week exchange programs such as Camp America or Adventure China are examples of cheap travel alternatives that give you both practical teaching experience and scratches that itch for cheap travel and exploration. On top of this, longer international exchange internships are becoming more and more popular whether it be specific employment in a set career such as Business in Hong Kong or Environmental Volunteering in South America. Holiday-esc jobs such as Skiing Instructor in Switzerland or Path Guide in New Zealand also helpfully explain those gaps in your CV and also showcases good characteristics to employers such as initiative, enterprise, and self-management.
Gap year’s are also useful in other scenarios… Deciding whether doing a degree is actually something you want to commit to. Testing out a business idea or a creative element that you are particularly fond of such as music, drawing, or making videos. Trying a different subject through work experience or after-hours classes at college or University to see whether you are a better fit for a different option. And making certain what University and course you want to attend.
With the infamous Gap Year, commonly the drawbacks include the fact that you are a year behind your classmates in terms of accomplishing a degree which can make you feel like you are behind generally in life, but this is just a social pressure that has no real world application. Working while you travel are good uses of your time, not only does it give you the generic benefits of travel, but it also improves your employability, employers are always looking for individuals that have specific practical experience (especially entrepreneurism) and commonly value it more than academic experience. Academic qualifications are still considered to be a huge indication of someone’s ability to deal with various situations correctly and knowledgeably and that is why there are jobs that are only offered to graduates however that extra bit of practical work could push you above your peers in ways you’ve never considered.
Summer holidays and gap years can get long and quite laborious at times so below I have made a short list of examples that can give you a taste of a far away land on the cheap…
Fly to one of America’s many summer camps as a Camp Counsellor. A ‘Flights Included Camp America Package’ costs £599 which includes food, accommodation, visa sponsorship, and return flights however the pay for the entire camp can be upto £922.40 so be careful when applying to see whether your pay for the work you are doing either matches or profits your expenses.
Similar to that of Camp America but instead located in the tropical far East. Working with children for 8-12 weeks, no need to learn Mandarin as they do not require Mandarin speakers whatsoever. The Package of £499 plus the 3rd party fees of £226 on top of possible medical checks bumps the price up to around £700, and with only a definite minimum pay of £300, this would mean it would leave you £400 out of pocket in the worst case. However, £400 for almost 3 months of accommodation, food, medical insurance and job experience is not too bad considering the independent costs would likely be considerably higher.
A voluntary personal and social development programme for 15-17 year olds, you’ll either work as an Assistant or Main Team Leader as you lead 8 – 12 young people through a month of exercises divided into four weeks; the first week involves team-building exercises usually on a rural campsite such as raft building, eating competitions, and orienteering. The second week has your team go to a local University to learn employability skills such as first aid, presentation work, and fashion shows. The final third and fourth week encompasses the creation and completion of a social action plan aimed to help the local community in an original and useful way. Examples of this might include painting the local nursery, help planting vegetables on an allotment used to supply homeless shelters, or raising money for a charity via a stall in town.
With pay ranging from £1,000 – £1,500, NCS is handy for that extra bit of cash on top of being invaluable on your CV which showcases your charitable nature and capability to lead others.
International Citizen Service
Aimed at young people, this sees volunteers from the uk working alongside volunteers from developing countries in which help has been specifically requested, with emphasis placed on measures that combat poverty. A 10 – 12 week programme, ICS is challenging and everything from flights and visas to food and accommodation is included along with a small allowance. However this includes a small fundraising target of at least £800 so be prepared for numerous charity galas and events to fund it. With locations ranging from Kenya to Cambodia, this choice is definitely not for the faint of heart as initiatives volunteers help with range from education to construction.
Independent Volunteering https://campsinternational.com/ethical-journeys-volunteering-abroad/
If teaching nor helping the young is your kind of scene, try independent volunteering. Prices range from £800 – £1,300 for 2 week trips and £1,500 – £3,000 for 1 to 2 month trips. These trips are no cheap undertaking, and may be more suitable for the few of us who have money to burn on exotic adventures and thrilling expeditions.
My personal favourites are Camp America and the National Citizen Service, mainly for the financial benefits as well as the volunteering experience but I plan to set aside some money to do Adventure China in my final year of Uni.