The ultimate guide to the perfect gap year
A previously published EF GO blog post described a gap year in two ways:
gap year(gæp jɪr)
an amazing way to win at life
a period – often before, during or after university – in which a person takes time off to travel the world, learn languages, work, volunteer, or intern.
Whichever way you decide to look at it, a gap year is an ideal opportunity to focus on your development and use the time to explore the world. Whether you’re about to embark on a gap year, or simply considering taking one, rest assured that it comes with a load of benefits; mastering your independence, giving you time to reflect, allowing you to learn a new language and/or increasing your employability, just to name a few.
Feeling overwhelmed? Fear not – we’ve put together the ultimate guide of all the things you should consider when thinking about taking a gap year.
1. Saving the money for a gap year
Set your objectives
You have an entire year to do as much as you can, which is why it’s so important to estimate your expenses at the early stages. Factor in all accommodation, transportation and living costs so you can calculate the “fun money” you can spend on meals out, activities and anything else that strikes your fancy.
Conduct the research
Every city or country you travel to will have differing living costs. Countries in Europe, for instance, will have different transport costs than those in the United States, so getting those small details right will save you money if you’ve prepared and accounted for them. It also allows you to make sure you can maximise your experience at each location, so that you can make the most of an experience with less.
Now, no one is asking for you to become a hermit, but social activities when you are saving for a gap year quickly add up. Be disciplined and consider cutting back for a while. Not only will you save money, but you’ll get the opportunity to practice your budgeting skills early on.
The biggest enjoyment factor of a gap year is that you get to set yourself free from the 9 to 5 schedule you’ve likely become accustomed to. To do that you need to make sure you have enough money, which means making sure you get yourself a job, or take on some overtime. This short time investment will pay off in the long run. Most are often too embarrassed to ask, but make sure you ask your friends and family not to spend money on material gifts, but ask them to use those special days to contribute to your travel budget! What could be a better gift?
In an ideal situation, you’ve now reached your saving goal – but the planning doesn’t stop there. Now it’s time to make your dream a reality. Accommodation, transport and activities are often cheaper when booked online after a little research, so make sure you book as much in advance as possible.
2. Where to go?
Find your dream destination
This trip is all about exploring the places you’ve been dreaming of. Make sure you choose a destination that will excite you culturally as well as in your leisure time so you can make the most of it.
Immersing yourself in a new language and culture
A gap year is also an amazing chance to upgrade your CV for university and job applications. Taking up a new language is a challenge, but it’s not so difficult when you’re completely surrounded by people speaking it daily.
The key is in finding a language that you’re interested in, as well as one that will be useful for future employers. As the world becomes more globalized, it’s important you speak the lingo to get that competitive advantage. It’s a good idea to seek out a course that offers not only language learning, but organized activities that allow you to explore the local area and fully immerse yourself.
Visa entitlements / restrictions
It’s not the most fun but it’s critical. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the limitations set out in your visa. In some cases, you may be able to apply for temporary work, easing the burden on your savings whilst fully immersing yourself in the local language. In some destinations, you might not be able to work but have the chance to volunteer instead! Check the limitations so you can bolster your CV with new experiences.
3. During your gap year
The memories you’ll collect during this time are going to be priceless. If you’re a photographer, writer, scrapbooker, or movie-maker, make sure you go ahead and put those skills to good use and create content during your trip to share (or even for yourself in the future). This will definitely be a time you’ll want to reflect back upon in the future, so it’s a good idea to carry a journal. Every day, reflect on what you’ve done and experienced and think about finishing off with three things you’re grateful for.
Challenge your comfort zone
The most important part of the gap year is to allow yourself to be inspired. Challenge your comfort zone so you can grow personally but also increase your social circles. Plenty of companies organize special events that are designed to bring travelers together.
Probably the most important point! Whilst you are galavanting around the world, make sure to write back home and update your family and friends. Stay connected, share and inspire!