What is an educational gap year?

Travel destinations

A Gap Year is a period, usually taken before starting university, or in the year after leaving, where students take a break (a year or less) from studying in order to travel. Such breaks have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Once upon a time they may have been considered as an excuse to party, but nowadays young people will take a gap year to become more independent and broaden their horizons. More and more students are opting to take an educational gap year so that they can get experience and gain knowledge towards their career; educational gaps are considered to be productive and meaningful rather than just a year off travelling.

Why take a gap year?

Some students decide to take a gap year because they are feeling burned out in the classroom and need a break from studying, others take gap years because they want to gain experience in a particular field of work to boost their CV and job prospects. There are huge advantages to taking a gap year break.  Most importantly, they can help you find a sense of direction and prepare you for life. Many students view it as an opportunity to gain professional and personal experiences whilst travelling the world, and in turn meeting new people and being a part of different cultures.

How to plan a gap year

Eiffel tower and mapThe best place to start when planning a gap year is to think about where you want to go and what you want to do. Many first-time backpackers head to Australia and North America, which are extremely popular for working holidays and independent travel. Other gap travellers may be drawn to Asian countries such as Vietnam and Thailand. Wherever you choose to go, there are many different experiences that can be gained, depending on what you are looking for.

There are websites such as Projects Abroad, which cater in helping students find their ideal gap year experience. Francesca Warburton a student applying for veterinary medicine degree places, decided to take her gap year in India working alongside a local vet. Francesca explains: “My placement was based in the south of India. During the working day I shadowed an Indian vet, who was very famous in all the local villages. Overall if you’re debating which country to travel to for Veterinary Medicine I can definitely recommend India because the opportunities I got were certainly once in a lifetime, which I would never have got at home.”

Another student, Sinead Cocoran went to China to study law; she says:

“My decision to commence a legal internship in Shanghai with Projects Abroad had not been random or impulsive. After completing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Law in Ireland and the UK, I had become disheartened by the lack of quality job opportunities available for legal graduates in London which did not necessitate years of paralegal experience.”

Once you have decided where you want to travel and what you are looking for in your gap experience, the next things to think about is how much money it will cost. A gap year does not necessarily have to be expensive; it can be done on a budget. You can work abroad and earn money as you go to fund your travels. Check out these websites that will give you some handy information and ideas for gap years based on your budget and interests.

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