Written by Jenny McWhirter on 17 / 05 / 2016
Gap Year Advice
Whilst there is much to look forward to with your upcoming Gap Year as I’m sure you are very aware there’s also much to prepare for.
Currently in the thick of exams it’s not easy to take time out to plan what your gap year will involve and what you should do. That’s why, once the exams are over, this summer is a great time to get those plans in place and decide on how your year will be spent.
What students do on a gap year can vary widely and so it’s important to put a little thought into how you will spend yours.
To help you get your head around the planning I’ve come up with 7 simple strategies to plan an amazing year. Take each a step at a time and by the end of summer you’ll be all set.
With 15 months of free time ahead of you, the stretch of unstructured time can send a slight panic in to you. I know you won’t want to admit it, but what are you possibly going to fill your time with for a whole 15 months when you have no school work and many of your friends have left your home town for university?
This is where breaking that time up can be extremely valuable. It allows you to obtain some variety within your year and makes each stage seem manageable to cope with. It will also make your time more productive as planning for a three-month stretch is much easier than a 15 month one – trust me.
Three to four month chunks often are the most manageable. So sit down and split it up, I promise it will take you about 10 minutes and is probably the easiest step.
So now you’ve split your year up it’s time to start thinking about what you want to do with these segments. What you want to achieve will affect where you travel and how you spend your time.
Now before you stop reading and decide that stage 2 of my 7 strategies is just too much work, purpose and goals don’t have to be some large deep and meaningful character shift or personality change.
It could simply mean that for the first four-month segment of your year, your goal is to find a job and raise money. Another goal could be as broad as wanting to travel Asia. At this stage the more specific you can be great but if your struggling just think broadly around what you would like to achieve from each section.
Remember, the combination of objectives you set for yourself will mould a unique experience that will produce a once in a lifetime opportunity – a true year to remember.
The two strategies thus far shouldn’t have taken you too long. But I’ll warn you now, this is probably going to be your most time consuming section. Find a comfy seat out in the sun and get your laptop ready.
Two birds one stone, as they say. You can build the sun tan whilst simultaneously sorting your gap year.
The more research you can do, the more fruitful your year out will be. There will be at least two types of research; research into specific activities and programs that you want to partake in – you could volunteer, participate in a course, intern this list is endless. The other type of research will be that of the areas to which you will travel if you plan to travel abroad.
There’s lots of information out there so take your time. If you’re wanting to spend a chunk of your year in a program of some shape or form the American Gap Association and the Year Out Group are great places to start looking at organisations – they vet all the companies they promote so you’ll know it’s a reputable company.
As part of your research or part way through the previous step I would highly recommend talking to a travel specialist. As Daniel Collins suggests having a chat with a travel enthusiast that has been through the process will provide valuable information and help you start to sift through all that is out there.
This is particularly helpful if you’ve identified your goals from step two but are struggling to find the right thing to fulfill those goals. It’s a large part of my day talking to gap year students helping them figure out what would work best.
Don’t be shy, we love travel and if we can’t be out on the road, the next best thing is figuring out how to get others on the road and on the best trip of their life.
This might seem like I’m stating the obvious but I know how easy it is to find that program/flight deal/great little hostel and then you get distracted by a BBQ, night out or a lovely two-week sunny holiday and you’ve forgotten all about it.
Often the best deals sell out quickly, so something you’ve spotted that looks amazing others will probably have a similar opinion. Once you’ve decided exactly what you are doing then it’s time to book it up.
Most programs will only ask for a deposit so you won’t have to worry about forking out the whole amount at the end of your summer, you’ll still have time to earn that money over the coming months.
By now you’re starting to feel more in-control and have an idea of what your year ahead will hold. You're probably also slightly wondering where your summer has gone, why is it that the summer always flies by?!
It’s now time to start thinking about the nitty gritty details of getting yourself off on an adventure. This includes looking at what visas are needed (for some countries you’ll be able to pick this up on arrival but for others you’ll need to pre-buy) and which vaccinations you should get.
Also start looking into insurance. Possibly one of the most boring things you’ll buy for your year but one of the most essential. Ensure it covers everything you want to do. Have a read of my recent blog post that will get you up to speed on all insurance issues.
Finally, at this stage you can start thinking about trying to pick up basic phrases in other languages of the countries you’ll visit. Have a read of my article about how to easily learn a language.
Last but by no means least, after you’ve spent your summer planning your year it’s important to not plan minute-by-minute.
Michaela here in the office has said that her best travel moments were those spontaneous trips, that last minute decision and those chance meetings with people in a hostel that you could never plan even if you tried.
Planning your year in chunks will ensure to make it a productive year and you’ll come out with skills and accomplishments that will stand you in good stead. But spontaneity is one of the best parts of a year out so now leave time for life to take its path.
Gap year planning doesn’t need to be a big deal and it certainly doesn’t need to consume your whole summer. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to an awesome gap year coupled with being able to enjoy those summer BBQ’s, summer nights and much more.
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on 17 / 05 / 2016