If the words ‘gap year’ are swimming around in your brain, then this article might help you take those words and turn them into a life-changing year – or two…
Gap year decision and gap year planning can be quite difficult, especially if you have no idea where to start or what to do. If you’re reading this article it means that you’ve either already made the choice to take a gap year or are on the brink of taking a gap year. If you’re reading this article because you still have to make your decision then do read on too, because this content might sway you.
The scariest thing about taking a gap year is that people often feel like they’re wasting time on something that, according to a conventional society, ‘won’t benefit them’. The thing is, what’s conventional and ‘normal’ isn’t necessarily the only way to go. I don’t think a gap year should be approached as something that might do you a disservice. After all, you either win, or you learn – there is no losing.
Bring on the Gap Year Ideas
What may make many feel a bit more comfortable, however, is having a plan. Here is a realistic list of gap year ideas and their pros.
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. According to Joe Hallwood, in countries like Japan and South Korea it’s almost impossible to teach English without a degree. In other countries, especially in Europe for example, it’s possible to teach English with just a TEFL course. By doing a short TEFL accredited course (either 100 hours or 200 hours) and learning the skills needed to teach English as a foreign language, you can teach overseas without a degree.
- You’re making money as you experience a new and beautiful country.
- You’re working hours give you time to do more than enough exploring.
Read these for more info:
2. Au Pairing
If you like children, then au pairing is another great way to see the world. There are endless au pairing agencies that can locate you in South Africa, or anywhere in the world. Usually these agencies look for people who have had previous experience with children, have a driver’s license and have good references. So before applying – really think about whether you’ve ever babysat younger siblings or cousins and whether you can actually handle it. Agencies can be strict, which is understandable. You are looking after someone’s entire world after all.
In some cases you may find yourself living in a different country, getting a room to stay in with the family, going on holidays with them and still getting paid on top of all of that!
Check out these sites:
3. Summer Camps and Ski Resorts
The beauty of a gap year is that it can be whatever you want it to be. So if it’s not about seeing the world, it can be about experiencing new people, learning new skills and just having fun. This is what working at a summer camp or ski resort overseas is all about! Unlike taking a gap year to travel, a summer camp will usually consist of taking part in a program where you lead activities with groups of children and just spend days with them having fun. Similarly at a ski resort you can take on many teaching and leading jobs and even learn to instruct skiing. There is also a range of jobs available: from driving to teaching and hospitality to being a nanny!
Although you spend a lot of time working hard, going to bed late and waking up early, the work is always enjoyable and fun. Because you are leading activities you get to join in and you end up making an entire group of new friends through this experience.
Check out these various places to get involved:
Volunteering puts you in a space outside of your comfort zone. It teaches you a new appreciation for the way people live and how something small that you do can make a big difference to someone else.
Along with taking on new challenges and feeling the warmth of giving back, you may even discover a new purpose for your life.
Read here for ideas:
5. Making your own plan
As I mentioned, a gap year can be whatever you want it to be. For some people, an organised program through an agency can set the mind at ease, for others, complete freedom is the way forward. If you are looking at breaking away from anything even slightly resembling an institution then maybe a ‘free travelling gap year’ is what you need. In this case, you make all the decisions. Pick a country, do your research, pack your bag and go. It can be helpful to give yourself some kind of direction by choosing only one continent or a specific length of time, but even that isn’t a necessity. The beauty of this is that you have complete freedom and independence to do what you want and go where you want when you want to.
Here are a few things to consider:
- How will you afford you travels? Will you work a bit, travel a bit, work a bit, travel a bit? Or will you work for a year before and then just travel?
- Are you knowledgeable about the area you’re going to? Remember that every country comes with a good side and a bad side. Make sure that you are aware of the precautions you need to take for the places you are going.
- What will you pack? If you’re going to travel for a year, how will you ensure that you don’t need to pack too much clothing? Perhaps you’ll only travel to countries that have cold weather, or maybe you’ll play jump rope with the equator and make sure you’re always in summer.
- Have you explored all of your options? Travelling is exciting but make sure that you don’t choose the first thing that jumps out at you. Do your research thoroughly!
Time for the paperwork
For those who don’t have a second passport (other than your South Africa passport), this may be the thing that discourages you from taking an overseas trip: VISAS. Don’t let it. It may seem complicated but if you just take it one step at a time you will get through it. The most important advice I can give with regards to a visa is to give yourself enough time when applying for it. I have heard so many stories of people who have received their visas at the last second and even more stories where people couldn’t travel because they left applying for a visa to the last minute. Give yourself time to understand it and then some more time to actually apply. If you’re completely clueless on visas like I was, then read this article. It gives you absolutely everything you need to know on all the nitty gritty.
If you’ve always dreamed of trying a certain career path or visiting a certain country, a gap year is a perfect time to do it. It doesn’t even matter that much what phase of life you’re in. Just give yourself the option. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already studied, if you’ve been working for ten years or if you’ve just left matric. Either way, a gap year gives you the freedom to test ideas and find out where you really want to be in the world and in your life.