Nowadays, more people than ever before are taking a gap year between leaving school and entering further study. There are all sorts of reasons for making that choice. Academic study is a difficult and challenging experience. The education system flings students into GCSEs, then A-Levels, all in a short space of time. What’s more, the pressure on children to succeed in today’s world is greater than ever. We all feel that we have to achieve top grades. Lots of kids worry that their futures will go down the toilet if they don’t make the grade. Feeling that way at the age of sixteen, seventeen and eighteen isn’t a fun experience. It’s like having a constant weight on your mind for a four-year period. That pressure builds over time and can push children to the breaking point.
Once you complete your exams, the sense of relief is exhilarating. Any young student knows how amazing it feels to finish exams and schooling. The last day of school is often the highlight of any young adult’s time in education! The idea that there is now a period in which to do nothing at all is a welcoming one after examinations.
Of course, that amount of time isn’t large. For most students, there is only a gap of two months or so before they leave for university. Moving out of their homes and into student accommodation can be a traumatic experience for some young people. 53% of students said that they felt more stressed when they started university than before. In effect, the gap between school and university is a brief respite. Either side of that gap is two giant blocks of pressure and stress. There’s no real time to relax. Students are on an educational treadmill, running nonstop from GCSEs until the end of their degrees.
That’s not a healthy lifestyle for anyone. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that many students take a gap year. When you’re young, you should be out having experiences and discovering things. Going from GCSEs to A-Levels, university, and then work is no way to live your life. Taking time off in the middle to assess your priorities is a wonderful way to learn about yourself. The person you are as a young adult is the person you’ll remain for the rest of your life. You should be able to shape your identity in this period. You won’t get the chance at any other point in your life.
If the gap year is for you, then please don’t waste it. I took a year off. I spent it working to build up some money for university. That was something that I needed to do, but it was no fun at all. Work is good in some ways – it gives you a sense of responsibility and purpose. That sense of a wasted opportunity doesn’t leave you, though, so don’t throw yourself into a job straightaway.
The best way to spend a gap year is to travel abroad. Today, we can see more places than ever before. The number of potential destinations is growing by the day. You can see anywhere that takes your fancy. Experiencing new cultures and different atmospheres is a wonderful way to broaden your horizons. Students who take gap years end up happier in later life. It’s all about your personal journey. We think that journey should include a few stops that are off the beaten track.
Your world travel experiences in your gap year could be about sightseeing. You may want to visit the great cities of the modern world. Lots of students choose to travel through Europe, seeing the famous capital cities. You can understand why that’s a popular option. Who wouldn’t want to see Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Vienna and Barcelona? The interrailing choice has always been a dream for all sorts of people. It can seem a little daunting for newcomers. There are lots of guides online if that’s an option that you want to pursue.
For others, the gap year is a chance to do something more enriching. It’s cheap and easy to visit more far-flung corners of the globe. Africa, Asia and South America are all on the menu for today’s budding traveller. These places are fantastic tourist destinations. Nature lovers, wildlife fans and culture vultures can find all sorts of treasures on these continents. That doesn’t mean that your gap year should be all about photo opportunities and sparkly souvenirs. Today, many people choose to volunteer in their gap year. That gives them a chance to see the world and to help others. You could check out organisations like The Leap, who offer packages for budding volunteers.
Voluntary organisations look for exceptional young people. They want to find people with a desire to explore, but who are also interested in helping the less fortunate. Often, you’ll go out to a new environment with a group of similar people. That way, you’ll all be able to help each other through any issues and problems. Foreign travel can be a bit daunting. If you’re all going out there as one big group, that’s a lot more reassuring. It might help to get mum and dad off your back as well!
Taking part in voluntary work on your gap year can look great on your CV. That’s a big bonus for anyone in today’s competitive job market. Of course, you and I both know that’s not why you should go. The chance to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world is an incredible one. The chance to see incredible cultures and landscapes isn’t a chance that falls to everyone. It’s something that you should grab with both hands.
World travel is the best option for any gap year student. You’ll return to your studies feeling refreshed. You’ll be a more rounded individual, better prepared for any problems and issues. What’s more, you’ll have a wealth of incredible experiences that will last a lifetime. Don’t waste your gap year. Get out there and see the world. You’ll never forget it.