Taking a year out of your studies, whether before university, or at another time, is an increasingly popular option. Over two and a half million British students plan a year out - and those that do shoulder an average cost of £3,500. When you are spending that sort of money on new experiences, it is vital to get the most of the opportunities available. So how do you make sure that your time and money are used (at least partially) productively, and your year doesn’t just flash by in a unmemorable blur? We’ve put together a few ideas to help you start planning your year abroad. Whether you are intending to travel the world or stay in the UK and earn money, some or all of these tips will be useful.
Do Your Research
It seems an obvious point, but planning ahead is really important. A gap year might seem like a huge stretch of time, but it will fly by - especially if you have to spend the first two months working out which travel visas you need, or filling out internship applications. Some advance thinking and paperwork can maximise the amount of time you have to actually do the thing you want to do. Take a look at our guide about planning your gap year to kick you off.
Earn Some Money, Save Some Money
As mentioned above, the average cost of a year out is £3,500 - which you probably don’t have. Therefore, if you are planning an expensive year, you need to start thinking about how to fund it well in advance. The most popular options are part-time work and sponsorship, both of which require prior planning and plenty of time. If you need to earn money while on your gap year you will need to plan even more - all sorts of work is available but the good spots are highly competitive. GapYear.com has some good ideas of ways to earn money while still enjoying yourself and getting new experiences. Also take a look at reputable voluntary organisations such as Twin Work & Volunteer site, which offer voluntary placements abroad with free food and lodging, and a small amount of “pocket money”. Don’t waste money while travelling by paying to transfer money from or to the UK, either. Set up an account with Transferwise to save on the fees charged by most UK high street banks to move money abroad. For more ways of minimising the cost of a year out, take a look at our guide to getting the best value for money from your year out.
Escape Your Comfort Zone
Taking a year out of education is the perfect time to really push yourself. Whether that means leaving the UK and moving to another country; taking a job that will stretch you, or just facing the challenge of a totally new way of life for a year after a life in structured education. It might seem terrifying at first, but the rewards of increased self-confidence and self-reliance will set you in great stead for the next steps of your life.
Think About Future You
Leaving university and starting your career might seem like the cloud-covered distant future - but it will arrive faster than you think. Consider doing something in your year out that will look intriguing and impressive to a future employer, and give you a head over other applicants. A YouGov survey found that nearly two thirds of HR professionals felt that a constructive year spent volunteering or working really made a CV stand out. Make sure you are registered to vote: It’s important to exercise your democratic muscle and it helps boost your credit rating for when you get back. If you’re stuck for ideas of where to go, take a look at our guide to the most popular year out destinations for British students, and the sorts of things you can do there.