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Before uni, right after uni, years after uni; it doesn’t matter when you take your gap year, it’s guaranteed to be the best time of your life!
Taking time out to go travelling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and some will tell you why you shouldn’t take a gap year. However, nothing can keep the travel bug at bay once it bites! So, if you’ve decided to pack your bags and set off on the adventure of a lifetime, keep reading for your ultimate gap year guide.
The idea of spending a year (or more) seeing some of the most amazing sights and meeting new friends from all over the world is undoubtedly an exciting one. So much so that you’ll be tempted to throw everything into your backpack and dash to the airport right away. Hold your horses! There are a few things every eager traveller needs to do before they jump on that plane.
OK, so part of the rush of a gap year is the spontaneity of it all. However, it’s always worth having at least a vague plan of action regarding the essentials such as accommodation, work, money and communication. Try to have some sort of strategy in the back of your mind for every worst-case scenario. For example:
Having a contingency plan for any major issues before you go means that you’ll be ready for anything. It’s time to start planning!
As tempting as it may be to walk out of the office and never come back, those planning on taking career breaks in order to travel are advised to follow resignation procedures and work their notice period.
It’s likely that you’ll have to come back to reality at some point! So, don’t burn any bridges or do anything to harm your reputation before you go.
Depending on where you’re going, you will need to check whether you need any documentation or visas. Remember that the type of visa you need will vary depending on the purpose of your visit (e.g. paid or voluntary work, study, tourism). Popular travel destinations such as Australia, Thailand, China, Japan and the Philippines require UK citizens to have visas before they can enter the country.
In addition to this, some countries, like the USA, will require you to have a set number of months’ validity remaining on your passport – is yours valid? Other countries have specific entry requirements, so do a bit of Googling before you book your flights.
No-one likes needles, but this isn’t the time to be squeamish! There are some nasty diseases and viruses out there and it’s best to be protected. Some vaccines are free on the NHS, whereas others will need to be arranged privately and paid for. For more information about travel vaccinations for your gap year, click here.
At the risk of sounding like your parents, take care of yourself while you are away on your gap year. Remember that there are dangerous situations you should be wary of and that laws vary in different countries. Some gap year students and travellers find themselves in hot water abroad by simply getting carried away or being careless.
Your idea of a gap year may involve simply lounging on the beach and partying under the moon. By all means, go ahead and do it! This is your chance to gain valuable life experience, so throw yourself into things. Make new friends, try new things and have new experiences – that’s what it’s all about!
That being said, if you’re going away for an extended period of time, it’s advisable to invest some time in activities that could boost your employability. That way, you’ll have a head start when you’re looking for a job, either at home or abroad.
Try to gain some work experience, take some classes, get involved with voluntary work or anything that will look good on your CV. (Note: Always observe the conditions of your visa, if applicable.)
Thud. And just like that, you come back down to earth. Has it already been a year?! That means it’s time to face reality and get back to work or studying. It was all worth it though.
It may be difficult to know where to begin after your gap year, especially if you’re looking for your first graduate job. The pressure may be on, but remember that a job hunt takes time, patience and effort. Make sure that your CV is up to scratch, that you’ve brushed up on your interview techniques and that your social media profiles are employer-friendly.
Be prepared to talk about your gap year on your CV and during interviews. Employers will want to know why you chose to take time out. If asked, talk about how your gap year prepared you for employment and the transferable skills you gained whilst travelling.
There you have it, your ultimate gap year guide. Now get out there and explore!