The Gap Year
On a personal note, of all my 22 years, my gap year was by far the best. Recently that status has been rocked by how much I also loved my Third Year Abroad of University, so those two years are currently drawing in joint 1st place. I simply can’t decide between them. However, I must admit, there is definitely something about the new-found freedom of the Gap Year, having just turned 18 and legally independent from your parents, that makes escaping abroad all the more of an adventure.
Yes, leaving home only 3 days after turning 18 was certainly daunting, but after the initial shock wore off, it was an exhilarating whirlwind of new and exotic places and utter discovery. Oh that feeling of freedom from everything! I spent 10 months abroad out of my 15 month gap year and there is not a single bit of that I would take back. The result was that I started university the following September as a completely different person: more mature, more adventurous and afraid of nothing. I didn’t have a single pang of homesickness at university. Not once.
It’s a bit of a wonder to me that the ‘Gap Year’ before university hasn’t caught on more in other countries. In most of Europe and South America it’s a completely alien concept, and they cannot fathom why we’d want to delay graduating. This however may be because their degrees normally last 5+ years, so it makes sense to get on with things.
However, I would recommend it to absolutely everyone, as for many people it’ll be the one year you’ll have to truly take advantage of what’s on offer to you. There are some people who take their gap year after their degree, but at that stage in your life there are student loans and universal pressure to find a decent job. In an ideal world I’d be on a constant gap year, but apparently the real life has to kick in at some point.
A gap year gives you endless options and some people do even spend it in the UK saving up money for university, but in my opinion that’s a year wasted, as you can also work abroad.
My gap year went as follows: work in a ski resort in Chile, backpacking in Cuba, then work in a ski resort in Italy and finally more backpacking around East Asia. I feel I had a good balance of work (doing something I love) and travel, but you can choose whatever you fancy. Personally I was more concerned about enjoying myself than boosting my CV with impressive work experiences, but as long as you do something you’ll like, then that’s what is important.
Planning a gap year is immense fun, and my personal technique involves booking return flights, the first few nights in a hostel and nothing else….
A few decent books to help you plan and prepare for your gap year are: