Despite the common ideology that a gap year is all about lazing on beaches, wild parties and non-stop good times, it’s not.While it’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience, it can offer much more than just a chance to escape the daily grind.
Are you planning to spend a year living out of your backpack as you hop across Europe or are you thinking of teaching English to kids in Peru? Whatever you choose, you're bound to have a whole lot of fun. Here are a few of the benefits you can reap in the long run…
1. Open your mind
A holiday allows you to see a different culture. A gap year allows you to live it. It will give you time to slow down and reflect on what’s really important.
You will learn a lot more about yourself as you experience brand new things, people and cultures. It’s easy to think that your way of viewing things is the right way, but once you’ve spent time with people in completely different cultures, you will learn to appreciate all the differences around the world.
2. Refocus and reassess
You’ve been at school since the ripe old age of 4-5, so it should come as no surprise if you’re starting to feel a little burnt out. But think of this as a year on, not a year off - it’s not a break in education, but a part of it!
Use this time to refocus and reassess what you actually want to do with your life and reflect on your future goals and aspirations. This is your chance to regroup and rediscover what really gets you ticking.
3. Boost your career
Not only can you use your time abroad wisely to gain experience in a new field - whether it be interning in a new industry or testing your child care skills as an au pair - you can talk all about it on your CV!
Taking a gap year displays many qualities that employers look out for. Cultural awareness, adaptability, open-mindedness, organisation, teamwork, courage, independence and creative thinking (just to name a few!). These are all transferable 'soft' skills that show what a great asset you'd be to any team. It will also add unique experience to your resume and set you apart from the competition.
4. Expand your comfort zone
You will build up a healthy relationship with risk, and learn quickly that when you’re travelling, the only thing you can expect is the unexpected. It will force you to talk to people you don’t know, teach you to think on your feet, to embrace the challenges and new experiences. You'll find your unique edge and your character will grow, as will your ability to adapt. All these skills will not only help you through your career and education but are important to master for life in general.
5. Make lifelong friends
You’re going to meet loads of people on a gap year. It’s just the way it goes. It’s also what makes travelling such an amazing experience! Throughout your life, you are surrounded by the same old people - day in, day out. By taking a gap year you'll discover so many others with similar aspirations and goals to you. This will allow you to interact with people from all walks of life that you would never have come across if you stayed in your hometown. It’s the people you meet on the road who become your lifelong pals. And with friends all over the world, you’ll also have plenty of free accommodation to utilise on your future travels!
Related: How to Make New Friends Abroad
6. Learn a new language
What better way to pick up a new language, or sharpen up an old one! By immersing yourself with native speakers, there’s no excuse not to try. Your efforts will not only be appreciated by the locals, but it will allow you to form bonds with them and enhance your overall experience. And you’ll be amazed at how fast you can absorb it because you can put your learnings into practice immediately. Don’t shy away from conversing with locals, learn from your mistakes and ask lots of questions.
7. Discover a hidden passion
Everyone has those secret things they always wished they’d learnt. Well, a gap year is your opportunity to throw yourself into something totally new. Whether it's photography, martial arts or scuba diving. Whatever it may be, a gap year gives you the chance to really broaden your horizons, both physically and mentally. It will offer you so much more than any classroom ever could!
8. Learn to stand on your own two feet
Sadly, we do all have to stand on our own two feet at some point - so the sooner you learn, the better. It will probably be your first experience of having to really look after yourself. What a great time to learn some of those crucial life skills - how to budget, do your own taxes, cook for yourself, speak a foreign language, juggle travel arrangements and follow your own curiosity.
Instead of asking yourselves ‘should I take a gap year’? Ask us instead. Your future self will thank you.