If you’ve made it to the end of school, congratulations! But maybe you’re now looking to take a break before you start university or take on another course back home. Perhaps you fancy breaking free from education just for a year to try something new.
How about a gap year?
Some people may scoff at the idea and say that it’s just another year of deferring life in the real world; putting off getting a job. But those who take one will invariably come back and say that the experience was invaluable and that it’s actually helped them get a job – giving them skills and a confidence that’s pushed them on to achieve greater success. Leading colleges recognise a gap year as a useful tool, and many allow students to defer a year.
Mind the gap year – it’s not for everyone
When it comes to the crunch, you may decide that a gap year isn’t for you, and that you’d rather crack on with the next step in your learning so you can more quickly get earning. A particular note of caution should be sounded to those who are planning to take a break mid-course, as you may enjoy your break so much that you never return to your studies – a waste of your time and money. If you do make the decision, make sure you arrange your finances – head to http://www.worldfirst.com.au for advice on that front.
It’s a good idea to know what you want to get out of your year out. Be clear on what you want to achieve, and how it will help you going forward. Will you volunteer, work, explore, teach…? Where will you go?
So you’re sure you want a gap year? OK – where will you go?
London not calling
In the past, the UK was a popular choice for young Australians wanting to get away, with a trip to London being a particularly well trodden path. While there, they would work by day and party by night, but the number of visitors from our shores is falling. In seven years, the number of Australians coming to the UK to work has halved, and although this doesn’t relate exclusively to ‘gappers’, it’s a striking statistic.
So why the drop? Well, real wages – pay adjusted for inflation – are falling, and living costs have risen. The cost of accommodation and rent in London has gone through the roof, and it’s increasingly putting people off making the trip. Add the frequent cloud and rain that befalls the UK, and young Aussies have been looking for alternatives.
US a new favourite
The US is gaining in popularity, and New York City is fast becoming a firm favourite. It’s got a great atmosphere and despite the cold, people like the fact that there are defined seasons.
The US has plenty to keep intrepid gap year students satisfied. There’s a load of things to do and see – the only problem is choosing which ones! Rather than just working and playing, this is a chance to do some serious exploring.
Breathtaking sights are on offer at the Yosemite National Park, California – home of incredible peaks and majestic valleys. More awesomeness is available in the form of the Grand Canyon, with its drama, sunsets and jaw-dropping landscape.
Hawaii’s an option for those looking for all the action – snorkelling, diving and hiking – with the downtime too.
If it’s out-and-out history you’re after, head for the nation’s capital, Washington DC, to see the Washington Monument, White House and Capitol Building.
Be dazzled by the bright lights of Vegas, or, on the other end of the scale, make for one of the least developed places in the US – Cumberland Island, Georgia – where you’ll practically have the place to yourself, beaches included. Think of the exploring you could do there?
Or make it a road trip – drive down the west coast on Route 1 from California to New Mexico, or across the country from New York to Los Angeles, beating a path from ocean to ocean, passing old style cowboy towns and glitzy cities on your way.
And that’s without the buzz you’ll get from Pike Place Market in Seattle, the amazingly unique music scenes in Nashville, New Orleans or Memphis. Not mentioning the faces of the presidents at Mount Rushmore or the food and history of the Deep South.
Whatever your budget, there’s something for everyone, and the perfect gap year for you.
If you want to mix the exploration with volunteer work, you’ll be surprised at the variety of things you could get up to, from wildlife rescue projects to conservation work with gibbons, or even working on a ranch.
We hope this guide has given you some ideas for a gap year to remember. You may never want to come home!