Just hearing the words “gap year” is enough to transport you to a different world. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about spending a gap year abroad for your whole life, or maybe you’ve just experienced a major life change so you finally have the time to take such a big trip. Whatever brought you to make the decision, we’ll walk you through how to plan a gap year, step by step!
1. Think about when to take a gap year
The term “gap year” started out in the UK to describe the break students took between finishing secondary school and starting university, but nowadays a gap year can take place anytime. It could be between getting your university degree and starting a master’s programme, a sabbatical year from your job or even a break after you retire. Basically, whenever you feel that urge to travel, you can make it happen! And, if a year is too long, you can go for less time, like three or six months, or make it two years if you have the luxury of time!
2. Decide what you want to do on your gap year
The amazing thing about planning a gap year is that you can make it whatever you want. There are plenty of popular options, however, if you need a little inspiration! Take a language course abroad so you can fully immerse yourself in the culture of your destination, volunteer and make a difference in the lives of the locals or get an internship and advance your career. You can even take a deep dive into your favourite hobby or take one up that you’ve always dreamed of, like surfing, yoga, cooking or filmmaking. The great thing about signing up for a course, a volunteer experience or an internship programme is that the coordinators will hold your hand throughout the process, including helping you get a visa and find a place to live.
3. Figure out how to save money for a gap year
When you’re sitting at your desk or in class daydreaming about how to plan your gap year, you’re probably wondering about how much money you’ll need. Aside from saving up during the months before you leave (say goodbye to expensive gym memberships and exercise outside, stop eating out and start cooking in, sell any old belongings you don’t need, etc.), there are ways to help stretch your finances so you can lengthen your stay.
Getting a part-time job abroad while you study or travel will help offset your cost of living on your gap year and allow you to meet locals in a natural setting. If you like children, you can also look into being an au pair – which almost always includes a place to live – or teaching your native language abroad, with programmes like the JET in Japan or those organised for teaching assistants in France or Spain.
4. Choose where to go for your gap year
Did you close your eyes, spin the globe and choose the place where your finger landed? Have you assembled an exhaustive Excel spreadsheet comparing the pros and cons of every destination? Regardless of your process, you’re going to have an amazing time anywhere you choose. If you’re not quite sure, consider a destination where there are large student populations, so you can find a community. Australia, Canada and South Africa are all famously student-friendly and happen to be great places to practise English. Some other alternatives are Tokyo and Seoul if you’re really looking for something different!
5. Consider how a gap year will change your life
With all the planning that’s involved, you might wonder what the point is, which is why it’s so important to stay focused on the big picture. You’ll be discovering a new corner of the world, meeting locals and ex-pats and making friends last a lifetime, gaining experience that can help you get a job or get into university in the future, maybe take home a new diploma or official exam certificate to show off and, not to mention, have the time of your life. Investing in yourself is likely the best decision you’ll ever make. After all, if not now, when?