With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, gap years are becoming increasingly popular around the world. Students and graduates travel worldwide not only to rest and recover from academic stress but also to work, focus on self-development, and gain valuable life experiences that school doesn’t provide.
According to the Gap Year Association, more than 130,000 students took a gap year during the 2020-2021 school year. It’s difficult to estimate the exact number because the GYA only tracks students who applied for gap year programs and aid. Still, even the estimate is quite overwhelming, especially considering that the number has likely doubled or even tripled since the pre-pandemic years.
Maybe you also want to take a gap year before continuing your education. Already have a place in mind? If so, it’s important to plan everything as carefully as possible.
How to Prepare for a Gap Year Full of Traveling?
Think About Your Online Security
When planning a gap year, things like housing, work, and budgeting come to mind first but remember that modern times bring modern challenges. Before you embark on your trip, take a look at your online security and do your research.
Many places around the world impose censorship on the internet, so if you want to visit Egypt or volunteer on an African safari, you may want to invest in a VPN to unblock ChatGPT or browsers and generally have access to a free web. When you’re far from home, having unlimited internet access and the ability to contact friends and family is crucial.
Prepare a Schedule
Unfortunately, travelling involves more than just booking tickets and boarding a plane. If you want to go on a gap year abroad, you must prepare properly – and we don’t mean packing and saying goodbye to friends and family. We mean getting the documents and paperwork done.
Do your research and, ideally, create a checklist with clear deadlines. Remember that some countries require an entry visa (and it can take months to get one), or you may need vaccinations against diseases that are considered tropical in the US. Luckily, if you’re going with a program, most things should be handled.
Budget (And Leave a Safety Margin!)
Whether you plan to travel with a program or on your own, set as precise a budget as possible. You do not want to be stuck in a foreign country with no money. If you’re travelling with a program, find out what it covers and doesn’t.
If not – create spreadsheets and research how expensive or cheap your destination is. Calculate how much you’ll spend on housing, food, and recreational activities. And then add a little more to it – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Why Are Gap Years Getting So Popular?
The Covid pandemic is likely to blame for the increasing gap year popularity. With schools and colleges closed most of the time, students had few opportunities to travel, meet new people, and generally live their lives. Understandably, many of them are catching up now.
But why? After all, most people can gain work experience and meet friends without travelling abroad. Taking a break to travel has many benefits.
It’s Not About Sipping Cocktails on the Beach
Many people associate the phrase “gap year” with vacations where rich students go to tropical countries and party for months. However, this is not the case. Although a gap year can (and should) involve some rest, most people use this time to work, learn, and volunteer. For many students, working during their gap year is their first “real” work experience.
Not everyone has enough family financial support to live abroad for several months, so getting a job is essential. Those who don’t work while travelling often work beforehand, saving for their ventures, and sometimes end up volunteering for free in their destination countries. All of this provides great work experience and looks good on a resume.
It Builds Character
According to a survey conducted by the Gap Year Association in 2015, 92%(!) of students who took a gap year saw benefits in terms of personal growth and gaining life experience. It’s not hard to imagine why.
It’s well-proven that travelling and interacting with people representing other cultures and experiences broadens one’s worldview and teaches empathy, soft skills, and other valuable lessons.
But let’s not forget that being away from home is also stressful and can sometimes be dangerous. However, it has benefits, as young people learn to cope with challenges and be more self-aware during their travels.
It Lets You Immerse Yourself in Another Culture
In this day and age, learning languages and experiencing other cultures and worldviews is easier than ever. Still, nothing beats going to another country, living there, and just soaking it in.
A gap year trip is an ideal opportunity to experience a place that interests you, meet people from that region, and maybe even learn or brush up on a foreign language. It’s especially great for those who want to tie their education and career to other countries and cultures – history enthusiasts, foreign language students, etc.
Taking a Gap Year in 2023
Gap years can be great – they allow you to travel and gain experience while letting you recover from all those academic stresses and prepare for future educational challenges. Just make sure you plan it well – after all, your first big trip can be intimidating. But the benefits are well worth it!