So, the A Level or IB exams are done and you’ve finally left school! The university place or application is deferred for a year and the world awaits. However, it can be a bit over-whelming to suddenly be faced with an open-ended future and planning a Gap year, which is both enriching and constructive.
For parents, its crucial they know you are minimising the risks so you can stay safe.
Here are a few tips and thoughts to get you started:
1. Take a Gap year for a reason, not just because your friends are doing it. Taking time to mature, gain independence, review careers and courses before deciding which is most relevant for you, save up some pennies to tide you through university, gain cultural understanding through working or travelling overseas, are all genuine reasons for taking a Gap year.
2. So many university courses now include some time spent on a work placement or studying at an alternative campus overseas. Ask yourself, do I really need a Gap year, or should I apply for a certain type of course format to support my aspirations? With many courses now being at least 4 years, adding a gap year can mean its 5 years before you start your career-too long for some to remain motivated. The university holidays are so long, you could consider doing your travelling at intervals over the long holidays, without delaying the start of your course for a year.
3. Looking after your CV is important. The Gap year can be an important part of demonstrating the acquisition of useful employability skills such as team-building, leadership, an ability to think through a problem, responsibility, as well as gaining social confidence and cultural awareness. Consider how you are going to talk through what benefit you gained from your gap year, when it comes to interviews.
4. Write a CV and accompanying letter to each potential employer when looking for short-term work projects in your Gap year. Tailor-make this according to the person you are writing to. Find out their name, not a generic contact. Posting a letter instead of always using email and online application platforms can make you stand-out from other applications.
5. Be careful what you post or share via social media. Future employers and even universities may review your online presence as part of their recruitment processes. Seeing you drunk in a backpacker bar in Thailand will not help your cause. Instead, why not consider making a video blog of your Gap year, showing all the constructive things you’ve achieved.
6. Learn a new skill to enhance your CV. Consider learning a language or becoming fluent in a language you have already studied at school. Divemaster courses, ski instructor, cookery courses, tutoring young people all offer opportunities to enhance your CV and add skills, qualifications and experience to your CV, which will make it easier to get a job and earn some cash during the very long university holidays.
7. Stay safe. Minimising the risks while on a Gap year is an important factor to take into consideration while planning:
• Ensure you have good travel insurance and know which activities, such as bungee jumping or diving are covered. Check that family insurance policies still cover you when travelling alone.
• Book a good hotel for your first night, so you know where you are heading and have somewhere safe to stay for your first night.
• Research the laws of the country you are visiting, so you don’t make a cultural faux pas.
• Review your security and privacy settings on social media and avoid sharing your location via social media until after you have left and never share where you are going next.
• Be careful when using public transport-does the vehicle look safe and does the driver look competent? Use a seatbelt if there is one.
8. Minimise displays of wealth and keep gadgets to a minimum. Keep cameras etc well hidden. Before you leave, buy a cheap phone and a local sim on arrival, so you can leave expensive phones at home.
9. Store useful contacts in advance, such as the embassy, accommodation, emergency services, number for reporting lost or stolen credit cards and your emergency contacts back home.
10. Be wary of pick-pockets. Carry a dummy wallet with an expired credit card and a few notes, which you could hand-over if robbed.
11. Pack light. Threes work well. One to wear, one to wash and one spare. Overladen travellers stand out. Take a door stop. You can use this as a basic tool to lock your accommodation door from the inside and alert you while sleeping if anyone enters your room.
12. Keep in touch with home, Schedule when you will check-in with home, so parents can hear all about your travels, but also know you are safe. A family WhatsApp group allows you to stay in touch quickly and unobtrusively, while still having fun.