September is that time of the year that looks like a fork in the road. All those heading back to full time education turn left, all those heading off to a gap year, turn right.
For some of our readers, the gap year is over and a place at Uni beckons.
(And if you thought some of the things you got up to whilst away were mad, wait till you discover Freshers Week!).
For those exam weary souls who have decided to take a year off, the phrase ‘the tyranny of choice’ must spring to mind. Because the number of choices you face must be overwhelming. To help you decide, we’ve listed the most popular options and listed the pros and cons associated with each one.
Stay in the UK
OK, so it’s not as exciting as hill trekking in the Himalayas, but have you seen the size of the debt you’re about to run up? For some, staying put and earning some real money before diving back into three years of penury makes good sense, especially if you can live at home and save like crazy.
But it does take real willpower to save like crazy as there are always temptations that will be put in your way, including resisting the the siren calls of friends now at Uni who will be suggesting all manner of good times.
The alternative to working at home is working in the UK, but away from home. Although we’re a small island, many of our regions are distinctly different from each other and can appear just as foreign as if you were abroad.
The other option here is to do voluntary work in the UK. Despite our position as one of the world’s leading economies we have our fair share of society that needs a helping hand. And sometimes quite a big hand. Volunteering Matters has full-time opportunities for young people wanting to live away from home for six months or a year while making a difference in this country.
Working abroad is perhaps the best way to really get under the skin of a country. And there are some great countries whose skin is worth getting under, providing, of course, that you can get a working visa. Countries like Australia are popular for that reason; they have lots of varied work on offer and its easy to get a working visa from their government. And it’s a mighty big country too.
The downside of working abroad is your employers could be less fair or scrupulous than what you may be used to here in the UK and the working conditions could be pretty arduous. A job on an Aussie ranch will impress all your friends next year, but be prepared to work in temperatures in the 30s and 40s and start to like flies.
The most popular way to spend your year and no wonder. Seeing amazing sights, meeting amazing people and having amazing experiences will help shape your life and stay with you forever. But it’s also the most expensive option and probably the riskiest. The good news is that lots (and lots) of people have done it before you and have then shared their experiences online, so there’s no excuse to set off unprepared.
Depending on the industry you’re hoping to end up in, putting ‘backpacking around the world’ on your CV may not be quite as appealing to them as you might think. (For them, it reads, ‘dossing around the world’).
Volunteering is an increasingly popular alternative as it gives you many of the benefits of backpacking – especially the amazing places and people bits – but also gives you a better CV. More importantly, the impact that you can make on people’s lives is worth any amount of beach parties on Ko Samui.
If you are considering volunteering, find out about the organisation, ask difficult questions, and make sure they’re reputable.
Whether you’re about to take the left fork or the right one, we wish you good luck.