What’s waiting for you on your gap year

A gap year. An excellent time to focus on yourself, improving your skills, meeting new people and finding ways to become a more appealing candidate to potential employers or universities. Not only this, but taking a gap year, if done properly, can also vastly improve your people skills and have a massively positive impact on your mental and physical health. However, the big question is, what are the best things do on your gap year?

WORRY NOT, MY FRIEND! Here are a few ideas (all of which are very entertaining) of what you can do on your gap year and how these things would be beneficial for you…

  1. Volunteering

Aside from the obvious feel good factor, volunteering is an amazing way of spending your time. Firstly, it’s true, you are engaging with and giving back to your community which does actually make you feel better. You can meet new people, find new friends and you’re supporting a worthwhile cause. 

However, there’s more, let’s talk about what volunteering means in a professional environment. Volunteering helps you to improve and gain valuable skills. A candidate that regularly volunteers is a candidate that is empathetic, dedicated and committed. These skills are very valuable and, in the working world, it’s important to show that you are more than just a resume of previous jobs. Many employers are concerned with finding civic-minded employees, as these candidates stand out amongst the crowd and are more likely to think ‘out of the box’. 

You could volunteer at a local charity shop, a homeless shelter, a food bank, the list is endless.

  1. Travel

Why restrict yourself to staying within your country’s borders? Why not push yourself and see just how much you’re capable of?

Travelling is an amazing opportunity with an endless list of benefits. You could decide to work, do a voluntary placement, start a blog about your travels, work as an au pair or even do something that relates to the field that you’re interested in. A person who travels is a person that seems more independent, self-assured and outgoing, this is exactly what employers are looking for.

Also, if you’re a rather shy person who is more inclined to take a back seat in most situations, I urge you to consider travelling. Through this, you meet a variety of different people from all over the world, you are forced out of your comfort zone thus improving your self-confidence and opening up your eyes to the world. Plus, if you are a little confused with what you want to do, it’s a perfect opportunity to find yourself and find out what interests you. Remember to keep track of your travels and your activities, the worst thing would be having a year full of exciting travels and then forgetting everything that you did because you didn’t note it down. 

However, it is vital that you do not waste your time abroad, it is important to find a balance between the activities that would be very beneficial to you and just chilling (like partying for nights on end if that’s what your heart desires).

  1. Get a job

Maybe you aren’t ready to spread your wings and leave the country, that’s completely fine. How about you use this time to get a job that relates or is associated with the field that you would like to be involved with in the future? 

By getting into a job that is similar to your desired, future position, you are putting yourself at a massive advantage. You are able to gain insight into what is needed to work in this specific environment, you can build friendships and professional relationships with your colleagues and this could open doors for you in the future when you are actually looking for a job. Working also improves your existing skills, for example punctuality and professionalism, whilst also allowing you to develop specialised skills within your field. 

Furthermore, if you’re really good at the job – you may get offered a position to take after your studies! So, it’s a win-win situation!

  1. Au Pair

As previously mentioned, au pairing is an excellent way of spending your gap year, especially if this is done in a foreign country. You can learn about a new culture, maybe pick up a new language, make new connections, become part of another family and also you find out more about yourself (which is always a plus). An au pair acts as an older sibling in a family with little ones, which is an amazing way of showing your responsibility and ability to lead. The step of becoming an au pair, leaving your country and going to live in a foreign place with strangers shows a lot about the type of person that you are, employers would be impressed by this sociable and interesting candidate.

Intercultural and international work experience look great on a CV and it’s also a great conversation to have with employers when you can fully describe what you have learnt and the skills that you obtained on your trip. 

  1. Learn a new skill or find a new hobby

You have a year of free time, why not use this time to pursue an old passion? We all have things that we want to do but life sometimes gets in the way and we never find the time, now would be your best chance. And, if you don’t already have something in mind, pick something at random! It could be anything that interests you, cooking, drawing, playing an instrument, joining the gym or even playing a sport. 

You could even pick a hobby that is related to the field that you would like to go into, for example if you want to go into architecture, you could use this time to read books related to your subject and maybe even start sketching. The possibilities are endless and as long as you can effectively relate the hobby back to your subject/field, you will be okay. 

Soooo, folks! 

There you have it! A few ideas of what you can do on your year abroad. Your gap year is yours, so you can do whatever you choose to do. The most important thing however is that you DO SOMETHING. Do not waste your time doing the same things you’ve been doing for your whole life, switch it up and make the most out of your year.

Post by Anika Tazmin

Anika is a 4th year student at the University of Nottingham.

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