By Tiyani Rikhotso
Jumping straight from high school to university may not be a good idea for a lot of people. Gap years are great if you need some time to really think about what it is you want to do with your future, you need to take a year to work and build up some savings or if you’d like to experience the growth and self-discovery that a gap year can offer.
Gap years are becoming less unconventional and are even encouraged by some universities who acknowledge the benefits in the performance of students who decided to take the break after high school.
**Something to note is that a gap year is meant to be productive. Yes, high school was a lot of work, but unfortunately this is not your ticket to 365 days of sleeping, playing video games and finally binge watching all the series you never got to. Here are 5 things you can do if you’re planning on taking a gap year.
- So many communities, shelters, orphanages, healthcare centres or schools in our own country and abroad are in need of helping hands. You can use your gap year to give back to those in need and can even tailor it to your future line of work or simply do something you’re passionate about. From teaching children English in Nepal to wildlife conservation in Costa Rica, there’s something for everyone. Platforms like goabroad.com make finding volunteering opportunities simple; choose a country, a cause and a duration then click search and explore.
- Au pair. If you’re passionate about kids, this could be the option for you. You get to make money while living/working with a family and helping out with their children. If you choose to go overseas you get added experience of travelling and learning about a new culture (maybe even a new language!) Agencies such as Au pair care or OCV can help facilitate your program for the year which makes finding a family, getting a visa and all the works so much easier. Remember that you’ll need childcare experience and a driving license.
- Being done with school doesn’t mean you should throw away all the knowledge from the past 12 years. You can keep the fire burning and make use of all the lessons by passing your knowledge on to others. You can choose to work through established tutoring companies, your old school or you could let family, friends and your neighbourhood know that your tutoring services are available.
- Do some work experience! This can be a great way to get your foot into the door of the industry or field you see yourself working in. You can learn the practical tricks of the trade (that you might only be introduced to later in your degree) and get a feel for whether this is the line of work you truly want to follow. If you can’t get a recommendation or opportunity from someone you know, stay on the lookout for internship positions through job search apps and gap year platforms or you can email companies you’re interested in directly.
- If the bank allows it, travelling is a great way to spend your gap year. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive but simply a chance to see new land, learn about different people and places and most importantly, yourself. A lot of personal growth can come from solo travelling. Contiki tours work well as they are affordable and often reach a few different destinations (and let’s not forget all the young and adventurous people like yourself you’ll get to meet). Companies such as G Adventures have great travel packages that include all the “must see” places at an affordable price. You could also make use of hostels, Air BnBs or the couch or bed of a family member or friend who lives in a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Working for the first half and travelling with the money you’ve saved up works well too.