A lot, especially if you have 15 months before HE. Deciding what to do is often a better starting point than working out where to travel to. It adds more purpose to the gap year. You could of course just get a rucksack and set off around the world. If that’s what you want to do, then fine – just be sure you know why you are doing this and make the usual preparations.
One way to approach your gap year is to arrange a placement and then from a firm base, set off on your travels. For example, spend three months on a conservation project in Malaysia. Having got used to greater independence and more confident in your abilities to survive in adverse conditions, set off on your travels through Asia and on to Australia. An added advantage would be to meet people on the first placement who you could travel with.
So what’s the choice? (in addition to travelling):
‘Chennai has all the surreal elements of classic India: vivid colour, monkeys, mangos and wandering cows. All of these things hit you as soon as you arrive, the hope of being eased gently into Indian life could not be further from the truth.’ Elizabeth Hejnowicz, with Changing Worlds, 2007
- Conservation eg working in the rain forest in Brazil; planting trees in Australia; surveying fauna and flora in Africa •
Caring/medical eg working with the Red Cross; looking after children, adults, the disadvantaged in Europe or South America
Teaching eg being a teaching assistant in Malaysia or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Japan
Outdoor education and camps eg working in Outward Bound centres or Summer Camps in the USA and Canada
- eg sailing, canoeing, trekking, mountaineering, skiing, desert travel
Courses & cultural exchanges:
eg sport, languages, art, cookery, drama
eg paid work, work experience, internships
Working Holiday visas. Young people from Britain can work in Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa, usually in tourism, hotels, catering, farming, temping or as an au pair. You need to look on the London Embassy websites for precise details about these countries : www.fco.gov.uk. BUNAC gives more information: www.bunac.org.uk
How do you make a choice?
One way is to link it to your future profession or course of study. For example, if you are going to be a doctor, you could take a medical or caring position, to prepare you for your chosen profession.
Or adopt the opposite point of view, that if you are going to spend your life in a profession, do something different to gain another perspective.