Sophie's Gap Year Diary – 5 Gap Year Fears...
...and why they're not worth worrying about.
Not much to report this month, other than the fact that I have now, finally, booked my time abroad.
I’m off to South Africa in March, where I’m volunteering at an elephant sanctuary, heading to the US for a couple of weeks in April, and then finishing off by interrailing around Europe for a few weeks in May. So watch this space and I’ll keep you posted – expect photos.
In the meantime, I thought I’d seize the opportunity to compile a list of a few common gap year fears and the reasons why you shouldn’t worry too much about them, very handy around UCAS season for those still deciding what to do:
1. You're feeling the pressure to do something you don't want to
- Everyone is different – it’s your year off, and you can make your own decisions about how to spend your time. Just because all your friends are off to Thailand for six months, you don’t have to go with them.
- If you don’t want to or can’t afford to travel, then why not stay in the UK and get some valuable work or volunteering experience here instead?
- By all means do something, but make sure it’s because you want to do it. You’ll get more out of your year.
2. You don’t have any friends to travel with
- It’s always nice to have company and it’s perfectly natural to be a bit apprehensive about travelling alone, but that might make it a lot more worthwhile in the end.
- If you fancy a spot of solo backpacking, you’ll meet so many people staying in hostels that you’ll always have someone to talk to.
- If you’re not quite ready for that, there are lots of gap year companies out there who offer group travel or volunteering work, guaranteeing you’ll make a few new friends on your adventures.
- It will always be a leap of faith, and whilst I can’t speak from experience just yet – talk to me next month – everyone I know who has gone travelling on their own says it was one of the best experiences of their life.
3. You haven’t made any plans and you’re worried you’ve left the gap year too late
- This one I can answer from experience; you haven’t. The words 'forward' and 'planner' don’t feature in the list of adjectives I'd use to describe myself, but I’ve managed just fine.
- I found work experience a week before the start date, and booked months away travelling a mere four weeks in advance. It’s not something I would necessarily recommend, but you can make it work – it’s never too late.
4. You don’t think you can afford to take a gap year
- Again, this one is from personal experience. I’m funding most of the travelling myself and it’s not as hard as it might seem. It’s also a lot more satisfying to know that you’ve paid for things yourself.
- A lot of people seem to work at home for half the year and then journey off somewhere for a few months afterwards. Even on minimum wage everything adds up, and before you know it you've actually earned a reasonable amount.
- Another personal tip is to use eBay as a fundraiser. Believe me, you’ll find it amazing what some people will buy.
5. You think that once you take a gap year you’ll never go back to education
- I for one haven’t found this to be true. If anything I’m more excited to go to university now than I would have been starting last year.
- I’ve had a bit of a break from all the work, I’m actually more motivated to go back into it.
- If you find yourself dreading what’s to come, whether you’re taking a pre-uni or a post-uni gap year, then maybe it’s a sign that you should consider a few other options. The beauty of a year off is that it gives you plenty of time to think about what you really want to do when it ends. It’s never too late to change your mind.