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Student life-before you start

Gap year inspiration

If you don’t already know where you’d like to go for your gap year, have a look at our gap year ideas – whether you’re on a budget or travelling alone.

Man watching the northern lights, Aurora Borealis

CONTENTS

  1. Natural beauty

  2. Food

  3. Volunteering

  4. Activity

  5. Man-made wonders

  6. Festivals and festivities

  7. Animals

  8. Adrenaline rush

  9. Relaxation

  10. Making friends

Natural beauty

If you're dreaming of seeing some of nature’s wonders on your gap year, there are so many beautiful places to choose from. Seeing the Northern Lights is on many people's bucket lists. The Northern Lights can be spotted while visiting snowy areas of Canada and Alaska, or northern regions of Scandinavia – the most popular being Iceland.

If you're looking for something more tropical, Belize, with its tropical rainforests to the west and Caribbean beaches to the east, could fit the bill. It boasts the world's second largest barrier reef and the Great Blue Hole – considered by many to be one of the most stunning natural wonders of the world.

If beaches are more your thing, Southeast Asia could be a great bet. The Philippines, with more than 7,000 islands, is said to be home to some of the most serene beaches across the globe. 

Food

If the way to your heart is through your stomach, a gap year somewhere famed for its cuisine could deliver a wonderful experience. 

Vietnamese street food is increasingly popular in the UK. To get an authentic taste, visit one of the many street vendors while you explore the cultural delights of Vietnam. You can try many wonderful dishes for pennies, such as Nem cuon (fresh salad rolls) or Phở (meaty noodle broth).

Peru is one of the Latin American countries where potatoes were first found, but their culinary tradition is just as colourful as the rest of their culture. Start with cultural favourite Ceviche (raw fish dish served with sweet potato or corn) and if you're feeling adventurous, try Cuy (that’s Guinea Pig to us), the second most popular meat in the Andes after Alpaca. 

For those wanting to stay a little closer to home and explore more familiar tastes, visit Italy to see how pizza, pasta and all other Italian delights are crafted by the hands of the experts.

Volunteering

Volunteering on your gap year won't only broaden your cultural horizons, but can be great practice for the world of work. It could be a great CV boost when you finish your studies, too. 

To truly understand the country you're visiting, working with the locals is a great place to start. You can find volunteer opportunities in orphanages, old people's homes, schools and hospitals to give something back to the communities you're visiting.

If you're more a fan of animals than of people, there are animal conservation opportunities to help newly hatched turtles make it to the sea, care for elephants who have lost limbs due to bomb explosions, and much more all over the world.

However, there's no need to travel far to look for volunteering work. In the UK, there are countless organisations in need of a helping hand. You can help with anything from supporting children with their reading to working at an animal sanctuary. Contact a project or charity that interests you and see how you could help.

Activity

If you're interested in studying a Sports Science related subject, an active gap year might be for you. You could spend a season in one of the world's many mountainous areas where you can ski, be a ski instructor, or even work in hospitality while you're there.

If you love the sea, working in water sports such as surfing, sailing or water skiing in any of the world's coastal spots – from the west coast of Wales to the south coast of Sri Lanka – could be a great option for you. 

If you're using your gap year to find inner peace, why not try a yoga retreat. Bali, India and Portugal are perfect examples of blissful locations where individuals can enjoy a mindful and strengthening experience.

Man-made wonders

If being at one with nature isn't your thing, the world has many man-made wonders for you.

Machu Picchu, the abandoned stone citadel set in the clouds above Peru, emanates history and mystery. The city of New York.is adorned with skyscrapers, immense parks and world-famous sculptures, and for sun-seekers, the Palm Islands in Dubai are the largest man-made islands in the world. Further afield is the Taj Mahal in Agra, India – a UNESCO World Heritage site described as 'the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage'.

Festivals and festivities

For the party animals, there are music, cultural and religious festivals all over the world to be experienced. 

Thailand’s lantern festivals (Yi Peng and Loy Krathong) are religious festivals celebrated every year, usually in November on the full moon, where lanterns are lit and let into the sky or floated along the water as offerings.

Rio Carnival is one of the largest parades and celebrations worldwide, occurring before Lent each year. It's an exhilarating experience that people travel far and wide to participate in.

For a bit of fun and mess, why not try La Tomatina in Spain, where one day every year there's a tomato fight that lasts one hour, after which fire engines hose down the soiled streets and participants.

Animals

For animal lovers, a gap year can give you the chance to see the animals you've only ever seen on TV. Why not try a safari in South Africa, whale watching from Mexico to Canada, or jungle trekking in the Amazon or Madagascar. 

However, there's no need to travel far afield – minke and humpback whales can be spotted from the coast of Ireland, or you could join those trying to help save our wild cats in Scotland.

Adrenaline rush

The world offers something for everyone, including adrenaline junkies. 

If you're into mountain biking, this is an excellent excuse to explore mountainous regions such as British Columbia in Canada, and while you’re there you could even try bungee jumping. There are many bridges arching over the streams surrounding stunning forests, mountains and lakes that have bungee teams ready and waiting to help you have this exhilarating experience. 

If free-falling from a plane sounds like fun to you, then jump into the air and see the most incredible sights by sky diving in a country such as Australia, where you can fly above the stunning Great Barrier Reef.

Relaxation

If your exams were a stressful time for you, you may just be looking to relax and unwind before you embark on your student journey. 

You could choose to soak in one of the many relaxing thermal baths in Budapest, Hungary, or bask in the scorching sun against beautiful backdrops in the Seychelles.

A little closer to home, Scotland boasts an unbeatable landscape. It may not be the first place that comes to mind for relaxation, but there are several areas you can visit that don't have wifi to help you switch off and get peace of mind.

Making friends

A gap year is all about new experiences, and what better way to broaden your horizons than to meet new people. 

One of the best ways to meet new people while travelling during a gap year is to stay in hostels. You can find hostels nearly everywhere just by looking online. If you're not keen on travelling alone, there are many tours designed especially for young people to visit new places across the world in groups where making friends is part of the journey.

You could learn about a new culture and potentially a new language by living and working in a new place. Many people during their gap years work somewhere like a restaurant or bar, and end up making lifelong friends with colleagues who may also be far away from home.

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