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Types of Gap Year

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Find out about the three main types of gap year, and the benefits each can provide for those taking a break before university.

When people talk of a gap year, they are usually referring to a year taken out of education before starting undergraduate studies at university. This is a break from studies, and often a first taste of independence. Quite often the range of activities and experiences available to those taking a gap year can seem limitless, and in many respects they are. However, for the most part, gap years fall into three main categories, or at least some variation thereof.

1. Travelling gap years

Many people choose to spend their gap year travelling the world and getting a feel for other countries and cultures. Where you go travelling and for how long are really down to personal preference.

Whether it be the mystics of the far-east, the exotics of southeast Asia, the thrills of Australasia, the culture of Latin America, the fun of North America or the history of Europe that calls you there are loads of great things to see and do in every corner of the world.

It is not uncommon to combine your travels with language school. Does the thought of learning Spanish in Central America appeal? Or maybe Portuguese in Brazil?

Often language classes can be bought relatively inexpensively and combined with a home-stay with a local family, you can acquire real insider knowledge of the country you are travelling in.

2. Volunteering gap years

Another way many people choose to spend their gap years is on charity or volunteering projects, both at home and abroad. Programs may range from digging wells in rural parts of Africa, helping out in orphanages in South America, building schools and hospitals in south east Asia or perhaps something much closer to home like helping out on a local environmental initiative or after school program.

Quite often overseas volunteering programs are designed to fit in with people's desires to travel and see the countries they are helping out in, combining the best of both worlds. But charity projects closer to home can equally provide new experiences, and help you get a better idea of what you'd like to do later in life.

3. Working gap years

A gap year can also be a good time to get a foot on the ladder of your future career path. Depending on what industry or sector you wish to work in there are very well established internship programs for young people that can give you a taste of working in that sector.

Not only can a year working help you discern exactly what types of work you do and don't like, but often it can expose you to a whole range of career options you never even knew existed.

As university admission places and employment become increasingly competitive, having a productively spent gap year on your personal statement or CV can be a great way of distinguishing yourself from the crowd - as long as you can show what you gained from the time.

And of course the personal enjoyment and new experiences you encounter will stick with you for the rest of your life.

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Written by QS Staff Writer

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