As this year’s new intake of university students gets ready for freshers’ week, thousands of disappointed applicants are having to rethink how they spend the next year. A recession-fuelled surge of interest saw record numbers apply for university this year, but a government cap on places means an estimated 130,000 applicants have failed to find a degree place.
Now facing an unplanned gap year, many would-be students are thinking how they can use the time to improve their chances of securing a university place next year. Here travel search site Skyscanner presents 10 ways to get the most out of a gap year or career break by gaining work experience, life skills, language skills and maybe even some money in the bank.
"Spending a year drifting around the beaches of South East Asia is a fantasy for many, but it’s a luxury you can only justify if you have a guaranteed university place or job waiting when you come back," said Barry Smith, Skyscanner co-founder and director.
"We’re seeing more of a trend now for tactical gappers who are combining travelling with specialist work experience guaranteed to boost their CVs. Some professions like hospitality, teaching and medicine are more geared up than others to offer easy access gap year opportunities, but there’s scope to find something to enhance your chances for most courses. And if you want to escape the UK but still need to earn money, there are plenty of paid opportunities overseas. Australia, for example, the most popular gap year destination – has not been as affected by the recession."
Medicine is one of the most competitive degree choices and spending a year getting relevant experience will do a great deal to improve the chances of getting a place. Medforce organises volunteer placements in medical centres and clinics around the world, including Ecuador, Cambodia, South Africa and India.
2. TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
Native speakers of English are incredibly fortunate because they come hardwired with a skill that can take them around the world as English teachers. Simply by helping others learn your mother tongue, you’ll be able to find employment in almost any non-English speaking country of the world, from Japan to Jordan, China to Chile. Great for valuable work experience and you can even learn a new language yourself.
3. Work a Ski Season
There are many jobs available in ski resorts, most of which come with benefits such as cheap or free accommodation, discounted food and that all important season lift pass. Jobs can vary from ski instructors (which will require an instruction certificate), to dish washers (which will require endurance) and everything in between.
Each job has its pros and cons in regards to pay, perks and how much time you get to spend on the slopes. Those with a British passport can work anywhere in the EU, and it’s also possible to arrange visas for ski resorts in Canada, the USA or Japan. www.natives.co.uk is a great resource for snow jobs.
4. Camp America
The USA has a strong culture of summer camps whereby kids spend anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months, learning arts and crafts, developing sporting skills and taking part in new activities. Generally camps have an outdoor emphasis with campers living communally in cabins.
There are a number of different jobs available in camps: activity leaders, who spend the majority of their time running popular activities; support staff, who help out behind the scenes in the office, the kitchen and the grounds, and camp counsellors who mentor the kids on a day to day basis. See Camp America for more information
5. VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas)
This is an international development charity that recruits volunteers to work on projects in some of the poorest regions of the world. Volunteers come from range of backgrounds; there are positions for both young, unskilled people, as well as experienced professionals. You’ll get to put your skills to good use and work within a local community in return for a living allowance, accommodation, insurance, flights and training.
A great choice for a longer term career break, gap year or a shorter term trip (assignments of 1-6 months are available) – if you really want to make a difference, VSO is an ideal way to do it. For more information see VSO.
Short for ‘World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms’, WWOOFers devote their time to working on organic farms, gardens or small holdings, in exchange for food and accommodation – no money changes hands.
You don’t have to be a tree-hugging vegan to apply – as long as you’re willing to learn and eager to get your hands dirty – you will be welcomed. As a global network – opportunities for WWOOFing can be found around the world, whether that be picking organic grapes in Italy, harvesting organic coffee in Brazil or building a new strawberry greenhouse in Devon. Check WWooF.org to find an organic farm that takes your fancy.
7. Activity Holiday Worker
Companies like PGL who provide summer camps and adventure holidays for kids employ large numbers of seasonal and year round staff who help run their activity camps and holidays. Locations vary from the Brecon Beacons to the South of France, and jobs range from kayak instructing to campfire cooking.
PGL is popular with ‘gappers’, university students and recent graduates. Staff are provided with accommodation, access to training as well as a monthly wage. Beats stacking shelves, that’s for sure.
8. Learn a language
Coming back from your travels with a reasonable grasp of a foreign language is definitely a CV enhancer. The best way to learn a new language is to go and live in that country and take lessons. There are language courses on offer in most countries; some of the most valuable and popular at the moment are Spanish and Chinese. Living aboard will also allow you to absorb the cultural aspects of your host country, meet the locals and try the food. Check out www.visabureau.com for information on visas and work permits.
A language course will obviously cost you, but language learning is definitely a case of having to spend it to make it. Some of the other options suggested here will allow you to learn some of the local lingo and get paid too.
9. Yacht Crew
If you fancy yourself as a sailor of the seven seas (or even just one) then a job on a yacht is the gap year for you. Onboard you’ll learn the basics of how to sail, cook and keep everything ship shape.
For longer voyages, work is normally divided into watches, so you’ll have to be fine with shift work. You’ll also have to get used to living in close, often cramped quarters, but when your day’s work involves weighing anchor and sailing to the next white sandy bay in the island chain – who cares!
10. Work in a Kibbutz
These Israeli communes have long been part of the gap year trail. You’ll need to be fit, in good health and willing to muck in. Roles vary from cooking and farming to teaching and tourism. Though you will be expected to work hard, there are also ample opportunities to explore the area, get to know locals, fraternise with other volunteers from around the world, and learn Hebrew. Accommodation, food and some pocket money is all part of the deal. Find out more about Kibbutz life here.
Skyscanner is a leading travel search site based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Skyscanner provides instant online comparison on flight prices for over 670,000 routes on over 600 airlines, as well as car hire, hotel and holiday price comparison. With Skyscanner, users can browse without having to enter specific dates or even destinations, and Skyscanner is available in 20 different languages including French, German and Spanish.
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