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How to have the Ultimate Gap Year

Updated: May 5, 2020

By Daye Bajela

Need a break from education? Fancy a change of scene? Want to start ticking off that bucket list? Sounds like a gap year might be for you!

I decided to take a gap year after I applied to medical school. At first, I hadn't considered it, but the thought of going into another 5 years of education made me realise that maybe I needed a break. My gap year turned into one of the best and most memorable years of my life. I felt so much more prepared for university and adult life, and gained so much in terms of friendships, life experience and different perspectives of the world that we live in.

Here's my advice on how to plan and take the perfect gap year and how to make most of it.

1. Your A-levels are your priority. You need to make sure that you keep on top of your A level studies and don't get distracted by gap year planning. It can be time consuming and pretty exciting, but remember you still need your grades to get into uni after your gap year!

2. Decide what you want to get from your gap year. Do you want to save money? Do you want to travel? Do you want to learn new skills?

  • It's worth thinking about including different elements into your gap-year. You should definitely have fun on your gap year, but you should also come out of it having gained something. A year is a significant amount of time, so don't waste it!

  • For example, you could learn to drive, play a new instrument, or to properly master the art of cooking. You could volunteer, at home or abroad (but make sure you do your research, voluntourism can sometimes do more harm than good). Programs such as ICS are great for this.

  • If you want to travel, start thinking about destinations. Do you want to go somewhere far flung and exotic, for a real cross-cultural experience? Or maybe there's something you particularly want to experience, like a safari in the savannah or camel rides on desert sand dunes. Perhaps there's somewhere you've always wanted to visit, like the Grand Canyon or the Great Barrier Reef. Think about these things and plan your destinations accordingly! Interrailing around Europe is a great, cost effective and environmentally friendly way to visit many places in one trip!

  • To make the gap year a truly memorable experience, I would highly suggest going to places you wouldn't normally be able to visit. Explore the more 'off the beaten track' areas rather than just the usual tourist attractions. Lonely Planet and Culture Trip are two websites I would recommend for ideas of what to do and see (download the apps for when you're on the go), and videos on YouTube really bring these to life. Consider the best time of year to visit your destinations - you don't want to get stuck in the middle of monsoon season!