A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
In coming to the end of my bachelor’s degree I was faced with the question: what next? It was difficult to imagine at the beginning of my degree that I would ever finish it, let alone that it would come to an end as fast as it did. Yet here I am a degree almost under my belt and the future wide open. There are many avenues one can explore when it comes to the end of a bachelor’s degree, in this series I will focus on the big three: a master’s degree, a gap year, and employment. This second blog will turn its attention to the opportunities for those choosing to take a gap year after their bachelor’s degree.
After three grueling years of studying, meeting deadlines, and being more sleep-deprived than is desired, the option of a much need break is very appealing. There is much more to one’s youth than obtaining a degree. I have seen too many videos about how your 20s are the years to cherish and truly explore. To take adventures and experience what would be inappropriate or unfounded for those older than us, is a treasure given to us. Yet, there are so many options available to explore when taking a gap year. I will detail just a few of those options.
Traveling is the somewhat go-to option for those taking a year off. There are many reasons to take a gap year to travel. These reasons include experiencing and adapting to new environments, getting to know yourself, making the most of your youthful freedom, finding your passions, recharging your overworked batteries, to nurture your independence, and to make countless memories. However, the current pandemic limits these options to some extent.
Nonetheless, I will provide the critical steps to traveling during a gap year. The first step is to consider where to go on your travels. This includes establishing what your goals for traveling are and which locations these are linked to. When deciding where to travel, consideration of the best time of year to travel, entry requirements and if your passport is valid, the time period of your travels. The second step is to decide who your travel buddy will be or if you will have a buddy at all. Note that when choosing a mate, make sure that you have friends that you are compatible with and that you both have similar expectations for the trip. Next, step three is to raise the money for your trip, as unfortunately new experiences abroad come at a cost. Make sure to consider transport, housing, and emergency money are included in your budget, Step four involves booking your travel, or at least the beginning of it if you plan to wing it after your first stop (something I really recommend). The fifth step relates to the practicalities of traveling. Make sure that you have sufficient healthcare plans in place which include vaccinations and insurance, travel insurance, your passport, and visas, notifying your bank that you will be abroad, and prepare for somewhat of a culture shock. Finally, make sure you have enough money for your return flight or transport home.
A significant benefit of taking a gap year can be to earn some money and gain work experience for yourself. Many people opt to take a year off to bolster their savings accounts or make their CV more desirable.
Working during your gap year can take the form of an internship, part-time work, or full-time work. One of the best ways to experience new environments while making money is to au pair for a family. This would involve living with a family and taking care of their children for them. This can include helping with homework and things around the house, to trips with the families. If you do this away from home you get the benefit of travel and work.
Another option that combines travel and work is to work in a holiday resort. Whether this be in the Alps during the ski season or in the Maldives during their summer, you will be able to work and play in very close proximity. However, these jobs are in high demand and require a lot of forward planning. Take this into consideration if you plan to work in these places.
One of the reasons people take a year off is to give back. In studying, we can often learn and be made aware of the difficulties facing people in different countries and regions. This, at least for me, has fostered a great need to give back and volunteer to those in need. Volunteering can also give you perspective on life, teach you how to live simply, allow you to learn new skills quickly, discover what is important to you, experience a new culture, learn how to adapt to new situations, and meet like-minded volunteers.
There several programs, organizations, and projects that can help you find your perfect volunteering experience. These options can be found on the website www.volunteerforever.com, here you can choose either where you would like to volunteer or what type of volunteering you would like to do. It is important however to take into consideration that some of these programs require you to pay for participation so that food and housing costs for you are covered.