While summer feels like it should be the time to relax, forget about studies and enjoy time with friends, that isn’t the reality for students who have spent the past few weeks nervously awaiting their exam results.
Whether you’ve sat English A Levels, International Baccalaureate, Scottish Highers or SATs in the past few months, you’ve no doubt been told over and over again that your efforts and the results will determine your future. Which is true to a point.
But what happens if you get great exam results but worry that you have picked the wrong course at University so want to step on the brakes? What happens if you didn’t get the grades you needed to secure your place at College? Maybe you would rather gain some real life or work experience to help you stand out later in the employment market. Or what if you simply don’t feel emotionally ready to move to the next stage in your education?
Taking a year out after exam results
For many young people, taking a year out from studies is a great way to immerse themselves in something completely different, enabling them to grow as an individual.
Yes, of course as a gap year company we get applications from people who haven’t got into the University of their choice and are looking for something completely different to do on an unexpected year out from studying, but we also get calls from people who want to gain transferable skills that employers seek / are attracted by, expand their cultural knowledge and increase their social awareness as global citizens before heading into the next phase of their education.
There are many reasons to do this.
Get out of your comfort zone
Immersing yourself in another culture is where real opportunities for learning and building relationships can lie. If you want confidence and people skills, don’t just work at a minimum wage job. Learn to communicate and connect with people whose upbringing is radically different to your own. Learn to empathize with different types of people and what makes them think and behave the way they do.
“Having come from a rather sheltered up bringing in leafy rural England, the closest I had come to engaging with other cultures was through the television screen. Spending 4 months in rural Kenya was a giant leap into the dark but proved to be a hugely rewarding experience and taught me lessons which remain with me to this day.” Kenya AV volunteer
Taking time out to grow as a person
Harvard College encourages admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way—provided they do not enroll in a degree-granting program at another college. Deferrals for two-year obligatory military service are also granted. Each year, between 80 and 110 students defer their matriculation to the College.
Gaining valuable interview skills
“In the year after I joined a professional services firm there were over 30,000 applicants for only around 1,500 jobs; that is 20 people applying for a single place. The current job market is so competitive that any chance to differentiate you must be seized with both hands. Being able to recall on experiences to demonstrate key competencies recruiters are looking for, such as “teamwork” or “learning from experience”, is vital. AV gave me these experiences in abundance.” Malawi AV volunteer
Standing out from the crowd
“Now I am home I feel that in the next step of job interviews, when everyone else will churn out the same old speech about school, university, work experience when asked questions on skills they’ve built over the years and how a doctor needs to have confidence, leadership skills, decision making, time management etc, I will stand out from the crowd. For an employer or interviewer seeing someone that could be so passionate for something and embrace such a new and different experience would be one of the greatest skills and assets you can offer.” Uganda AV volunteer
“Spending time living with a host family in China who had mischievous young children and teaching in a school convinced me to study to be a teacher. I am currently heading into my second year and I am planning on heading back to China to continue the journey.” China AV volunteer
Changing direction completely!
“Following my time in Uganda in 2009 my thirst for travel took me all across the world during and after university. The confidence it gave me, and the love for the outdoors and travel it created, led to me choosing to join the Army after University. I’m now a Lieutenant in the Infantry and haven’t looked back.” Uganda AV volunteer
Life is a journey with many different paths to choose from along the way and it’s ok to change your mind through choice or through necessity!
According to Andrew Mackenzie, the director of Africa & Asia Venture, “the best people we have had come with us are the ones that have earned the money to do it. They have spent six months working in their home country, in the process learning the value of work, money and budgeting. And they are also more determined to make the most of the time abroad because they have worked extremely hard to get there.”
Oh and remember that taking time out doesn’t need to be a full, 12 month Gap Year. It can last anything from 5 weeks to 12 months, depending on your budget and your availability. This means you still have time to reapply to college, to gain commercial work experience and to save money for the next step in your life journey.
Find out more about taking a gap year
If you’d like to talk to us about options to volunteer overseas and immerse yourself in a different culture, we’d love to hear from you!