9 Essential Things To Know Before Taking A Gap Year Abroad
Hey there! Yes, you!
Are you just about to finish your high school/ college and thinking 'What Next?' Are you feeling like taking a break from the regular course, to do something offbeat - like exploring a new continent, hiking through unknown trails, camping with strangers, volunteering with elephants or just play around with little kids in a faraway land?
Well then, you are in serious need of taking a gap year abroad! And before you start planning and decide where you should go for your gap year, here are a few essential things that you must know.
1. Don't be in a hurry! Take your time to plan out everything.
Many high school/ college graduates are in a hurry, to set out for their gap year just after they finish their academic course. That often poses certain problems, like lack of planning or shortage of funds - which may eventually create problems, when you're abroad. Rather than rushing into anything, it would be better to take at least a month or two, after finishing your high school/ college, to sort the plans, figure out where you want to go and how much budget you've - and then save/ fundraise if you need more money, before setting sail abroad. A gap year journey needs adequate planning and we would suggest that you consult your parents and teachers, guides and well-wishers, and be clear about what you want to do during this period.
2. Be ready to step out of your comfort zone.
A gap year is a time when you can break free, let go of your fears and step out of your comfort zone. For most of the millennials, it's the phase when they plan to travel solo in order to explore a distant country (or maybe a couple of countries!), get to know about people in a different land, experience their culture and lifestyle, taste their authentic cuisine and indulge in some sort of experimental work, that would help in gaining international exposure. No matter whether you are an introvert person who's hesitant of opening up or an extrovert who loves to chit chat for hours - your gap year journey would give you innumerable opportunities to do things that you've never done before!
3. Opt for volunteering abroad or be a part of an internship program.
It's not just about traveling and exploring, but you must as well plan for doing something worthy during your gap year abroad. The best option would be to volunteer for a meaningful program and serve the underprivileged people, connecting more closely with them and finding solutions to their problems. No matter whether you wish to volunteer with children or be a part of a conservation program, or work at a healthcare camp - your contribution will be immensely valued and it'll help you to learn a lot. Other than that, many gap year travelers also choose to be a part of an internship program abroad, associating themselves with work that correlates to their course of study, so that they can boost their career and gain first-hand work experience under professional guidance.
4. Learn something unique!
Of course, this is the time that you've got for yourself, and you must make good use of it! There's a lot that they don't teach us within the boundaries of the classroom - and now is the time when life has given you full freedom to learn new things. How about learning how to surf on the beaches of Gold Coast in Australia, or probably get a Scuba Diving Certificate while in Thailand? Or maybe you indulge in learning the art of Yoga & Meditation while in Bali or polish your Spanish Language skills while exploring Latin America. No matter what you choose - it'll definitely add new meaning to your life, giving you more confidence!
5. Be open to making new friends!
Since childhood, we are always told not to talk to strangers, but during your gap year, you'll get to burst that bubble of myth! All your life, you've been friends with people in school, college or neighborhood, or those who belong from your society, speaks the same language, looks similar and has a common way of life! This is the time when you'll get to make friends out of strangers! Be open to all - and you'll realize that people are so diverse in different parts of this world, yet they are all beautiful in their own ways. You'll get to be friends with people who have a different religion, speak different languages, have different lifestyle but yet, you'll be able to connect to them, and who knows, you might just end up finding your BFF during your gap year!
6. Ditch the checklist and go with the flow!
Often, things won't happen the way you plan - so it's better not to be too rigid with the checklist. You might miss a flight, your luggage might get lost, you might fall sick, or you might just fall in love with a place that you'd feel like extending your stay there - no matter what the scenario is, it's always good to be flexible with your plans. Also, don't stuff too many things in your 'To Do List' - because it's always good to go with the flow, and enjoy things as they unfold. Keep space for random plans - 'coz they're gonna add up that extra spice to your gap year adventures!
7. Don't lose touch with your parents and friends!
We can understand that you're thrilled to travel solo and embark on this life-changing journey, but remember not to lose contact with your near and dear ones! No matter where you are and whatever you're up to, keep them updated. If you plan to travel with any organization, then share their contact details with your family - just in case if you're unreachable, they can still get to know about you. It is extremely important that your parents know your whereabouts, because if any adverse situation crops up (God forbid, that shouldn't happen!) then they'll be aware of it and can reach out to you at any point of time.
8. Adapt the culture and lifestyle of your host country.
As they say, “When in Rome, be like the Romans!” - Well, these words are absolutely true and you can have the best experience by adapting yourself to the culture and lifestyle of the natives of your host country! It’ll be incredible if they think that you are one of them - and they’ll tell you secrets that tourists never get to know! It might be an awesome place where only the locals go, or a particular home-cooked meal that’s typical for a special occasion - adapting the local lifestyle will make things easier for you. Since you’ll be spending a long time on their land, it’s better that you try to learn their language (the basics, at least), get used to their food habits, and follow their daily routines, etc.
9. Maintain a diary/ blog/ travel journal and keep a note of your adventures on the roads!
While most of us rely on social media these days, sharing our experiences on Facebook or Instagram, it's important that you maintain a diary or a journal, to track incidents for yourself as well. Write about that interesting co-passenger you met on a train, or maybe a stranger who helped you with your luggage at the airport, or about the child at the volunteering site who made you smile or probably someone who appreciated you for something - noting these little incidents will be extremely precious in future! Think of it, one fine day, 10 years later, you can sit and flip through the pages, reading about your gap year and laughing your heart out. We often tend to skip the tiny episodes of life, but they do have an important role - so you better keep a note of everything!
And when you’ll head back home after your gap year journey comes to an end, you’ll surely be a somewhat different person - more confident & independent, more compassionate with a larger world view, with friends from different parts of the world and experiences to cherish forever! Make sure to keep the above-mentioned tips in mind, as they’ll help you to go a long way!
You can also check out the wide range of amazing gap year tours and volunteering opportunities that Go Discover Abroad has in store for you! In case you’re having some trouble in planning, then you can also write to us at [email protected] and our Travel Experts will get back to you soon!
We hope that your gap year trip turns out to be awesome and you get to live life to the fullest!