You’ve done it! You have decided to take a year out of the calendar to do something for yourself. Breaking out of the cycle of mainstream education is a bit scary, but you know that you want to try new things and develop some new skills. The question then arises, what to do with your year?
Taking a gap year opens up so many possibilities that actually choosing something can be almost as difficult as taking the decision in the first place. One thing is sure, to make the most of your time, you need to jump on a plane/train/bus and start exploring new places. Taking your gap year abroad is the single best advice we can give you! You could probably do with some advice on where to start and what to do, so we’ve asked all the amazing people we know to gather the best advice for a perfect gap year abroad.
Your gap year abroad actually starts long before you head for the airport. Here are the first steps to take while preparing for your gap year.
Are you hoping to learn a new language? A new skill? Do you want to go abroad? A year may sound like a long time, but once you get started it will fly by so fast that before you know it, you are back home with a suitcase full of memories and a massive smile on your face. Take some time to think about your options and then write down one or two goals for your gap year.
A gap year abroad is an investment, no doubt, but it can easily become a big investment. The more you try to fit into your year, the bigger budget you will need. Start by estimating how much money you will need in total: flights, insurance, accommodation, food, activities, etc. Now add 30% on top of whatever your total was. Better safe than sorry. With your budget estimate you can now try to figure out a plan for saving up. Do you have a job? If so, how much can you put aside every month? Do you expect to work or intern during your gap year? How much of your budget do you need up front and how much can you gather while abroad? Give crowd funding a try. If all of your friends and family donate $20 each, you are already well on your way to your target.
Going to a foreign country means turning everything you think you know upside down. Things that you are used to will be completely different: Culture, language, food, rules, everything! Even if you like to discover a new place for yourself, you will not regret doing at least some basic research about the places you are going to visit.
You took the plunge! Your gap year has started and you’ve left your familiar environment for new and exciting adventures. Congratulations! Now the real fun starts and you’re already getting swept off by all the new things around you. These are our tips for making the most of your gap year while you are abroad:
This might sound really obvious, but it’s easy to forget while you are abroad that a lot of the everyday things you see are going to be great memories once you get back home. Take pictures of the places you go, the people you are with, and the things you try. No one has ever said: I wish I had fewer pictures from my time abroad.
Travel diaries have the ability to transport you back in time when you read them, so note down everything – both good and bad. You are going to treasure these memories later on when the details start to fade and your travel journal helps you relive your time abroad.
Want to try this weird, local dish? Yes. Want to join us for a five-day trek in the middle of nowhere? Yes. Want to attend a concert with a local band that you’ve never heard of? YES. You might feel a bit lost at first and have a hard time getting to know new people. Join activities, say yes to invitations. Even if you’re jetlagged and really just want to stay home with movies and candy, say yes and get out there meeting new people. Getting a network is so important in the beginning and nothing speeds up the process faster than spending time with the people around you doing fun or weird things together.
Remember step 1? Are you still on the right path to fulfill your goals? Take some time now and then to touch base with your goals and see if you still feel that they are the rights ones, and if so, are you heading in the right direction. It’s easy to get caught in the moment, but try not to lose track of what this gap year is about.
Once you get back home, it’s very easy to step right back into your old habits and rhythms, but make an effort to stay in touch with the people you met abroad. They are friends that you can visit on later travels and people with whom you’ve shared some amazing moments – ones that no one back home will understand.
By now, you feel that life in another country is pretty normal and a lot of the things that surprised you at first will seem perfectly normal after a whole year. But for people at home these are really funny stories about foreign cultures and people that you now have insights to. If you spent your gap year in China, you will have stories to last you a lifetime; from the endless train rides, to the metro crowds, to the strange dishes you tasted, to the little, old ladies dancing in the streets.
Sorry to break it to you, but after a gap year abroad there is no way you can stay put in your own country for long. The travel bug bites us all and you will soon be itching for a new trip somewhere, anywhere. See step 1.
Are you ready to start planning your own Gap Year abroad?