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Will Potterton of Leavers Hoodies Company looks at the options available for college leavers who plan to embark on a gap year in 2018.

College and university leavers often choose to take a year off before committing to further study or entering the working world. Who can blame them? A gap year is a chance to explore new countries, expand skill sets and have life experiences.

Deciding whether to commit to further study or focus on the first steps of a career is enough to send most into a spin, but a gap year gives time to reflect on options. Experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and breaking comfort zones gives school leavers a new outlook on their life plans with many returning with a different mind-set of what they want to do with their lives.

For those jumping headfirst into a gap year, every year there seems to be new opportunities available. Here are some options that can be recommended to students considering a gap year in 2018:

Teach abroad

For a familiar structure to the day but from an entirely new perspective, students can have a go at being a teacher abroad.

Teaching English as a foreign language is a popular choice for those on a gap year. Schools around the world teach children English as a second language from a young age and most will jump at the chance to have a native speaker on campus. It’s a win-win situation, they get your knowledge and you get to entwine travel with work.

Teaching abroad is an experience that gives a new perspective on life and strengthens skills needed for a future career. There are lots of gap year teaching opportunities available in countries including Bali, Costa Rica, Fiji, Madagascar and Peru.

Animal conservation

According to Endangered Earth, there are currently 41,415 species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, 16,306 of which are threatened with extinction. For the animal lover, a year dedicated to enriching the life of animals they are passionate about is a fulfilling experience.

A quick search into the type of programmes that college and university leavers can get involved in include:

  • Manatee conservation in Belize
  • Sea turtle conservation in Kenya
  • Bear tracking in Sweden
  • Desert elephants projects in Namibia
  • Amazon Basin research in Peru
  • Ocean research intern projects in South Africa

Start a business

If a student has been sitting on a business idea for some time, a gap year can be the perfect time to start a business. It might seem a risk but that's what being an entrepreneur is all about. Taking the initiative to start a business whilst on a gap year can be the start of a career doing something they are passionate about. The best thing about this option is that students can even start a business whilst travelling!

Build a school

Whether students loved or hated their years in education, helping others who are less fortunate achieve an education by taking part in a school building project is extremely rewarding.

From Tanzania to Nepal, Ghana to the Philippines, there are so many countries that are in need of support for building classrooms. By doing so, those on a gap year will get to see new parts of the world whilst making a difference.

Go on an adventure

If the thought of spending time abroad appeals but there is no desire to teach or work then the classic adventure is a must. This type of adventure will depend on budgets but the experience will be well worth saving for.

At their age, students will have spent most years of their lives surrounded by the same people. Now may be the perfect time to get out of their comfort zones and explore something entirely new. With a mixture of exhilarating experiences and time away from everything else, working out future plans can become that bit easier.

Try Rio at carnival time, India at Diwali or Australia over Christmas and New Year for a truly different life experience.

Put time into a hobby

A year off can give students time to commit to a hobby. We all know what it’s like in the modern day, trying to find the time to enjoy the things we like most.

Even better – by having a hobby as a full-time job for a year, the student will increase their skill in the area.

Who knows? They might be able to turn their hobby into a profession. If they enjoy writing, they could write a novel or a poetry book and if they enjoy painting, time could be spent visiting art galleries, getting inspiration and selling their own work.

Get a job

When you think of a gap year, students’ minds will most likely race to thoughts of exploration and adventure in foreign terrain. Getting a job is an obvious option, but not necessarily one most college and university leavers connect with a gap year.

Getting a job on a gap year might not seem like a whole lot of fun but earning money for a year stands students in good stead before starting university. Similarly, getting a job will help students decide what they do and don’t want to do, especially if a job can be found in an industry they’re interested in.

Will Potterton, Director, Leavers Hoodies Company

About Will Potterton: Will is Director of leavershoodiescompany.co.uk, a company which provides high quality, personalised leavers hoodies to the teachers and parents of school leavers, as well as directly to the students themselves.

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