Most people finish their A-levels and continue straight to university without even stopping to think if it's the right decision. We often get the impression that all that matters in today's world is education, qualifications and awards, but life is about much more than that - it's a journey of knowledge, not the kind you learn in a classroom, but the knowledge you gain from life experience and travelling. Taking a gap year can help you discover more about yourself, your skills and your abilities, which could benefit your future self. Here is a bit of advice for those struggling to answer the question: "To go or not to go?"
Ask yourself the obvious questions
Before making the big decision you might want to ask yourself the question: "Do I know what I want to do?" Is it university? Is it an apprenticeship? Or are you ready to just start working? Not knowing the answers to these questions is likely to result in a rushed decision. Many youngsters follow their classmates by applying to university without thinking it through. So keep in mind that the world offers much more than academic studies and a gap year could help you discover what's out there. By volunteering abroad you get to step out of your comfort zone and test your skills in chosen areas. Frontier offers a wide range of projects ideal for those wishing to find out more about themselves and their aspirations for the future, whether it's working with animals, pursuing adventure sports abroad or becoming a part of a building project in Africa.
It's not illegal to have some fun
Even though our parents want the best for us, their advice might not always be the best. So when they warn you about taking a gap year, take some time to reflect for yourself before writing it off. Sometimes it's okay to have some fun and in your early adulthood it's important to test your own limits and try something a little different. Not just because it can help you grow as a person, but because it's simply too fun to miss out on. Of course, you might not have the money to just rush out and pay for expensive flights, so you are likely to end up working before starting your adventure - but working can be fun too - it's all what you make out it.
Gain valuable experience for you - not for your CV
We constantly hear the word CV, even before we have entered the work force, and even though it might be important, it's not everything. Deciding to travel abroad during a gap year to volunteer or work shouldn't be something you do to look good on a CV - you should do it because you want to, because you have a desire to see the world and embrace other cultures whilst giving something back. Frontier offer a variety of fun projects, not just work but also adventure travels and help for first-time travellers who go abroad for the very first time. We are all different. Whilst some of us are daredevils, other travellers need a bit more support the first time they cross the ocean alone.
An opportunity to test your desired job field
You might be one of those who have a fairly good idea about what you want to do with your life. However, sometimes our dream jobs turn out to be different than we imagined which is why it might be a good idea to test yourself before making your final choice. By taking a gap year you get to gain experience in your desired field, either at home or abroad. If you are an aspiring journalist without any real experience, Frontier offers journalism programs abroad for those wishing to write for English papers. Are you curious about teaching you could volunteer as an English teacher, or perhaps test your thirst for adrenaline kicks by embarking on an adventurous journey into the wild?
Embrace failure and boost confidence
Life is a roller coaster. We all know the saying and it's cliché for a reason - because life is in fact bit unpredictable sometimes. Entering the adult world can be a shock, especially after having spent years protected from the challenges lurking around the corners of the real world. But failure is not always a bad thing. They make us who we are- and the sooner we experience it, the sooner we start growing as people. During a gap year you get to face a lot of new things: work, travel, money issues, adjusting to new environments and meeting new people. Sometimes things don't go according to plan and you might fail, but this is all a part of the journey and if you embrace it, it will leave you more confident.
See the world from a new angle
Travelling is fun, exciting and sometimes hard. You push yourself and might find yourself far away from home in a place with a different culture, an experience that can make you a more rounded person: You become more accepting of different ways of life. This is beneficial in a world that is becoming increasingly globalised - and if you do decide to go to university, it's likely to benefit you as a student as it increases your understanding of some of the complex issues the world is facing today. You will end up seeing things from a new perspective in a way that only travel experience can teach you.
Still not tempted by a gap year? Well, travelling does not have to take up a whole year. Save up and go abroad during the summer before starting your work, apprenticeship, studies or whatever you have planned.
Check out 'Into the Wild' for more articles like this.
Ben Church is an Online Journalism Intern for Frontier, a non-profit conservation NGO that helps people plan their gap year with over 300 opportunities to volunteer abroad and take part in adventure travel across the globe.