Great Gap Experiences

A few years ago, Gap Years were something of a rarity. You went to school, then to university, then into work where you stayed for the next forty years. Nowadays they are increasingly becoming the norm, and employers look upon them far more favourably than they used to. To make the most of their time many people now look for voluntary or paid work abroad which gives fantastic experience of living as a citizen of the country. In this blog we have rounded up some of the best opportunities.

Coaching children
If there is a particular sport you have grown up with or if you are musical or artistic, passing your knowledge on to new learners is very rewarding, and great experience if you are planning on teaching or other youth work as a career.

Gap Sports offer worldwide placements coaching sports, mostly to disadvantaged children. You need not be a qualified coach; enthusiasm is far more important. Also on offer are placements for clinical and care staff, and in physiotherapy – great if these are your career aspirations. You will be expected to pay for your flights plus allow at least £1000 for arrangement fees.

A more affordable option is to work at a summer camp in the United States, where thousands of children spend their summers. Your flights are paid for by the camp you work for (you will almost certainly have to work out your entire contract for this however) and admin fees are much lower than those charged for voluntary placements. You may even have a bit of time at the end of your placement to travel further. You generally need to be available for 8-9 weeks from May/June so this could also be done during university summer holidays. It’s hard work – and you may encounter some real brats! – but very rewarding and lifelong friendships can be made.

Conservation projects
With increasing concern over environmental issues, you may feel a leaning towards volunteering in this area. www.greenforce.org has a wide range of projects including marine conservation (some packages include a scuba diving course), wildlife monitoring, or community projects such as working in orphanages. Conservation work is particularly highly regarded by veterinary colleges, and with competition for places being fierce this could give you an advantage over other candidates. Expeditions last from 1 week to 12 months.

A new career
Some projects abroad enable you to obtain a qualification that you can use in the future, such as being a ski instructor, diving instructor or a lifeguard. These are not cheap, but enable you to learn the trade in some of the best surroundings and if you make a long-term career out of it, you can eventually recoup your initial investment.

Insuring your trip
If you are going abroad for your gap year you will need travel insurance as even a trip to hospital for something minor can leave you seriously out of pocket. It is very important to check in your policy wording that you are covered for any activities that you may be undertaking. If your plans might involve manual work, read your policy wording as most policies exclude cover if you are involved in any kind of manual work. If it’s not clear, don’t assume you are covered – ring your travel insurance provider to check!

24/7 travel insurance offers worldwide cover for a six-month worldwide adventure from just £63.73* including cover for a wide range of activities.

* Includes Insurance Premium Tax based on an adult aged under 35 taking out a 24/7 travel insurance “Standard” Backpacker policy for 6 months for Worldwide travel. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (August 2008) and are subject to change.