Gap yearing abroad - Pro's and Con's & Things To Do


As someone who unintentionally experienced two gap years I am definitely #TeamGapYear! But what are the pro's and con's and what options to go abroad are there?

Anyone who is close to graduating school or university will be asked one and the same question at some point: what's next? Going straight to university/an apprenticeship or taking a gap year or two? This question is not always easy to answer considering all the options that are available nowadays.

When I graduated high school I've moved to Amsterdam and started uni, failed and there I was.. without a purpose. In a country I would have never even considered moving to if it wasn't for school. So I asked myself "What now?" I basically had two options. A) Moving back home or B) finding a job and coming up with a 'What Do I Want To Do With My Life'-plan ASAP! Option A, moving back home, was never really up for debate. Not because my parents wouldn't have let me but because of my big ego. I felt like a failure and I didn't want them to think I can't handle my life. So I spent weeks trying to figure out what I want to do next whilst applying for several jobs in Amsterdam. My parents still thought I was happily going to uni at that point. Eventually I got an interview at Nike. 13 months and tons of experience later I had saved enough money to go traveling for a bit. Back in Europe and now living in Sweden I was a lot more successful than in Amsterdam when it comes to my academic career - and also a lot more mature. Thanks to my gap years.  So what are the pro's and con's ... let's have a look! 

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1.  Money 

You'll probably have a bigger output than input in terms of money depending on what you're choosing to do when going overseas. However, sometimes you have to spend more in order to get more out of it, you know? Save some money just in case.

2.  Loneliness 

Depending on what you are doing, gap-yearing can be lonely. That's not always a disadvantage but can in fact be really helpful. Loneliness is usually seen as a negative thing but sometimes you have to be on your own in order to find out who you are and what you want. Silence is your friend not your foe, however, it can get frustrating. Especially when you go to a country that is really far away from your home country and where people don't really speak any familiar language. Be positive. If you really seek company, you will find it in the most random places and situations.

3.  'Losing' time 

People will probably tell you that you will lose time if you left for new adventures. And while I personally don't agree with this, it might be partially true. I know a lot of people who e.g. ended up going abroad for work 'n travel and ended up not finding jobs, wasting money and time and who returned home earlier. However, I believe that, yet they might have been unsuccessful and things didn't turn out the way they wanted to, their time wasn't wasted. Life is a process and every experience is a lesson - whether they are a good or bad.

4.  Losing '

There's a little risk that you'll be losing friends when going away for a long time. Distance and time difference can be relationship killers. Your true friends will always be with you so don't worry about it too much. It's a good opportunity to learn that friendships or any other kind of relationship are not forever. People come and go but the real ones, your partners in crime, will always be with you - come what may.

5.  Forgetting things you've learned 

One word: revision. Especially when you're on a gap year between two university degrees. You don't want to come home with an empty brain. 

6. Risky Business

As already mentioned above, there is a risk that things won't turn out the way you wanted them to be and you might lose a lot of money. But always keep in mind: your whole life is a risk and nothing is guaranteed. Have some courage! Things will be fine! 

7. Stress

Work 'n Travel can be stressful. There will be times where you won't have a job. There might be times where you won't know where you'll be sleeping the next day. But things will be fine as long as you don't start panicking. 

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1.  Experience

Experiences of all kinds. A new culture, a new language, a new skill, new friends, a new lifestyle... you name it. You won't regret it, I promise. 

2.  New circle of people 

You will meet new people. People you didn't have any relation to before. You will meet new friends - some might turn into friendships for life, others might just be temporary. If you're an introvert you might be a bit uncomfortable at first but chances are high that you will come home from your gap year being more open-minded and outgoing which is definitely helpful for most jobs on the market.

3.  A story to tell 

You don't wanna go to uni and not have a story to tell. The years 
between school and uni or uni and getting a job or between to degrees are the years where you actually have the time to just do whatever you want to. Go and see the world before you settle down - the house, the tree and the dog can wait. But if you choose the latter that's obviously okay too. People are different and going away for a long time isn't everyone's cup of tea.

4.  Money 

If things go well and depending on what you're doing (except for options like volunteering and internships maybe) you will most likely be able to earn enough money to support yourself and be financially independent - yay.

5.  Learning a new skill

Depending on where you are and what you're doing you will most likely come home with a bunch of new skills. Maybe you'll learn how to cook, how to build something, speak a new language or even if it's just an improvement in the way you communicate. I guarantee you, you'll come home with a new skill.

6. It doesn't have to be a year

It's your life! Only wanna go away for 6 months? Do it. Wanna go for two years? Do it. As long as you are financially and mentally okay, why not? There are no rules when it comes to time. 

7. Growing up 

My two gap years
probably constitute the most important time of my life in regard to growing up and I honestly don't know if I'd be the same person today without them. In those two years I've learned to financially support myself, how to do taxes, what it feels like to work 40 to 60 hours per week - anything.

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So in case you are still thinking about going abroad for a year or two, here are ten ideas for what you could do abroad:

1. Internship

This is mostly interesting for people who have already graduated university and not so much for high school students. Internships are the perfect way to finally use your skills that you've acquired at university. Find something that is related to your field, it will look good on your CV and might even be an opportunity to be employed at the company you interned with. Be flexible. Internships abroad are usually very much competitive because they are so popular. Find companies you can identify with and update your CV! Off you go!

2. Travel

If you have enough money in the bank you can just go abroad and travel without working of course. Asia is pretty cheap to travel around to as well as South America. Make a list of countries you want to visit and then check the best route. Book a little ahead and you'll find cheap flight tickets. Also check buses and trains for bordering countries - they are often way cheaper than international flights and you get to see more of the country.

3. Work 'n Travel 

When you go abroad Visa are something really important to consider. 
Work 'n holiday visa are the perfect way to go abroad, earn some money and travel at the same time! 
You can check here for which countries you are eligible to apply: *click*
The most common country for Work 'n Travel is Australia. 

4. Work on an oil rig 

Yes, an oil rig. A lot of companies don't require any experience but be aware that it's really, really tough work, so if you're not in shape or get sea sick easily don't even consider applying. You also have to be a non-smoker. Companies you could apply at are e.g. Derrickman, Safety man, Driller, Assistant Driller, Sub Sea Engineer, Storekeeper, Crane Operator, Mechanic/Electrician, Rig Welder, Barge Engineer, Rig Medic, Toolpusher or Mudman.  

5. Work on a holiday cruise

Fancy working on a cruise ship? Then check this website: *click*
Most cruise ships are reluctant to hire anyone under 21 though. They often have available positions for inexperienced people in the catering sector or kitchen. 

6. Work at Disneyland 

A couple of people I know went to work for Disney World in Orlando FL, USA after graduating high school. You can become a Cultural Representative by applying here *click*

7. Volunteer

Another option to go out in the world is volunteering. There are a bunch of companies who will offer you to pay them and find you a volunteering spot but they'll probably just rip you off. The best way is to find NGOs you can identify with and then just go for it. Make sure you check the Visa requirements before booking your tickets. I've volunteered in Vietnam a couple of years ago and loved it. 

8. Au Pair 

Not so interesting for uni graduates but rather for high school kids. It's a good opportunity to go abroad if you are scared of the unknown because everything will be organized for you. Usually you'll have to find a family by yourself though. I'd recommend to compare several companies online and then pick the one that suits your needs the most. Call them, ask questions. Make sure they don't rip you off. Read reviews, talk to former or even current Au Pairs. Skype with your Au Pair family and see if you click before purchasing your plane tickets. 

Good to know: You are usually expected to have a driver's license. 

9. WWOOFing 

"WWOOF enables people to live and volunteer on a variety of organic properties. Volunteers help on the land and home for 4-6 hours a day and hosts provide the food and accommodation. If you want to have hands on experience, learn and share organic and sustainable ways of living then WWOOF might be for you" (Source: *click*). You can basically WWOOF all over the world, there are over 100 countries to choose from. WWOOF is structured on a national level so there is no central list or organisation. You need to join WWOOF in each of the countries you intend to visit. 

Here are some do's and don'ts for people who are thinking about trying WWOOFing: *click*

10. Teach English 

You have a degree in English or Teaching? You are a native speaker? Great, you have just unlocked yourself another opportunity to go abroad. Teaching English is very popular in countries such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China and some Arab countries. The criteria are different for each country so you'll have to look into each one individually! Sometimes you don't even need a degree. The best thing to do is to read and try to find reviews of people who went abroad to teach English - it'll give you a realistic picture of what to expect rather than just jumping into it without having a clue. 

If you want to teach in South Korea I can recommend the YouTube channel "Eat Your Kimchi" - a Canadian couple who moved to South Korea to teach English yeeeears ago. They have a bunch of videos online that are dealing with this topic (you'll have to go back to their videos from a few years ago since both of them now make money with YouTube only and don't teach anymore). 
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As you can see, there are many, many options available for a lot of different kind of personalities. Take a risk and you'll probably have the most amazing time of your life. 

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