Gap Year Guide

Taking a gap year: what you need to know

If you’re already a resident at Scape, you may be considering a gap year once you’ve graduated and before you settle down into a career. If you’re still at college and haven’t yet decided on a university on the other hand, you may be wondering whether you should fit in a gap year between now and the start of your university studies. If so, Scape is here to help you out and answer a few of the most common gap year questions before you commit to your trip. Don’t go anywhere without reading this guide first!

How much do I need to spend?

Obviously, the cost of your gap year is going to depend on a number of factors: how long you’re going for, what countries you’re going to visit and what sort of accommodation you’d like to stay in, for example. For that reason it’s impossible to tell you the exact amount you should put aside for your gap year, but remember this – however much you think you’re going to need, you’ll end up spending more. There are always things you forget to factor in and costs you don’t anticipate, so give yourself a healthy margin for error and save yourself a lot of trouble along the line. Your flights will be the most expensive, and you’ll have to allow a little bit extra for excursions along the way. There are lots of ways you can save money along the way, such as staying in shared dormitories in hostels. STA Travel has some great advice here, and estimates that most people on a gap year will spend between £3,000 and £5,000 on their travels.

What do I need to bring?

Again, the kinds of provisions you need to bring with you are going to depend on the nature of your destination. Some things, however, are more of a given. You will definitely need a comfortable, well-made pack to hold all of your stuff, and if you’re going to somewhere tropical, you will certainly need mosquito repellent and sunscreen. Comfortable footwear is a must too, as you’ll spend more time walking than you could believe at the moment, and you should bring as many comfortable, practical clothes as you can pack, regardless of where you’re going. The difference between comfort and discomfort is often the difference between an excellent trip and a nightmare. The best advice? Take the essentials but pack light – you’ll almost certainly pick up a tourist shirt or jumper along the way.

Where should I visit?

We’d never tell you where you should visit – that’s up to you – but there are places that you should avoid if you want to have a good time on your gap year. War-torn or impoverished areas are rarely the best travel destinations for young, 1st world tourists, but you’ll have to keep your wits about you just as much in more well-trodden parts of the world. Sticking to the beaten track tends to be a little safer than going exploring, but the best gap year experiences often occur where you least expect them, so be sensible and pick your travel destinations with care and thought. Don’t forget to research the climate of where you’re headed – there’s nothing worse than packing for a place you think will be hot and dry only to find that you’ve arrived in the middle of monsoon season.

Is it a good idea in the first place?

If you’re torn on the idea of taking a gap year, you need to look inside yourself and see what’s best for you. Often gap years can help people to prepare for university, giving them a chance to live away from home and giving them the self-sufficiency needed to live in the real world. Having said that, many others go straight from college to university without any trouble at all. For those who have studied abroad, a gap year in the same country you’ve been learning in can give you a chance to explore those parts that you were too busy to see before. No matter what stage you’re at, a gap year can be a great experience. As well as expanding your CV, it will undoubtedly provide you with valuable life experience and teach you self-confidence and independence – but it will also invariably cost a lot of money. Whether or not to take a gap year is the sort of decision you need to make for yourself, and no-one else can decide for you.

What about volunteering?

IIf you’re not sure what you’d like to do, or you feel as though you’d like to give a little something back, you can always try volunteering when you’re abroad. Many students choose to work on an organised programme, which often allows them to pay upfront to live and eat for free and ensure they’re giving their work where it’s needed most. On the other hand, heading off the beaten track can be a risky strategy, but often comes with its own rewards if you find a community where you can work alongside the residents there. Only you will know which will be the right choice for you, though remember that any risky strategies will have to be rightfully justified to the family and friends at home who might worry about you!

Whether or not you take a gap year before going to university or afterwards, Scape Living's London student accommodation will be waiting for you when you’re ready to enter higher education.

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