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I Want a Gap Year: What Should I Consider?

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I Want a Gap Year: What Should I Consider?

What is a gap year and what options do I have? A gap year isn't just a pause; it's an opportunity for personal growth and exploration. It's a chance for students and professionals, just like you, to discover new passions and establish their own paths in life. So let’s have a look at where this path could lead you.

Understanding the Gap Year

A gap year typically lasts for around a year (hence the name). It allows people to take a break after high school and before following an academic path or starting their career.  It's a crucial time when you get the chance to reevaluate your goals, try out alternative routes, and gain valuable experiences. These moments will make you grow as a person and will help you figure out what the next steps for you might be. When searching for gap year options you will most likely land on one of the many pages offering gap year programs where you have to pay for the organisation or your stay abroad. But this is not necessary, with a bit of planning you can perfectly move abroad on your own and save yourself that money for an extra adventure in Spain, Portugal or Greece.

Timing and Financial Considerations

Let's face it: taking a gap year isn't always glamorous and exciting. The financial side can easily become too much to handle. Travelling abroad may sound like a dream come true, but in reality, it requires a lot of work before you can even think about packing your bags.

It is important to understand that taking a gap year involves more than just buying a plane ticket before giving in to your international desires. From living costs to unforeseen emergencies, the bills may sum up quickly. That’s why many people choose to work abroad to counteract the expenses.

Exploring Gap Year Options

So, let’s have a look at the most popular possibilities during a gap year, that will give you memories to last a lifetime:

1. Becoming an Au Pair:

Immerse yourself fully in a new culture while gaining valuable childcare experience. Au pairing offers a unique opportunity to fully understand a different culture and learn directly from the locals, you will be exposed to another language, you will have to adapt to customs, and get the chance to build meaningful connections. However, you should start your search early to find a great family match.

Pros of Becoming an Au Pair

  • Cultural exchange: As Au Pair you will have a very unique deep dive into the local culture and will learn first-hand how local families function.

  • An opportunity to travel: Working as an au pair means that you have the opportunity to travel somewhere without having to pay as much, rooms and meals will be provided while being provided with a small salary. 

  • Personal growth:Living independently in a foreign country, coming across cultural differences, and taking care of children can be challenging, but it also creates personal growth and development. You'll become more adaptable, resilient, and independent through the experiences you come across.

  • Develop spoken and written language: While you live with your family, the chances that you will be speaking the local language or English are very high. This regular practice is perfect for developing your skills.

Cons of Becoming an Au Pair

  • Working days: The days or hours you work while being an au pair will be different for everyone, this depends on the family preferences and willingness to adapt to your schedule. The maximum work hours per week are 45, and per day it can be a maximum of 10 hours.

  • Loss of privacy: You may or may not already think about it, but being an au pair means that you will be living in the house of your au pair family. This means that you will have less privacy than you may be used to. The children can enter your personal space sooner than you might think ;)

  • Longer adjustment period: You may experience difficulties with adjusting to your host family's habits when it comes to raising children or household chores. Or it could be that the family where you end up has different religious opinions on subjects which don’t align with yours or speak the language less well than expected.

  • Bigger emotional investment: Becoming an au pair makes you become really close to the family you are with. You get to know their habits and personal strengths and weaknesses. Which can make it hard to leave your family when you eventually have to go home.

2. Travelling Abroad:

Start a journey of discovery by exploring diverse cultures and landscapes. While the attraction of travelling is undeniable, thorough planning is essential to manage expenses effectively. Research destinations, budget for accommodations, and anticipate unforeseen costs to make the most of your adventure. This is an option that has its pros and cons where you will see a lot and will meet like-minded internationals but it might also limit you in getting to know another culture in depth and connect with locals.

Pros of Travelling Abroad:

  • Cultural Immersion: You have the opportunity to immerse yourself in different cultures, traditions, and languages, broadening your perspectives and understanding of the world.

  • Building Connections: Travelling helps you to meet people from diverse backgrounds and connect with locals and fellow travellers, fostering friendships and valuable relationships for a lifetime.

  • Expanded Perspectives: Experiencing different cultures and ways of life broadens your perspectives, fostering empathy, tolerance, and understanding towards others.

  • Adventure and Exploration: Travelling satisfies your sense of adventure and curiosity, allowing you to explore hidden gems, go on exciting adventures, and create stories that you will keep remembering forever.

Cons of Travelling Abroad:

  • Cost: Travelling abroad can be expensive, considering costs such as accommodation, food, transportation, and activities. Budgeting and financial planning are essential to be sure you can afford your trip.

  • Language Barrier: Communication can be challenging in countries where you don't speak the language fluently. This can lead to misunderstandings, difficulty navigating, and feeling isolated in unfamiliar surroundings.

  • Culture Shock: Adjusting to a new culture and way of life can be overwhelming, leading to culture shock. This may manifest as feelings of frustration, homesickness, or disorientation as you try to adjust to your new environment.

  • Health and Safety Concerns: Travelling abroad exposes you to different health risks, such as foodborne illnesses, infectious diseases, or accidents, especially when you travel outside of Europe. Additionally, safety concerns such as crime or political instability may exist in some destinations, depending on the country or city you travel to.

3. Volunteering:

Make a difference by dedicating your time to worthwhile causes. Volunteering, whether in environmental protection, community development, or foreign help, allows you to make a meaningful contribution to society while also learning essential skills. Be aware that you will not earn any money, so planning your finances ahead of time is important for this unique experience.

Pros of Volunteering

  • Sense of Fulfilment: Volunteering provides a sense of fulfilment by contributing to a cause or community in need. The act of giving back can boost self-esteem and satisfaction.

  • Making a Difference: As a volunteer, you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on individuals, communities, or causes they care about. Whether it's helping those in need, supporting environmental initiatives, or contributing to social justice efforts, volunteers play a crucial role in effecting change.

  • Building Connections: Volunteering allows you to connect with like-minded individuals who share your passions and values. Building networks and relationships with fellow volunteers, community members, and organisations can lead to friendships, collaborations, and future opportunities.

  • Personal Growth: Volunteering challenges you to step outside your comfort zone, learn new things, and gain a deeper understanding of different perspectives and experiences. It promotes personal growth, empathy, and cultural awareness.

Cons of Volunteering

  • Time Commitment: Volunteering often requires a longer time commitment, which may be challenging to balance with other responsibilities such as work, school, or family responsibilities.

  • Emotional Investment: Volunteering can be emotionally demanding, especially when you are working with vulnerable populations or in challenging environments. Seeing people suffering or facing setbacks can lead to feelings of burnout, continuous tiredness, or emotional exhaustion.

  • Financial Costs: Volunteer opportunities are unpaid, on top there may still be associated costs such as transportation, supplies, or program fees. These expenses can be too much for volunteers, especially if you have limited financial resources.

  • Boundary Issues: As a volunteer you may struggle to maintain boundaries between your volunteer work and personal life, leading to feelings of overextension or burnout. It's important to establish clear boundaries and prioritise self-care while volunteering.

4. Work Abroad:

Turn your gap year into a professional opportunity by working abroad. Beyond earning income, working in a different country facilitates cultural immersion, personal growth, and career development. Let’s face it these are not the most attractive jobs, but they pay the bills while you enjoy life in a dream location. It’s an easy and safe way to set foot in a new country. 

Pros of Work Abroad

  • Working in Your Mother Tongue: Working abroad doesn’t always mean learning a new language. Many countries offer jobs for European language speakers (especially German, Dutch, and Nordics) ande make it super easy for employees with relocation packages and extra benefits like language classes and meal vouchers.

  • Career Advancement: Working abroad can offer valuable professional development opportunities, including gaining international work experience, learning new skills, and expanding your professional network. This experience can develop your resume and open up new career opportunities.

  • Networking Opportunities: Working abroad provides opportunities to build a global network of contacts and connections, both professionally and personally. Networking with colleagues, clients, and local professionals can lead to new friendships, collaborations, and career prospects which can be really valuable for your future career.

  • Travel Opportunities: Living and working abroad often comes with the opportunity to explore new destinations and travel during your free time. You can visit nearby cities, landmarks, and cultural sites, improving your travel experiences and creating lasting memories.

Cons of Work Abroad

  • Language Barrier: Working in a foreign country where you're not fluent in the local language can present communication challenges, both professionally and socially. Misunderstandings and language barriers may affect your job performance or interactions with colleagues.

  • Social Integration: Building social connections and establishing a support network in a new country can take time, especially if you're unfamiliar with the local traditions and social norms. Adjusting to a new social environment may feel isolating or overwhelming in the beginning.

  • Homesickness: Being away from family, friends, and familiar surroundings can trigger feelings of homesickness, particularly during holidays or significant events. Dealing with homesickness while adapting to a new work environment can be emotionally challenging.


Convinced that you want to earn money while living abroad? 

You came to the right place! 

As a recruitment agency, we can help you find a job in your native language. Are you ready?

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