A gap year will be a once in a lifetime experience, but to live it, first, you have to plan it. Even though they may look similar, a gap year has nothing to do with an Erasmus year. The difference? The Erasmus is more focused on studying and get to experience some months abroad and Gap Year is about experiencing and getting to know yourself.
A gap year is different than Erasmus because you are the only designer of the plan, and guess what? This is the best part! Making the best of it is not really difficult, but you have to have in mind a few essential tips.
When should you take it?
We are always in a rush. Going to college after graduating high school, jumping into a master right after finishing college… Hey! Sometimes it’s more productive to have a break and think about: “Am I doing something because I want to or because I feel like it’s what I have to do?”, “Is this seriously what I want or am I just flowing with the rush?”
In my case, I finished a double degree in Law and Business Management and after 5 years of studying, I decided to take a break before starting anything else. I discovered that I was not the only one feeling a little bit lost and that needing a break is a choice for many people.
So the answer is simple: Take a break when you feel you need it.
Where should you go?
The where is totally up to you and your preferences. You can plan your year in one single country or travel one country to another. The where question is related to your savings and the purpose of your gap year.
You plan on only travel or you also want to work? In case you want to work you have to keep in mind that you’d need to apply for a visa that allows you to do so. It’s an important part, because you have to be realistic and see if you will be able to survive on your savings. Of course, it all depends on the cost of living in the country. Asia should be easier to live on a lower budget whereas living in New Zealand or Australia for one year without working will require more money.
Related article: 6 reasons why we should take a gap year
Should you take it solo or with someone?
This is the most tricky question. Both choices are correct, there is no one better than the other as long as you are doing what you think is best for you.
Taking a gap year solo will provide you with a lot of time to think. A lot of situations that you will have to fix by yourself and also will give you a lot of new friends. On the other hand, going with someone will means sharing and adapting to the other person as well. Sometimes, traveling and living with someone else makes us less sociable.
For how long should you stay?
It has to depend on your needs. It can be from 6 months to 1 year or even 2 years. This is the most thrilling part of buying a one-way ticket.
The thing about the gap year is to let yourself flow for once in your life. Discover the great part of spontaneity! Waking up in a city and going to sleep in a different one, for example. Maybe you will have enough of the trip within 6 months or maybe you will meet new friends and decide to keep travelling together. Maybe you’ll fall in love or maybe the job of your dreams. The best part is not knowing what awaits!
It’s also important to know that, n some cases it won’t depend on you. If you’re looking to work and travelling, a Work Holiday Visa is what you’ll need. Be aware that most of the working holiday visas only allow you to stay in the country for more than 1 year.
Should you buy/rent a car?
It depends on your destination. If you are planning to stay and travel between big cosmopolitan cities in Europe, you can rely on public transportation. Check out Interrail and the various routes they offer and countries that you can visit. On the other hand, if you are planning to go to Australia or New Zealand you should probably buy or rent a car.
As you can see, planning a Gap year only depends on your preferences and on your will to learn and discover. Go out there and get the chance to live abroad, and dive into a different culture, the one that attracts you the most. Our tip to make the best of your gap year? Think deeply and create a mind map about all the questions above!
And remember, if you are planning a Gap Year and you need accommodation, you’ll find the home you’re looking for on Uniplaces.