Making the most of your gap year: volunteering, work experience, TEFL and language courses
Whether you’re looking to fill a week, a month or a year before university or full-time work, there are plenty of ways for you to spend your time usefully and enjoyably whilst impressing your future employers…
With the academic year coming to a close, now is the time when many young people’s thoughts turn to what to do next. Many graduating from school or university will inevitably be moving onto university or a graduate job. Whether you have a few months or a full year ahead of you before the next chapter, however, there are still plenty of ways for you to spend your time usefully and enjoyably – all whilst satisfying future employers that you have not simply squandered time and money sunning yourself on a tropical beach.
That’s not to say that you have to rule out beach time though. To the contrary, there are some excellent gap experiences to be had on some of the world’s most coveted stretches of coastline: what line of interviewers wouldn’t be impressed with a Spanish-speaking volunteer placement at a turtle hatchery in Costa Rica, a TEFL course in Phuket or professional work experience within a Spanish company in Valencia? As long as you can prove you have learnt and ‘gained’ something – be that a language, a qualification or a skill – it will show that you have used your initiative and spent your time wisely. And no need to mention the spare time you had to relax on the beach outside all of this.
There are even places where you can combine more than one activity. In La Ceiba, Honduras, for example, you can take a Spanish & Volunteer programme which combines learning Spanish with a two-month placement in special education for children with learning difficulties, with the Red Cross or teaching English, to name but a few examples. La Ceiba is also known for being one of the cheapest places in the world to learn how to dive, so volunteers can easily gain their PADI certificate in the warm Caribbean waters during their time here. A few new skills up your sleeve and time well spent, most would agree.
Language and volunteer packages run from 12-20 weeks and are available in countries across Latin America, in a range of different fields including social work, education, healthcare and ecology.
All Language & Volunteer placements >
For a more professional working environment, our work experience language courses are ideal for few months’ stint before or after university. Ranging from 8-16 weeks in duration, they give you the unique opportunity to learn a language and then put your skills to good use on a professional work placement in locations as far ranging as China, Chile and Russia. Available in local companies specialising in fields ranging from design, fashion and marketing to IT and ecology, you are likely to find a placement that will coincide with and give you extra confidence in your future work plans. British citizens taking a work experience course within the Europe Union can also take advantage of being able to work freely should they wish to stay on.
All Language & Work Experience placements >
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) courses are available the world over, from exotic beach destinations to some of the world’s most exciting cities. These are seen as a great way to get paid to see the world, bestowing you the valuable skill of public speaking in addition to a deeper knowledge of the English language and rewarding contact with the locals that you would not otherwise experience. In select destinations you can even add a language course and a week’s chill-out to your CELTA package, such as in Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and Mexico’s Playa del Carmen – the language element making a real difference to your experience and subsequent teaching job in your host country. The only thing is, you might not want to come back…
Language / Language & Activity Courses
Of course the mere act of taking a language course is sufficient to gain a new skill – regardless of whether you combine it with a volunteer or work placement. Some gap year students choose to take a long-term language course to ensure they achieve a decent level in the language during their time away; you can either choose from one of hundreds of language courses or, at the upper end, enroll on an Academic Year course which particularly suits those with long-term aims in the language.
Other students opt for a Language & Activity course, a popular choice which combines learning a language with a fun local activity such as diving, surfing, dancing, music, cooking, wine tasting, painting or photography. A great way to share your passion with others from across the globe and come back having learnt a lot more than just the language, an activity course can fill just one or several weeks, acting as a ideal stepping stone before you settle down to full-time work or studies.
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