Monday, 20 March 2017 10:12

Gap years - they're popular but are they worth it?

It appears that more and more students are looking into the idea of taking a gap year and/or taking time out for travelling during the course of their studies as graduate jobs and the likelihood of getting a job quickly becomes ever more scarce.

Many students see the saturated jobs market and the tough employment times as the ideal time to go travelling and see the world – they believe that a year out gives them time to reflect, gives them time to gain some extra life experience and ultimately could be the only time in their life that they have little baggage enabling them to enjoy the world without any stresses or worries. Sounds bliss doesn’t it? It makes you question why more students don’t take time out to see the world whether it be a gap year or on completion of studies.

Well actually it may not be the wisest decision when you take into account finances and the true cost of upping and leaving.

Many students believe that taking time out to see the world will show potential employers that they have the drive to do things out of the ordinary, that they have a zest for life and that they have experience of other cultures. This, of course, would be impressive at interview but is it enough of a good thing to overwhelm the fact that taking time out can be ludicrously expensive?

Unless you are lucky and have parents that are willing to fund a trip abroad, you will have to get a job whilst at university to save up for flights, accommodation and general travelling expenses – if you are going to go travelling you want to be able to see all the sights and not worry about money. You will want to be able to do everything on your dream list. The amount of money that you will have to save will be substantial to say the least. This is where you may start questioning whether the trip is financially worth it. When you look at the money that you need to save in order to be fully covered for a trip abroad, the same amount could potentially help towards getting a first car or could even go towards a first mortgage, so in that respect you could be forgiven for thinking that the money could be spent a little wiser on things with more of a long term value. Imagine if when you arrived back from your gap year house prices had started to rise with some speed and the money that you spent on your gap year would’ve got you on the property ladder last year and set you up for life? It’s a hard decision but is one that needs to be thought through with your head as opposed to your heart.

There are many ways of financing a gap year should you be intent on taking time out though. As well as working a part time job, you could do sponsored walks or runs or host quiz nights - this will limit the amount of money that you are borrowing.

When you are travelling you could also try and do a bit of work experience to bolster your work profile even whilst you are away. If you are staying in a city for a number of weeks you could offer to do a bit of work experience which will not only look good on your CV,  but it will show that you are dedicated and using initiative too.

If you wanted to take it a step further you could also get a part time job whilst you are away – this will help you money wise when you get home as you will be able to earn and then take the money back to the UK to help you settle back down when your travels are over.

Ultimately it is a personal choice and a lot of circumstances determine whether travelling is the best for your personal situation. 

If you have finished university and have scoured around for jobs to no avail then it is understandable that you may want to take the opportunity to see the world and come back with a fresh perspective and fresh ideas.

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