Are Gap Years Underrated or Just What Everyone Needs Now?

Are you at a crossroads about life after school and pondering whether to delay university and to do a gap-year? Is this a topic in your family? Are there the pro and against gap-year camps? A gap year may be just what everyone needs after the pandemic.

Gap years may invoke images of back-packing travel around the world for students and be considered a waste of precious time by parents. But gap years can be very productive time-outs. A time to gain invaluable skills through work placements and volunteering and, importantly, not to be in the education system for a while.

And gap years are a certainly a popular option for those finishing school in the UK, with between 200,000 and 250,000 young people taking a gap year each year. Gap years are helpful, even when you do not have a whole set of prepared plans for the entire time off. So, what could you do and where?

Hop on a plane and work or volunteer abroad. If you’re thinking of taking the leap into work and/or volunteering abroad, there are some great opportunities and organisations to help you on your way, amongst others:

  •, which is especially dedicated to internships, volunteering and gap year travel.
  • BUNAC are experts in work abroad programs and have extensive experience in offering combined work and travel experiences around the world to young people. Programs such as Internships Abroad, Summer in the States, or Working Holidays involve exciting destinations, including America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. You’ll gain heaps of soft skills, life experience and almost definitely have a good adventure.
  • Camp America is always a popular option for gap-yearers’. It’s a chance to spend 9 weeks living and working in an amazing summer camp in the USA. If that is your thing.
  • Teach in China through the TEFL-based, teaching abroad programme, or The Fewer Things. These programmes offer graduates a ten-month English teaching placement across China. You'll gain valuable work experience along with the opportunity to explore Asia. You don’t need any teaching experience as the programmes are designed with the idea that you are a brand-new teacher. You will gain first-hand experience in lesson planning, classroom management, teaching styles and methods. There are also opportunities for teaching English in other parts of the world of course.
  • Join a range of sustainable volunteer- and internship placements in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where you can travel the world and make a real difference a.o. with Kaya Responsible Travel or
  • The UK Government has a flagship offer for young people aged 18 – 35 to volunteer overseas through the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme. This scheme supports young people to complete 12-week sustainable and locally owned volunteering placements that directly work towards the government’s Sustainable Development Goals. This type of experience may be a real resumé booster, given it has the government’s backing.

Other organisations that can help you plan working and volunteering abroad are, to name a few: Gap Force, Real Gap, The Leap, Volunteer World, and Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO),

Alternatively, there are also lots of UK based volunteering opportunities, from the environment to food poverty, where you can channel your energy into making a positive change in communities at home.

What about work or work placements in the UK? Paid work appears to be the most popular option for those taking a year out, with a whopping 61% saying they wanted time-off to work and earn money. This is, of course, the best way to learn about handling money as well as a chance to gain workplace skills.

There are also a limited number of Internships and exciting opportunities available to school leavers, to gain real professional experience. An example of this is an accounting internship, which usually last a few months in summer. Accounting interns get stuck in, they meet clients, work on ongoing and important cases, and are generally given the opportunity to make a real impact. There’s also the potential to earn some decent money. The average salary for an accounting internship is £19,279 (based on the 5,117 reviews submitted to by students in 2020). Other business and finance internship opportunities can be found on Milkround.

Understandably, it can be quite daunting applying for schemes like these, immersing yourself into the working world with people you’ve never met before and who are likely older than you. But having that experience can stand you in good stead for future employment and help distinguish you from other applicants.

If your parents need convincing, the arguments are rather clear cut: any paid work or volunteer work experience will (1) help make your resumé shine; (2) make you more employable; and (3) give you more of a chance at grabbing a place at your future – dream – university (if you haven’t gotten it yet)

In a gap year you can find your groove through fantastic opportunities and schemes, made just for you. The possibilities are limitless, and you’ll come out at the other end a different person. So, if anything, gap years can be powerful agents for change and as such seem underrated. So, go gap it.

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