Life often goes at such a fast pace that…
Well first of all, why wouldn’t you want to swap your desk with a beach in Thailand or the table mountain in Capetown?
One very clever man, called Henry David Thoureau, once said:
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
So let’s begin with my story:
During the last half term of my school year I started looking for something that I wanted to do after school. Taking a break after school wasn’t an option for me, because I said to myself that I don’t want to lose a year. Having travelled to London quite often, I decided that I would love to go to a university in the UK. For European students the Scottish universities are free, since the government funds the course. So I started sending out applications, not really knowing what I wanted to study exactly. Being quite good in business studies and politics in school, I decided that those subjects seem quite useful, so I applied for “Economics and International Relations” at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and got into the course. The university is one of the oldest in the English speaking world and really beautiful, so I decided to move to Scotland and do the course. Don’t get me wrong I loved student life there, but very soon into the course I realized that economics wasn’t the right subject for me, I didn’t feel passionate about it and the idea of doing that course for four whole years seemed horrible to me. Being too proud to admit that I made the wrong choice I stuck with the course until December despite being very unhappy with it. I was getting really depressed, so after speaking to my dad I decided that the right thing to do was going back to Germany. There I immediately sent out applications for different subjects to quite a few universities, though I still did not quite know what I was aiming for. Then an opportunity came up that I could work in a resort on a small island in Malaysia doing guest relations and within three days of hearing about the job I packed my suitcase and took a flight to Malaysia.
I got the chance to work in a beautiful environment, getting the chance to talk to guest from all over the world and really enjoyed it. I had a lot of time to think what I really wanted to do and discovered where my strengths are. I started writing a travel blog and really enjoyed that as well (and I genuinely hope you enjoy reading it.)
So after a few months into that I made the decision that I want to pursue a longtime dream of mine: I always wanted to work as a flight attendant. So why not try to land a job with an airline? I got invited for an interview and they were really interested in the work I did in the resort in Malaysia and what I learned there. After a week I received a call that the interview was successful and got told when the flight attendant training starts.
From there I have to say it has been an amazing journey: I met so many interesting people and got the chance to see some really beautiful countries (Dominican Republic,Cuba, Barbados, Puerto Rico, USA, UK, Maldives, Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, Brazil and there are many more to come). I am studying Media and Communication at an online university and focusing on journalism and publishing because I enjoy writing. Now I can say that I haven’t regretted any of my choices. I found my path and couldn’t be happier at the moment.
Fun times in Malaysia
Exploring the world as a flight attendant.
- So what have I learned from those experiences?
- What works for someone else might not be the right thing for you!
- If something doesn’t feel right, it might be the best to not continue. Talk to people who know you and seek for advice! Even if it is not easy, try to change something.
- Leaving your comfort zone gives you strength and makes you confident
- A year of gaining experiences is not a year lost. You will find out what you are good in and maybe you find a way to turn your skills in a career.
- Hard skills and soft skills are equally important for an employer. If you have spent a year abroad doing something useful, this will be an advantage and makes your CV more interesting.
- You will get to know a country and the culture in a way, you wouldn’t as a tourist on holiday
- You meet inspiring people from all over the world and make friends for life
- You will grow as a person being on your own, maybe learning a new language and gaining new skills
To sum it up the positive definitely outweighs the negative (if there are any negative aspects at all?). The best time to do a year abroad is now! You will not lose a year, but spend a year making lots of new experiences and after that you can focus on your job or studies without thinking that you missed out on something. Maybe you will completely change your mind what you want to do or you be reassured that what you had in mind is exactly what you want to do.
So what options do you have?
Australia and New Zealand are really popular places to go on a working holiday. Getting a visa is relatively easy and there are a lot of job options. An advantage is also that those countries are English speaking countries, so there aren’t any language barriers. You can decide how much time you want to spend working and how much time you want to spend traveling in those beautiful countries. If you do farm work for 90 days, you can even extend your visa for another year. After that, it is quite common with a lot of people I have met to travel to South East Asia. You will have earned good money and will also get your taxes refunded, so it makes it relatively easy to travel in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam… with relatively little money for months.
Unfortunately there are still a lot of countries which are really poor and a lot of people that don’t have access to medication, education and clean water. There are a lot of organizations out there that are trying their best to change those conditions and help. Volunteers are always needed and your help can make a difference to a lot of people. You won’t get paid most of the time, but the experiences you make and the thought that you could do something to help is a reward in itself. If you want to volunteer, there are a lot of options available- teaching English, building schools, working in an orphanage, rebuilding a village after a natural disaster or doing environmental projects. Just be sure that you chose a responsible, trustworthy organization. There are some projects funded by the government that sponsor you which are really good. Be aware that some companies offer some “fun volunteering projects” where you have to pay a lot of money for them, but which aren’t really making a difference.
Also there are quite a few volunteering options in your own country you could look for. For example you could help in a retirement home or do projects with disabled people.
This you could do either in your home country or abroad. If you get the chance to do one abroad I would go for that. You get the chance living in a different country and might be able to learn a language and get to know the country.
After coming out of school or university, you might not know what you want to do. Applying for several internships and getting the chance to experience different work environments will help you to get a realistic insight in a the jobs (no, working in a hospital is not like you saw it in Greys Anatomy and no working in advertising is not all glamorous) and will help you to make your decision what you want to do in the future. Furthermore Internships do look good in a CV when you are applying for a “proper job” and for some courses at university it is even a must that you have worked in that field already.
Working as an au pair
As an au pair you get the chance to live with a family in a foreign country. Mostly both parents are working, so you are there to help with the children. You will bring them to school or kindergarten, help with homework, play with them and bring them to bed. Sometimes you might be asked to help with the domestic work. The good thing being an au pair, if you like children, is that you will be able to get an insight how families live in that country and you will have to adapt to that culture, maybe learn to speak a new language and get more independent. The family will provide you with accommodation and food and you will get pocket money that you can spend on your days off exploring the country or travel elsewhere. The au pair network is really big, so it will be quite easy to find a family and also look for other au pairs close to you that you can hang out with.
As you can see there is a lot to choose from and I hope that I could help you with that article to reinforce your decision to do a gap year. If you have done one already comment below. I would love to hear about the experiences you made.