Gap Years: You Learn a New Thing Every Day 

Kind of like studying, but a million times better 

The learning doesn’t stop when you go on a gap year; it just gets a lot more fun. Whether you’ve chosen to take a gap year between studying or working, or you’re forced to thanks to unemployment or failing your exams, now’s the time to really get to learn about the world and your place in it.

Don’t see your gap year as a chance to beach it by day and bar it by night, although obviously they’ll be plenty of that. Going to ‘Gap Year School’ is your chance to work out who you are and maybe even get inspiration for who you want to be. If only all schools could teach art via Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, drama with the Moulin Rouge in Paris and home ec via a class in Vietnam, hey?  

Art and history

You’re sure to see more art galleries and museums on your gap year than you’d ever care to look round at home. All those lessons with your harassed art teacher will come back to you as you enjoy The Scream in Oslo, or the Mona Lisa in Paris. If that’s not your sort of thing, check out the street art in the big cities and the varying architecture everywhere from the Sydney Bridge to the Golden Gate. You could even take a sketch book, if you want to be teacher’s pet. The amount of history you’ll suck up on your gap year will also be unbelievable.   

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Citizenship

Volunteer on your gap year. C’mon, you’ve been given so much opportunity in life, just help someone else who hasn’t. Offer your skills as an English teacher, a childminder or in a local clinic – you’ll learn so much about the people around you, and yourself, than you ever would in a classroom. Travelling the world on your gap year will lead you to meet so many people, your social and moral awareness will thrive.

Drama and music

Volunteering as a teacher on your gap year will help your drama skills no end. Street artists, local shows, Broadway shows and Cabaret around the world (watch out for ping pongs in Thailand) will all improve your drama knowledge. Endless hours on buses will improve your music knowledge, and the amount of singing you’ll do around campfires will no doubt improve even the most tone deaf among us. Before you go learn how to play the guitar, the sitar, or the yukele and you will have the girls/boys flocking to your mad talents.  

Street artist on a gap year

Politics and economics

Anyone travelling the world on a gap year will get to grips with the politics and economics of the countries they visit. Mainly in the concept of how cheap a place is, but also in learning how the financial decisions of a country have affected the local people. Understanding a country’s currency and the reasons behind fluctuations is also a great skill to learn in the great scheme of life.

Politics

Learning how the skewed politics of countries can ruin them, seeing how other leaders lead their countries, the problems other countries have at the top and how this trickles down to the people is so much more understandable if you’re actually in the country. If you do know some of the local lingo then reading the newspapers will reveal a lot of how a different country works to the one you live in.

English

This one is 50/50. Some people – mainly those volunteering as English teachers – will report that their English has improved on their gap year. Having to explain themselves, learn the theory and enjoying the time to catch up on the reading list from school you pretended to read, means you’ve never been a better speaker of your native language. Others find that getting by on basic English and pickling their brains with buckets means the vocabulary they’ve spent 18 years learning has gone out the window. You may also get a twang from somewhere else too.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language on your gap year

Geography

If only geography at school wasn’t all about rocks and volcanoes I may have stood a better chance of being vaguely interested in it. Plotting your route around the world on your gap year will definitely help your location and destination skills. Travelling around you’ll learn about water flow, natural hazards, world development, ecosystems, tourism, weather, populations and agriculture, among many, many other geographical titbits.

ICT

Managing to make Skype and Facebook work on a prehistoric computer in a sweat box of an internet cafe in outer Cambodia will test your computer skills to the limit. Stick that on your CV when it comes to the dreaded job hunt, and you’ll get snapped up.

Languages

Obvs. The best way to learn a language is to fully immerse yourself in it. Whether you’re learning Japanese, Pidgin, or Catalan you’ll brush up much quicker being surrounded by locals to chat to than sitting by yourself with your headphones on repeating insanely, or listening to any language teacher at school. You might want to do a beginner course before you go though.

Languages on a gap year

Maths

Making £50 last a month in Thailand will test your number skills to the max. Add that (get it?) to constantly converting Vietnam dong to GBP, or Aussie $$ to your euros and you my friend will be a super maths champion worthy of Countdown.

Physical education

Would you rather... run up 1,400 steps to the top of Tiger Cave in Southern Thailand or run around the school field in yet another cross country race? See PE is actually fun when you’re on a gap year and not something to pretend you’re on your period for to miss (sorry lads). A spot of tennis in the sun, cycling through Vietnam, watching a Muay Thai boxing match in Thailand or surfing in Australia... the list of ways to keep up with your PE studies on your gap year is endless.

Religious studies

You’re sure to see more temples, churches, mosques, synagogues and religious buildings if you take a gap year than most people see in a life time. You’ll also see first hand how religion has torn countries apart and at  the other end of the spectrum, bought them all together.

Science

  • Physics: from the minute your plane takes off, to the second you do a bungee jump, to the first time you try white water rafting, your knowledge of physics will be second to none.
  • Biology and reproduction: let’s hope you don’t learn too much about that one.
  • Chemistry: oh and that one.