Gap Year Courses
There comes a time in most people’s lives when they wonder what they’re going to do next. For most people, it’s when they leave high-school, college or university.
For perhaps the last time in their life they’ll be free of commitments and constraints (such as a mortgage, children, a job, etc) meaning it can be a good time to take a gap year.
But what if you’re planning on going to college/university and you don’t want to lose academic momentum (i.e. you don’t want to turn into a lazy bum)?
Taking a course during your gap year allows you to stay in that educational mindset whilst also being able to take some time off and experience the world.
Gap year courses are particularly good when combined with traveling and/or working abroad.
There are dozens of different types of gap year courses that you can, with the most common involving learning a language.
Gap year courses can last anywhere from one week to a whole year, although the most common course length of time is around two to three months.
Why Take a Course During Your Gap Year?
By taking a course during your gap year you’re investing in yourself and you’re improving and expanding your skills and knowledge.
Gap year courses abroad allow you to combine learning with traveling to give you the best of both worlds, and as well as learning about your course you’ll also be learning about other cultures and how other people live.
Most gap year courses are run in groups, so you’ll meet new people and make lifelong friends.
In addition to this, picking up extra skills and qualifications (by completing courses) during your gap year is looked upon extremely favorably by universities/colleges and employers, as it shows great initiative, confidence, maturity and a willingness to learn.
The fact that you’ve organized yourself and taken a course during your gap year will make your CV stand out in a pile of job applications, especially if the course you took relates at all to the job you’re applying for (although don’t worry if it doesn’t).
Of course, you can take a course ANYTIME, but a gap year is certainly the ideal time to do so. Once you start working full-time, settle down and have kids you might find that the thought of going away for 3 months and training to become a ski instructor seems virtually impossible.
Deciding What Gap Year Course to Do
Once you’ve decided that you want to take a course, all you have to do is decide what you want to study and where you want to study it (more on ‘where’ later).
There are hundreds of different types of gap year courses available to you; such as language courses, business skills and IT courses, sports and outdoor courses, creative arts courses (such as travel writing or cookery), ski instructor courses, tourist guide courses, and more.
If you have know what university/college course you want to do at the end of your gap year, or what industry you want to work in, it can be a good idea to take a course that will enhance your future career prospects or studying at higher education.
Unless you’ve got a burning passion to do something particular (such as a cookery class in Thailand) a smart idea is to do a course that will help you get a job abroad after you’ve finished (i.e. for the rest of your gap year).
For example, taking a ski instructor course will help you to work as a ski instructor for the rest of the year, or training as a jackaroo in Australia will make it easy to get a job working on a farm.
Language courses are by far the most popular of all gap year courses. What’s better than taking an Italian language course in Italy or a French language course in France and soaking up the rich culture as you live there?
If you’re not sure which language to learn, I recommend sticking to one that’s spoken commonly by lots of people. Spanish is a great one as it’s spoken across 23 countries by over 300 million people.
Learning the language of another country enables you to get literally hundreds of different kinds of jobs that you wouldn’t be able to normally (such as working in office and doing all manner of things).
Sports and Outdoor Courses
Having a recognized sports qualification will inevitably make finding work in the field much easier. Whether you aim to teach tennis, football, soccer, hockey, sailing or whatever, doing a sports course enables you to use your skills all around the world (as sport is so universal).
Ski Instructor Courses
There are now more courses than ever available for aspiring ski/snowboard instructors and they can be found in locations all around the world (such as Canada, New Zealand, the USA, Austria, and basically where people go skiing).
Taking a cookery course is one of the most valuable things you can do as food is such a major part of everyday life.
Taking a cookery courses can greatly increase your chances of finding employment both at home or abroad, and your new found cookery skills will make you the envy of your friends and family.
Having a catering certificate opens up a whole new world to you, as you’ll be able to find employment on private yachts, at ski resorts and anywhere a private chef may be required.
Although I have outlined the main courses here, the possibilities are practically endless. Other popular pursuits include wildlife conservation courses and literary courses (such as travel writing courses). Whatever you’re interested in – chances are there’s a course out there for you.
Deciding Where to Study
Once you’ve decided what gap year course you want to study, all you have to decide is where you want to study it.
This may already be partially decided for you, as some courses are only available in certain areas. For example, if you’re doing a language course than it’s best to go to a country that speaks that language you want to learn. For example, if you’re learning Spanish you could go to Argentina, Costa Rica or Spain (among others).
In addition to deciding which country you want to study in, you’ll also have to choose a particular school/location to study at. This is where agencies come in useful for help you decide (see the next section)…
How to Book Your Gap Year Course
When booking a course (particularly a language course in a country that doesn’t speak predominantly English) you can either book directly (usually with the school that’s running the course) or go through an agency.
The benefits of using an agency are that they’re easy to get hold of (as they’ll typically be located in your home country) meaning it’s easy to talk to them about what you want to do and what your requirements/limitations are.
Agencies will often be able to book your entire course for you (including your accommodation and visas) and they’ll be able to help if you have any problems whilst you’re abroad, making them highly recommended for first-time travelers.
The only real downside of using an agency to book your gap year course is that it’ll be more expensive than booking directly.
Not using an agency means you’ll run the risk of booking with a less than desirable school in a potentially distasteful part of town. Agencies on the other hand will be linked to all the best schools and will be able to guide you accordingly.
However you do decide to do things, make sure to ask these basic questions before booking:
- What’s exactly is included in the price?
- How far is my accommodation from the school (and how will I get there and back)?
- Roughly how large are the classes (i.e. how many students)?
- Where do most of the other students come from?
- What’s the average age of the typical student?
- Are there exams?
Funding Your Gap Year Course
Gap year courses can be pretty expensive – there’s no denying it. You’ll have to pay for your flights, accommodation and living expenses in addition to your tuition fees.
So how much should you budget? It’s hard to say as it depends a lot on where you’re going and how long your course is. Saying that, for a 3 month course (i.e. the average length) most people will spend around $4000 (£2500).
For more information, check out this post on fundraising your gap year.
- The Top Websites for Planning a Gap Year
- Will a Gap Year Change Your Life?
- The Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking a Gap Year
- Finding Work Experience Placements During Your Gap Year
- Parents: Is a Gap Year Spent Volunteering Good for Your Teenager?
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