A Travelling Gap Year
There are plenty of exciting opportunities to take a year out, travel, see the world and perhaps do some voluntary work at the same time.
Not surprisingly, opinions vary on the value of taking a gap year abroad in a difficult economic climate, especially as it's likely to cost quite a bit. So take advice, listen to the arguments, and remember that everyone's individual circumstances are different - only you can make the decision.
There are many different types of travel for a gap year. An internet search for 'gap year' will give you plenty of useful websites to browse for inspiration, advice and trips to book. Have a look at Year Out Group as a start.
If you not only want to see the world but help out too, this could be for you. There are many organisations around the world that desperately need young people to help with community projects, medical aid programmes or work with endangered animals.
If you are interested in voluntary development work and want to spend between 10 and 12 weeks overseas, take a look at International Citizen Service which is run by six international volunteering organisations, led by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). Bear in mind that although you don't have to pay to volunteer you will be expected to fundraise at least £800 before going overseas.
Especially popular in the USA, children's holiday activity camps offer job opportunities, usually involving work as a 'counsellor' looking after groups of campers.
You get pocket money and work for 9 weeks over the summer. A lot of your travel arrangements will be taken care of by the company employing you - visa, insurance, return flights, food and accommodation. When your work is done, you can travel across the US and see the country with the new friends you've made.
Take a look at Camp America if you're interested.
Although it's great if you can use your year off to do something worthwhile and learn new skills, there really is nothing wrong with just going off to see the world. Many students now choose to take shorter periods of travelling, interspersed with periods of working to build up the funds to go abroad.
Have a look at Year Out Group for more ideas.
There are plenty of seasonal jobs abroad (for example fruit picking in Australia or working as a chalet host in ski resorts) that can help you earn your passage around the world.
A growing proportion of the pre-university gap years have some connection to work.
You can arrange your own placement or just work on a casual basis, which could get you some skills and earn you hard cash to take you travelling. Or check out YINI (Year in Industry), which offers placements with UK companies for students interested in science, engineering, IT, e-commerce, business, marketing, finance and logistics for 9 or 12 months. You will be paid a proper wage and gain a lot of useful experience.
Other useful websites
the gap-year guidebook - trip advice, travel inspiration, jobs and volunteering ideas
Gap Advice - independent advice with key facts, help, information and tips
Year Out Group - an association of leading year out programme providers
Gap Year Foreign Travel Advice - information on how to stay safe and healthy during your gap year overseas