How to Spend Your Gap Year

How to Spend Your Gap Year

Posted in Gap Year, Student Life on Aug 19, 2019 by

University Finder

There are thousands of ways to spend your gap year before university! Here's seven great options.


A great way to spend your gap year is volunteering and making a difference in other people’s lives. Not only do you get to work for a worthwhile cause, but you can gain skills, meet new people and enhance your CV.

There are thousands of volunteering options available to you. From working in a charity shop, to volunteering at a festival, to undertaking conservation work, to teaching English to refugees. Check out Do-it, NCVO, and vInspired to find out more about the different opportunities available.

International Volunteering

If you still want to volunteer but are sick of the UK, why not volunteer abroad? Like with the UK there’s thousands of opportunities out there, but these opportunities tend to be slightly more unusual. From teaching English to Buddhist monks, to volunteering in an orphanage in Sri Lanka. From helping to build schools in Kenya, to volunteering with Orangutans in South East Asia, there are hundreds of ways to spend your time. Volunteering abroad is a briliant way to make a difference in people's lives and experience a new culture.

When thinking about volunteering internationally it’s important to research the program and company in depth. Voluntourism is a volunteering practice where internationals travel abroad to ‘help’ a local community or group less privileged then themselves. This leads to unskilled workers spending short amounts of time in countries in an effort to transform communities’ lives when they lack the knowledge and skills to make a difference.

One American volunteer in Tanzania commented that during her volunteering experience the volunteers “were so bad at the most basic construction work that each night the men had to take down the structurally unsound bricks we had laid and rebuild the structure so that, when we woke up in the morning, we would be unaware of our failure.”

Think carefully about what you can offer and what skills you have. If you wouldn’t consider doing the work in your home country, you probably shouldn’t do it abroad!

Find international volunteer placements at VSO International and Go Abroad.


If you’re lucky enough to be able to spend some of your gap year travelling, do it! When people think about gap years they think about the stereotypical gap yaaahhhh trips to Thailand and Cambodia. Spending your gap year travelling is a great way to ‘find yourself’ – and by that I mean develop life skills and grow up more. Travelling to new countries, meeting new people, and immersing yourself in different cultures is an invaluable experience. You could travel solo or travel with friends. Travelling within your home country is also equally valuable – there’s so many places people don’t consider visiting because they take them for granted.

Travelling helps equip you with hundreds of skills that employers love such as adaptability, flexibility, problem solving, planning, etc, the list goes on. A recent study showed that 80% of employers think travel makes you a better candidate for a job.

Discover EU offer 18 year olds the chance to travel around Europe with a FREE interrail pass. In 2018 nearly 30,000 young Europeans got to discover their continent. It’s unclear how Brexit will impact this, but it’s an incredible opportunity so is worth keeping an eye on it for updates!

Interning or Work Experience Placements

Spending a year undertaking internships are a great way to get your foot in the door in your chosen industry. Work experience weeks and internships offer insight into the industry and can help you decide if the career path is for you. You develop lots of work-specific skills and real-world experience. You also get the opportunity to network - you never know when a contact will come in handy in the future!

Internships are more formal than work experience placements and involve a formal application process. Work experience is more ad hoc and tends to be unpaid or just paid expenses. You can find work experience placements by emailing companies to find out about any vacancies they may have.

Find out about the employment rights and pay for interns here.


Spending a year working helps enhance your CV. Being a student can be expensive and student loans don’t always cover rent and living expenses. Savings can be used for university, travel, and general living expenses. You develop skills such as team work, leadership, adaptability, commercial awareness, and time management. These skills are invaluable and will help you to get either an internship or another job.

Work Abroad

Why not combine working with travel? Working abroad is a fantastic way to spend your gap year. From working as a ski instructor in Canada, to a camp counsellor in America, there are thousands of options available.

Find out more about:

Useful websites for working abroad:

Learn a new skill or language

A year is a long time that can be spent learning a new skill or language. These skills will make you even more employable and help your applications stand out.

Useful websites for learning a language:

These are just seven ways to spend your gap year. There's thousands of opportunities out there and no 'right way' to do a gap year. Everyone's gap year experience is different, and helps them in different ways. However you spend the year you're sure to have an exciting jam-packed year full of meeting new people and developing new skills.

By Clarissa Ducie