After years of studying and numerous tests and exams, you are finally done with high school. It is time for college – which means slaving over more course-books and sitting through dozens more exams. Are you quite ready for it or do you want to take a break?Not ready for college and considering taking a gap year? This will help you prepare: Click To Tweet
The Gap year, also known as a sabbatical year, is not merely for passing time to de-stress yourself. It is about learning to do things independently, take control of difficult situations, making smart choices, volunteering, traveling to new places, finding out about different cultures, gaining a more mature outlook, and generally becoming a better person altogether from learning around the world. If you are planning on taking a gap year abroad, here are a few ways to successfully prepare yourself for it:
1. Plan Your Stay in Advance
While it may be nice to flit around and randomly visit countries, filling your Instagram feed with awesome selfies, before embarking on a gap year, the first question you must ask yourself is ‘what do you wish to get out of your gap year abroad’?. Do you want to travel? Do you want to learn a new language or polish some rusty skills? Or perhaps you would like to enroll in a volunteer program?
Decide how you want to spend your year and find out what your options are. You must make the most out of it. Traveling abroad can be a lot of fun but challenging at the same time. Plan your budget, choose your accommodation, and book the tickets in advance, all of which will not only help you have a sense of purpose in your gap year, but will definitely help with the savings too.
Of course, leave some space for adventure, within your plan, the day or half a day of exploring, or visiting some friends, but having a rough plan in place is certainlyThis is why planning in advance is mandatory for your gap year abroad. Click To Tweet
Take out a notebook and jot down all the things you wish to try and learn. Create an itinerary and follow it to have an organized trip full of educational opportunities.
What’s Your Budget?
Gap year abroad sounds adventurous. You could be on a safari in an African jungle learning about the wilderness, or you could be somewhere deep in the ocean looking for unique marine life. The exciting possibilities are endless… Unless, you suddenly run out of money halfway through the trip and have to head back home broke.
When you are taking a year off to go abroad, you must do your research and create a budget to follow. While most parents will be happy to help out, it is important to learn to finance yourself and avoid getting broke in a strange land.Don't go broke or get stranded. Prepare well for your sabbatical abroad! Click To Tweet
Before flying off to another country, fill up your account with some money and make a list of your expenses. Are you going solo or in a group? Will you be staying in a private accommodation or will you share a dorm room? What activities are you planning to do?
To save some bucks before and during your gap year, you can earn through freelancing, blogging and working odd jobs. Walking dogs and mowing lawns are tedious but work hard enough, and you can go to Iceland! Remember that you will need money for one whole year in a different country or countries. Make sure you factor in exchange rates and other possible unforeseen expenses.
Pack Up Your Suitcase
You are going away to a foreign country leaving behind most of your beloved possessions. Don’t be scared to bid them farewell for good. De-cluttering before you go off will allow you to travel light and stress-free. Sell off unwanted items (hello, pocket money!) or donate them to charity. Once you have gotten rid of extra belongings, start packing.
Besides your passport and other important paperwork, decide what you want to take. Remember to pack some clothes and accessories according to the weather, your laptop and camera and some memorabilia. Keep the rest of your stuff tidily locked away in a cupboard. Try not to carry your valuables like precious jewellery and leave it at home in a safe or in a bank locker.
Prepare Your Loved Ones Beforehand
Don’t drop the bombshell on your friends and family just a few days before you are leaving. Prepare them mentally of your departure well in advance. Let them know you are taking a gap year abroad. Your parents will most probably have many doubts and they might even try to put you off the idea.
It is essential you reassure them by taking them in to your confidence. Share the details of your trip, your plans and what you wish to accomplish in the coming months and the reasons you want to take a gap year and travel the world. Once you are abroad, don’t ‘disappear’ completely, keep in touch via Facetime, Skype, Whatsapp or the old fashion phone calls and by updating your social media accounts.
Travel insurance may not sound as exciting as your other travel plans but it is of utmost importance nonetheless. Whether it is a loss of belongings, sudden medical crises, or a money theft, having travel insurance keeps you covered in unexpected emergencies.
Search for deals and inexpensive insurance companies in the market. If you have any medical conditions, disclose it or else they won’t cover its expenses. You will also need to mention the places you are planning to travel to.Travel insurance may sound boring but is really handy and can save you from nasty surprises when you actually need it. Click To Tweet
Prepare Your Body – Health
For obvious reasons, you don’t want to fall sick on your very first independent adventure. If you are taking a gap year in African or Asian countries, you will have to get vaccinated against certain diseases such as Polio, Hepatitis and Rabies.
Some of the vaccinations require a course, like Hepatitis ones, so consult a doctor in advance. If your journey involves long walks, hiking and outdoorsy activities, make sure you are fit and in good health. To prepare your body, follow a healthy routine by regular exercise and proper diet.
Complete the PaperworkAre your documents ready? Don't leave anything for the last minute for your gap year. Click To Tweet
You must have already applied for passport, but if you have not or if it is near expiry, apply immediately. You cannot normally travel to a foreign country if your passport expires within 6 months. Give yourself at least three months to complete all the necessary documentations. Whether it is USA, Spain or Egypt, find out and make a note of what documents are required for the country you are traveling to.
Keep your original documents and their photocopies in separate pockets of your backpack. It is also useful to take digital copies of your travel documents, passport and visa and keep them on your mobile and email them to your own email account as back up. Never leave your documents lying around unattended. Trust me, you really don’t want to lose your passport in a foreign country!
Money Storage and Currency Exchange
Currency exchange can mess you up especially if math is not your strong suit. When you have chosen a country, do your homework regarding the currencies, expenses, and banks. You will have to order some currencies in advance while for others, you will be able to exchange on arrival. In some countries, multiple currencies may be accepted, however there may be a difference in value, so make sure you’re not overpaying for something just because you can’t be bothered to exchange money.
When you are storing your money, make sure you don’t keep the whole amount in a single place. Divide your money into smaller bundles and keep it in different bags, if possible. It is also wise to carry a credit or debit card with you. It will be worth researching different bank accounts and credit card types as some will offer fee-free foreign transactions or advances.Keep your travel money and bank cards safe with concealed pouch and hidden belt storage and don't keep them all in the same bag. Click To Tweet
Consult an Expert
Would you like to have some more guidance? It won’t hurt to consult an expert like a travel agent specializing in students’ gap years. Having a meeting with a travel specialist will give you an insight in to gap year options – where to go, how much to budget for, types of experiences, work away or volunteering options. Besides obtaining valuable information, a chat with an expert can help clear up any questions, confusions, fears and give you an idea in to how to fulfil your goals the best way.
And if you need more, there are some great books on the market on just how to plan the perfect gap year.Some light reading for you before you embark on your gap year journey. Click To Tweet
Well, that’s all set then. Look out world! You are going on your very own amazing adventure… The little bird is leaving the nest. You are going to learn amazing new things and you will surely return a different, vastly more experienced, possibly more mature person – or at least, we may hope so! And before the gap year is over, finalize what you are going to do next. College is yet another roller-coaster ride filled with exciting opportunities that can change your life for better. Make smart choices and the World is your Oyster!