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Gap Year - Valuable life experience or year long party?

(19 Posts)
Earlybird Tue 21-Nov-06 08:50:10

Wasn't sure which category is better suited for questions about gap years, but decided to put it here, as IMO, a gap year is potentially more about education than travel.

What are your opinions on a gap year experience? Of course it should be fun and adventurous, but what makes it a valuable life experience rather than simply a parent funded extended holiday? Would you encourage your child(ren) to take a year off? Do you have knowledge of organisations that organise gap year activities, and if so, which are they?

I'm asking because I may have an opportunity to consult with a US university on this subject. As the concept of a gap year is fairly alien to the Americans (most of them think you can "do" Europe in 10 days!), I thought I'd ask for opinions here.

sunnysideup Tue 21-Nov-06 09:33:30

I didn't have one - am too old, they hadn't been invented when I left after my A' levels....I think they must be pretty reassuring for parents actually because it's basically letting your child dangle one leg off the education treadmill, but calling it a 'gap year' means the other leg stays on the treadmill ready for your child to hop back on before too long.

At 18 I wasn't very adventurous, there's no way I would have been ready for travelling personally, but I think six months or up to a year working is also a very good option to make you appreciate getting back to education!

I think they are a good idea if families are well off, but an added pressure on poorer parents who may dispense with the idea in order to concentrate on supporting the child at uni instead...

caffeinequeen Tue 21-Nov-06 10:07:09

I left school as a young 17 year old and so (quite maturely in a weird way) figured I wasn't old enough to go travelling. What I should have done is a secretarial course for a term and then worked for six months and then gone for another three- it's been my biggest regret that I didn't do it.
Thought I'd go after university but was champing at the bit to earn some money and it never happened.

CountessDracula Tue 21-Nov-06 10:08:35

I went to Australia and partied most of the time, worked too. Not terribly cultural though!

DH spent 6 months at a french university allegedly learning french but in fact partying. Then 6 months in Oz partying

CountessDracula Tue 21-Nov-06 10:09:51

(though he did drive round the whole perimiter of Oz apart from the Nullarbor where he got the train)

sunnysideup Tue 21-Nov-06 10:19:26

my bro cycled accross the Nullabor!

Shall we get competitive about what people did during gap years?? ha ha...only teasing...anyway my bro has unfair advantage, he fitted in world travel as his gap year turned into a gap 10 yrs

zippitippitoes Tue 21-Nov-06 10:21:46

dd1 wetn as an au pair in paris for 3 months then came back and worked in M&S and then went to Argentina for 6 months

she applied for uni after she had her A level results and knew what she was doing for her gap year and got offers from all her choices without any interviews which pleasantly unstressful and she also had a better idea what she wanted to do

she is however very focussed

she has got herself some excellent expereince on her cv and graduates next summer

she did languages and politics so spent last year in madrid

she wants to be a football agent and has now clocked up expereince working for atletico madrid for their press side and teaching the chairman's children english and working for the professional players association, lined up work expereince for |Portsmouth and has workded for Calor gas for two long vacations in support

frances5 Tue 21-Nov-06 12:18:17

I had an unintended gap year (or more like a gap 8 months) in the middle of my physics degree. I worked in a pub for six months. It really made me grow up.

I would encourage my son to do a gap year. I am sure that if I had done a gap year before uni I would not have chosen a degree as useless as Physics. My work experience in a pub showed me what the working world was like and made me less intraverted.

mumeeee Tue 21-Nov-06 12:46:31

I think it depends on the young person. My eldest DD is 19 and in her 2nd year at uni doing zoology. She didn't want to do a gap year but just wanted to get stuck into her studies. However the course she is doing can be a sandwhich one anfd she could take a year out doing work related to the course, she has untill next term if she wants to do this. She is going to Kenya next summer on a field trip. She got her first choice. I think this will help her to widen her experiences.
My friends daughter did do a gap year, but she just worked at Asda for a year. She wanted a year out from studying and also wanted to save up some money to help get through uni.

bevelino Sat 17-Dec-16 13:13:51

Zippitippitoes, how did your dd find working as an au pair as my eldest dd will be off to Madrid to work as one early in the New Year?

homebythesea Sat 17-Dec-16 17:40:19

In my view the gap year is a dying breed- none of my DS cohort has taken time out after A levels, wasn't even discussed as an option. They have all just finished first term at Uni. The costs of higher education now really preclude the traditional travelling/partying style of gap year. Everything more focussed on relevant work experience, or working to save money.

bojorojo Sat 17-Dec-16 18:14:04

The ones who didn't get their first choice universities and those who got better results than expected tend to take a gap year and apply again. Some take a gap year to work and grow up. It can be a good thing but most depend on parental contributions unless the job pays well and the student can save up. Some do a ski season and travel afterwards.

Language degrees, apart from Oxbridge never interview. However, getting first hand language immersion can be useful. However MFL are four year degrees anyway so graduation is then 5 years away. Some find this too long. If American degrees are 4 years this may be why students don't do them. They do however go abroad to study as part of their degrees.

I think gap years should be useful prep for the degree, ideally. Having fun is part of it but very few of my DDs friends chose to do it,( others reapplied and changed their minds) and that was from a boarding school so parents funded the year. Most knuckled down after A levels.

happygardening Sat 17-Dec-16 18:48:26

This is a Zombie thread from 2006
However my DS is taking a gap year he wanted to apply to university with his exam results hoping by them he'd know what to study and I think it's a brilliant idea. He's currently working abroad (back for Xmas) he's been there for 3 months, he's very lucky learnt a lot and is also having an "amazing unforgettable" time I'm very jealous. We were lucky all we had to pay was the airfare and that was refunded once he arrived, food accommodation etc came with the job.
I personally think it's great to get off the academic treadmill and have some fun and new experiences.
With regard to being an Au Pair, over the years we've had loads, providing your DC is friendly, at the very least fairly confident, adaptable, wont hide in her room, will eat most things put in front of her and is happy to do a some housework and childcare etc, have a go at learning the language and importantly she has to quote one of my Au Pairs a "lovely family" she'll should have a great time. We're still friends with some of ours nearly 20 years later.

bevelino Mon 19-Dec-16 11:45:00

Eeek, I hadn't noticed that I had restarted an old thread.

Dd's gap year was unplanned as she was run over by a motor bike just before she was due to start university. However she is enjoying her gap year and has been working in a department store and then off to Madrid in January to work as an au pair and will also attend a language school, which should help as she is studying Spanish in her degree course.

I am now quite pleased as dd seems a lot more grown up and over the next few months will need to learn how to handle herself independently, which should help when she eventually starts university next year.

SAHDthatsall Mon 19-Dec-16 22:29:21

I think it's a good idea as when you finish University you just want to get on with life so don't tend to take any time out then.

I did it, had to work then went travelling. DS1 plans to game for a year to try and get into professional esports and failing that take up his deferred place. DS2 (currently) had said he wants to go and live up north in the small town with the football team we support so he can go to every match that season. We shall see...

happygardening Tue 20-Dec-16 07:45:24

That's the point of a gap year to dream and give your dreams a go. DS2 wanted a career working outside, he enjoyed doing it during his summer holidays, then went abroad for three months, now home when I asked when he was going back to his poorly paid outside job now it's cold wet, miserable and dark there's a distinct lack of enthusiasm.
He thought he'd like urban life he's just spent three months living in a famous city and now says how wonderful it is to be back to rural life!

JohnHunter Tue 20-Dec-16 19:29:07

I worked lots of temporary jobs (production lines to cleaning) and gained some experience of a side of life I'm not likely to encounter in person again. I also travelled and did lots of wild things that I would have been too sensible to attempt again later on. This time was helpful in proving that the world really is a small place.

In my view, the real advantage is going to university 12 months older than your contemporaries. Some people are probably in more need of this additional time to mature than others. It meant that I was more focussed when I did start university.

That said, I know of a number of students who took one gap year, followed by another, and aren't showing any signs of returning to education.

camtt Tue 20-Dec-16 19:35:58

a gap year was certainly very valuable for me, before I set out on a MFL degree. My parents weren't wealthy so I had to think about making ends meet - one position (France) was paid and included accommodation, the other (Germany) was voluntary but accommodation and food provided. This was my first experience of living independently and it prepared me for university, it certainly wasn't a year long party, at times I was home sick, miserable etc, but it was a learning experience and the extra maturity gave me a bit of much needed confidence when I went to university.

corythatwas Thu 22-Dec-16 08:46:57

we're not really in the demographic of the parent-funded, travelling, partying gap year and don't really know anyone who has done that, but know plenty of people who have had a year out supporting themselves either in their own country or abroad

that I do think is very valuable- seeing that you can be in charge of your own life and make a contribution to society, finding out about the world outside education and having a bit of time to think about what you really want to do

many of my friends went as au-pairs back in the early 80s when I was young, dh went to a kibbutz, I got a job abroad that was more related to my career

more recently dd has just spent a year working locally

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