Gap year: Prepare to go the extra mile

Whether it’s to expand your horizons or your contacts book, there’s likely to be a gap year itinerary to suit you.

A gap year sounds the perfect time to learn white water rafting, go trekking in the Himalayas or spend time swimming with dolphins. But for every new graduate opting to devote their gap year to exotic travel, nature watching or extreme sports, there is another one concentrating on boosting their employability – via an internship, work scheme or an international community or environmental project, for example.

If you decide to take some well-earned time off before heading out into the world of work, the benefits of a well-structured gap year can be enormous to your career, as well as to you as an individual.

Skiing to the top

Jon Rose, an ex-surveyor, is the course co-ordinator at Snow Challenge, which offers a 12-week course for ski improvers and would-be ski instructors in the Canadian Rockies that attracts mostly male high-flyers in IT and banking, as well as school leavers and recent graduates looking for a way into one of the big professions.

At a cost of £6,350, which includes “everything apart from beer money”, the course might not immediately sound like a recipe for success in finance or technology. But according to Rose, the sheer physical challenge involved can bring out hidden talents. “I’ve seen hundreds of graduates come onto this course and really mature over the 12 weeks, even those who haven’t done much more than sit around and do the occasional essay for the past three years.

“Networking with others already in, or looking to join, the same sort of profession is a big plus, as is the development of team working skills in what can be a very challenging environment.”

Mountbatten Internship Programme – a golden ticket

Away from the ski slopes, the Mountbatten Institute, once known as the Mountbatten Internship Programme, was founded in New York in 1984. Its rather grand-sounding mission is to “foster international and cross-cultural understanding through experiential education, practical training and residence abroad”, and it is also rather handy if you want to join an international bank, law firm or other large organisation.

The programme offers a one-year training programme in either New York or London to around 500 graduates each year and is viewed by many City employers as a first-class ticket to a glittering career.

Bunac – it’s a world thing

If the Mountbatten internship is aimed at those with their long-term professional future already fixed firmly in their minds, then Bunac’s less ambitious aim is simply to find young people opportunities to work, teach and volunteer all over the world.

Yet here too, says Haydn Parks, Bunac’s marketing and promotions manager, participants need reassurance that the whole experience will be beneficial to their long term career prospects. “Some young people want danger and excitement and a physical challenge or even risk, while others are looking for better understanding of the world and a glimpse of how business operates on different continents,” he says. “Whether you opt for paid employment in the US or Canada, or would prefer to volunteer in Africa or Asia, gap year graduates tend to want to network with their contemporaries, broaden their perspectives and see at close range how the other half of the world live. “Along the way, they gain independence and self assurance, an impressive range of practical skills and make their CV look very interesting and unique,” he adds.

Sociologists tell us that the current generation of graduates – the so-called Generation Y – are more dependent on their parents than ever before; both emotionally and financially. While Parks doesn’t believe that all gap year candidates fit into this mould, he stresses that “hand-holding by Bunac is there for those who need it”. “We offer a full support package for anyone feeling homesick or unhappy but for the most part, people do successfully complete their assignment and feel a real sense of achievement at having done so,” he says.

In terms of cost, Summer Camp USA will set you back £329, including accommodation and flights, while the various volunteer programmes weigh in at between £250 and £1,565.

Most BUNAC volunteers are female and between them, they represent a broad range of arts, humanities, science and social science degree subjects.

Adventures with Raleigh International

Raleigh International, previously known as Operation Raleigh, is an education charity that provides adventurous and challenging expeditions for young people from all backgrounds and nationalities. Over the last 24 years, some 30,000 people have been involved in more than 250 expeditions to more than 40countries. New ventures in India include building elephant trenches to keep elephants and their human neighbours apart, and anti poaching expeditions at an Indian National Park.

Raleigh Venturers, who are usually between 17 and 24 years old, can opt for a four-week, or a more popular 10-week, expedition, which consists of three different environmental, community and adventure projects (see cover image) such as laying a nature trail, building a school and perhaps climbing a volcano in Costa Rica. Prices range from £1,500 for a four-week expedition to £2,995 for 10 weeks, excluding flights, and the money is usually raised via a programme of fund-raising.

“We take people out of their comfort zone and put them in a safe but challenging environment where they grow as individuals and acquire new skills,” says Raleigh’s head of sales and marketing Rachel Collinson. “There is no doubt that anyone with Raleigh International on their CV attracts more attention among top employers.”

For more information

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam