During the three months that Kate Jessop spent at Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada, she had "quite possibly the most fun I have ever had in my life". Kate and 200 other teenagers spent from January to April this year doing a snowboarding instructor's course, before setting off to study French, Italian and European Studies at Bath University in September.

"I knew that I wanted to do a skiing instructor's course, but as soon as I saw the advert for Ski le Gap, my heart was set on it.

"We had four hours of coaching a day during the first month to prepare us for the first instructor's pin. Following that you could choose to go for a second qualification or improve your own skiing technique. I intended to do the former, but a broken collar bone meant that I didn't do enough of the training to take the exam. Fortunately it healed quickly and I was able to get back out on the slopes. Being ill abroad was not a problem because the representatives were like a family away from home.

"Most of us were on pre-university gap years and got on brilliantly. I went not knowing anyone and came back with an address book of new friends. It taught me to be a lot more confident. The more I threw myself into everything, the better the time I had and the less I missed home.

"I think I have become a lot more mature and independent. Being away from home also makes you much more responsible for your own welfare."