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News & Advice

Five ways to make the most of a gap year

If you plan to take time off before university or work, Jessica Moore offers some options that could enhance your CV

Gap years don’t have to cost the Earth. In fact, you can even earn as you go

Think carefully about what you hope to achieve from your gap experience, whether that’s a CV-enhancing, boost to your bank balance or an intrepid far-away adventure. A YouGov gap year survey found that 63 per cent of HR professionals felt that a constructive gap year spent volunteering or gaining work experience makes a job application stand out. Year Out Group represents a range of well-structured programmes and experiences (yearoutgroup.org), while stalwarts in the marketplace include Gap Year (0800 082 9995; gapyear.com), the travel social network and advice site that launches a worldwide planning and booking service tomorrow; as well as Real Gap (01273 647220, realgap.co.uk) and Lattitude (0118 959 4914; lattitude.org.uk).

Earn some cash


Gap years don’t have to cost the Earth. In fact, you can even earn as you go. Head to Norway with Twin Work and Volunteer (0800 80 483 80; workandvolunteer.com) to pick fruit, milk cows or work as a receptionist. You’ll be expected to put in around 35 hours a week in exchange for accommodation with a local family, food and about £100 a week pocket money. Placements, lasting eight to 26 weeks, are located all over Norway too, so you could be in the forests of the north or the fjords and islands of the south.

Scale new heights


Dizzying ones, in fact. Travel to Nepal with Gap Force (020 7384 3028; gapforce.org) to learn the language, participate in projects such as environmental conservation work and trek through the Himalayan mountains to Everest Base Camp. There are also opportunities to see elephants, search for a Bengal tiger and go white-water rafting. Expeditions last two to five weeks and cost from £930, including home-stay accommodation, meals, in-country training and support, and excursions. Travel to

Help save threatened species


Go out on the prowl in the Botswana wilderness, monitoring elephant, raptor, lion and leopard populations. Volunteers also help conserve these animals’ natural habitat by removing invasive plants and trees, and to integrate with communities by helping to run educational “bush camps” with local children. Projects last from two to 12 weeks with Conservation Africa (01454 269 182; conservationafrica.net) and cost from £2,620 including flights and transfers, accommodation, meals and in-country support.

Gain work experience


Enhance your job prospects with an internship. A typical project with The Year in Industry (01707 871520; etrust.org.uk/the-year-in-industry) could see you working for an electrical engineering company in Manchester, earning £12k-£14k. Further opportunities in science and engineering include those at companies including National Grid, Rolls-Royce and L’Oréal.

Further afield, The Intern Group (0800 082 9995; theinterngroup.com/hong-kong) offers international placements in a range of sectors. Travel to Hong Kong to help stage TED conferences in subjects from art and fashion to economics and ethics, for example. This placement lasts from six weeks to six months, costing from £3,167 including accommodation and visas, but not international travel.

Score some goals


Brazil lasted longer in the World Cup than England – but you might still be able to teach the locals a thing or two about the beautiful game. Sports volunteers in Rio de Janeiro split their time between coaching favela children at the Football Centre and teaching PE at local schools. No qualifications are required – just a desire to train up tomorrow’s David Luiz. Go for two weeks to six months, from £995 including accommodation, breakfast and in-country support, but not travel to Brazil (01903 502 595; travellersworldwide.com).