Taking a Gap Year
By Anita Monticone
When your teenagers leave school they may want to take a year off studies to embark on a gap year. A gap year is the year between finishing school and starting further study or training. It's also known as 'Year 13' or taking a 'Big Year Off'.
There are many options to consider when deciding to take a gap year and these may be determined by why the teenagers want a gap year.
If the objective of the year is to save money for university, many teenagers choose to stay in the family home and obtain full time work. However, an increasing number of Australian school leavers are choosing to travel and work overseas. This is a great opportunity to see the world, live out of home, meet new people and become more self aware.
Some popular gap year choices include volunteer work, working in a US Summer camp, working as an au pair in Europe and working in English boarding schools.
Au Pair - Europe is a popular destination for Australians wishing to au pair. Numerous European families prefer English speaking au pairs as it encourages their children to learn and speak English at home. Au Pairs generally live in the family home, care for the children and perform light house duties.
Summer Camp - a great option for those who want to take a break after high school, but don't want to be away all year as camps generally only last for the duration of the US summer break.
Volunteer - this is fantastic opportunity for those wishing to make a difference in underprivileged communities, or environment and animal conservation. However, volunteer work can be expensive; you have to pay your organisation to be part of the volunteer team, pay for accommodation and food and receive no remuneration in return.
Boarding School - 'Gappies' work throughout the school term and may be expected to help with boarding duties such as homework, bed time and weekend activities, as well as office duties, PE lessons, school excursions, after school activities and act as extra supervision where required. Gap students are not required at the school in holidays and can use the holiday time to travel.
Practical Things to Consider
Visas - Without a valid visa and/or passport the trip of a lifetime can quickly come to a screeching halt. If your teenager requires a visa for their travels, make sure you research the requirements, visa types and duration. If your teenager is eligible for dual nationality it may be worth organising two passports. Generally, a passport lasts longer and allows unlimited visits and length of stay.
Bank Account - If your teenager plans to work in one country setting up a bank account with a debit card is a good idea. This will allow remuneration to be paid into the account and avoid international usage fees.
Medical - Ensure your teenager is properly immunised prior to leaving home, also take care in filling out a sufficient supply of any prescriptions they need as the same product may not be available in their destination.
Travel - This is the main reason why young Australians have a year abroad! Travel companies such as Contiki offer tours for 18-35 year olds in Europe, Asia, Mexico, Egypt, North America, South America and New Zealand with tours lasting between 3 and 46 days.