How to plan a gap year:
First of all: It is super fun, super stressful and super exciting.
You will have to think about so many things and forget half of them again before you can do them. Here I line up the eariest stages of your gap year, the things you have to decide before all the packing and buying ticket starts.
How to chose where to go:
It really is up to you. What cultures are you interested in? Which continent did you always want to see? Do you have friends or relations you want to visit somewhere?
To this questions adds what kind of gap year you wan’t to do. Work and Travel in Uganda is rather difficult. Also Aupairs are not really popular in Indonesia. Or working with Elephants is hard when you are in New Zeeland.
So you have to decide:
Where do I want to go and what can I do there?
I wanted to go somewhere off the beaten treck and I wanted to see more than one country.
So first I chose Nepal, because Hinduism and Buddhism interests me a lot and it is considered safer than India. The reactions I got for chosing Nepal made clear, that I found my country to travel to. Nepal, where is that? Where do you go again, Tibet? Nepal, I was there, it is amazing. Nepal, I loved it there, the people are awesome. Just to give some examples.
Second I chose Vancouver, Canada. That’s because I spent a year there as an international student and I really can’t wait to see my friends again after 3 1/2 years of waiting. Visiting friends abroad is always a good excuse to make an extra stop during your gap year.
Third I chose Chile. Two aspects came together here. I want to visit South America and I want to do an internship that has to do with Media in order to know if I should take it in University. So I found an organisation which combined both. But I will tell you more to organisations further down.
How to chose what to do:
There are a billion different choices. Aupair, Work and Travel, Internships, Volunteering, Environmental pojects, the list goes on.
Here are a few questions you will have to answer: What are your interests? Do you have any hobbies you want to include in your gap year? Do you like to work with other people? Do you want to earn money? Are you doing it just for the experience or do you need qualifications for later on in your life?
If you want to earn money you could chose: Aupair, Work and Travel, an acutal job like seasonal worker
If you want to stay in one place the entire year you could chose: Aupair, Volunteering (government sponsored volunteer projects are mostly a year long, with private ones you can chose)
If you want to travel as much as possible: Organisations with organise a mix of travel and voluntary work, Work and Travel, visiting friends, WOOFing, or just travel and don’t work if your travel fund allows it
If you want to work with animals: Almost every organisation private or governmental has project with nature and animals. But be carful, saving turtles in Costa Rica can be crazy expensive because many private organisations offer only short time slots. If you want to make an effort and not just have fun on the beach while doing something “good”, choose an organisation that specialises in environment and not in tourism.
If you want to volunteer in a developing country: The same as with animals as far as organisations are conserend. But even more important here, that you are very careful when it comes to chosing which whom you go. 2 weeks projects in an orphanage do more damage to the children than good. Governmental organsiations like weltwärts, only work with responsible partners. With private ones again, look for long term projects. If you want to volunteer in a developing country try to stay at least half a year.
So you have to decide:
What kind of work do I want to do?
I am going to volunteer as a teacher. 3 months I will teach in a primary school in Nepal. Additionally my program includes almost 1 month rafting, safari and hiking. Also I am staying a week after my work ends to travel on my own. This way I can see the country but also get an inside of the Nepali life. So my reasons were that I want to work with people, that I like teaching and that I wanted to live in an entire different culture.
Second I’ve got an internship at a media agency. I do this in order to prepare for university. That it is in Chile is a nice bonus and I think it is just great that I can combine travelling with gaining inside on a job.
How to chose an organisation:
Probably the most important point. First of all there are three different types: Sposored, private and non at all
The sponsor is mostly the government or a church. weltwärts or kulturweit, FSJ, FÖJ are examples. Also some private organisations that only work with volunteers in their home country are very cheap. For example AFS. You don’t have to pay much, sometimes your flight, sometimes the travel costs to orientation curses or pocket money. All in all it is a hell lot cheaper than private organisations. They may ask you to collect some money from your friends and family for their organisation.
+ You don’t have to pay much
+ Responsible and long term projects
+ Some universities give you extra credits for your admission
+ You still get child allowance/ Kindergeld
+ Very interesting projects
+ Can also stay at home and do your gap year there (FSJ)
– you don’t get payed
– you can’t always chose the exact country or project you want
– very hard to get in! Often you already need to be involved in social projects
– mostly you have to go for an entire year. When you want to see different countries or be home on time for university admissions you might want to chose a half year project of which there are very few.
– mostly only in develloping countries
– you have to organise a lot yourself, mostly they just give you an email from the organisation in the country you want to go and you have to make the rest
There are a billion private companies who organise your gap year for you. But be careful many just want your money and don’t organise responsible and useful projects but more a beach holiday with social extra. On the other hand you can plan much more flexible and individually. Private organisations do everything from work and travel, volunteering and internships.
Just make sure your company offers project where you have to stay at least 3 months (especially when working with children). When you only want to stay for a short time, ask yourself, would you want a new teacher/ caretaker/ worker every week? I guess not. Also think about your qualifications. Don’t overestimate yourself, it makes your experience and the one of the locals much better.
+ you can chose where, when and what you want to do
+ easy to organise since the company does most of it
+ all kind of work
+ also payed work possible
– very expensive (here too, look out for a company that isn’t the cheapest or most expensive. No week in Costa Rica should cost 2000 Euros)
– a lot of even harmful projects
– you most likley don’t get you children allowance /Kindergeld anymore
Just make sure you chose a company which:
– offers projects where you have to stay at least 3 months
– allows you to speak to previous volunteers
– is recomended by previous volunteers (take to them by email or facebook, not only read the comments on the webiste of your company)
– talks openly about how they spend the money you pay
Non at all:
There are a lot of websites where you can make contact to Aurstralian farmers who need worker or Aupair websites. You can do WOOFing, working on organic farms, where you work on farms in order to get food and a bed. You could search online for companies and ask them if they need interns. Or you just go and look upon arrival for jobs. No organisation at all is for sure the most work but can also save you a lot of money.
+ cheap (if you plan well ahead and logical)
+ you can do whatever you want
– not all your plans will work out
– no guarantee or back up from an organisation
– not useful for volunteering
So you have to ask yourself: What kind of organisation do you need?
For Nepal I chose Osyster Worldwide. Here is the link:
They do responsible travel, show you what they need the money is for that you pay and have an excellent service. I choce them because previous volunteers gave me good feedback and because I like that they organise volunteer work just as well as some travelling for you. I mean you want to also see something of the country you stay in. They are British. I didn’t find a German organisation that met my standards. Oyster works together with local people and makes sure that the schools you work in doesn’t get more than one or two volunteers at the same time. They do an excellent pre coaching and answered all my million questions. They work in many countries and offer all sorts of projects.
How to pay for everything:
It all sounds sooo nice but how are you going to pay for everything?
Well I just tell you how I hopefully will:
– Savings. Most of the money I collected since I got pocket money was never spend. Now I found a good reason to spend it all.
– Jobs: After graduation I didn’t go to the beach or partied every night. I searched for a job. First I sold strawberries on the self picking field and froze my ** off. Then I worked at a horribly under employed bakery chain. They made me work from 6 to 19:00 and left me alone in the store after a week. Now that I am gone they closed the store I worked in due to lack of staff. But the long ours had also benefits. This way I could earn more money.
– relatives: Grandparents and parents may help you out. Just try to not let them pay everything. Also other family members might ask you if you still need some equipment.
– donations: Some websites help you to open up a donation circle. Friends, relatives or strangers can donnate money to you. I haven’t done it personally.