Our Top Three Gap Year Tips How to make your gap year a safe success...
1. Mind your money
It’s easy enough to think that as long as you have enough money (or a credit balance big enough) to pay for your next bus ticket, you’ve achieved the sort of financial stability that would make Gordon Brown green. But before you set off on your grand tour of the world, you need to make sure that you’ve left your financial house in order and able to manage itself without too much tinkering. After all, you don’t want to be worrying about whether you paid the gas bill whilst sitting on a beach in Bali sucking down a Brass Monkey (equal parts light rum, dark rum and orange juice).
Before you travel, make sure that you’ve either cancelled or organised standing orders or direct debits for all of your bills. If you haven’t already done it, consider changing your bank statements to ‘online only’ to ensure that nobody else will gain unauthorised access to them in your absence, and also activate internet banking on your account - it’s a lot harder to deal with financial issues when you don’t have a high street branch just around the corner… even some of the world’s larger banks can lose their ‘local’ touch outside of the UK. Talk to your existing bank to find out how best to manage your account while you're away, but keep in mind that there are other options available to you. All services are not the same, particularly when it comes to charging you to access your money abroad.
As far as your student loan is concerned, it is always best to make sure that the Company knows of your travel intentions well in advance of your leaving date. The loan company can defer your loan, but the procedure takes time and they may continue to take money from your account if you do not give them adequate notice of your plans. If you are travelling for a longer period of time than the agreed period of deferment, it is advisable to authorise someone you trust to talk to the company on your behalf. Click here for more information.
Finally, if you plan to be away for a long time, you might want to consider giving power of attorney to a very close friend or family member, enabling them to manage certain aspects of your finances while you are away. Check out the Citizens Advice website for more info.
2. You’ve got mail (give it a home)
There is nothing worse than arriving home to piles of unopened mail, especially as in amongst the junk there’s likely to be something that needed your immediate attention…6 months ago.
This is an easy one to fix; it takes minutes to sort out on the right side of your journey, or hours of hassle at the other end. Royal Mail’s Mail Movers service enables you to redirect your UK mail to the UK address of a friend or family member, or a foreign address in the event that you have a secure alternative while abroad. Alternatively, ask a friend to collect your mail for you each week and sift out the pizza menus, credit card applications and miscellaneous junk for you. You will really appreciate it when you return (and most friends will be willing to take on the task in exchange for your agreement only to force them to sit through the abridged version of your 1000 holiday snaps).
3. Make your trip work for your CV
Travelling’s great, it broadens horizons, helps you to ‘find yourself’, blah, blah, blah. A host of great stories and life-changing experiences are all well and good, but how does it look on your CV? It’s well worth thinking about things you can do and activities you can involve yourself in abroad that are related in some way to your chosen career or your life after travel. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to spend your entire trip building a school in West Africa or teaching English as a foreign language, but there is definitely good value in getting a short-to-medium term role that gives you some transferable skills and experience that you can offer an employer on your return to work or that will make your university application stand out from a thousand other young travellers with their horizons suitably broadened.
As James Innes, Managing Director of The CV Centre explains: “Whilst we don't normally recommend including 'Travel' amongst a client's interests, a well-chosen gay year - or a gap year which includes some 'character building' activities - can be used to very good effect if presented carefully. It can really help to set you apart from the crowd.”
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