Too many people struggle with the life decision of what to do after college, whether to go to university or take a gap year. It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong decision, but if you really can’t decide then there are ways you can have the best of both worlds, take a gap year and get a degree at the same time! Here’s how.
This is perhaps the simplest and most obvious route, you get to study for a degree and not only explore a new country at the same time but live and experience a place as close to a local as you can get, and maybe even find a new home in the process. There are many ways to do this from studying an entire degree at a foreign university, or you can – depending on your specific degree of course – opt to do a year or a semester abroad. My second degree in Nursing particularly had a lot of good options for this.
Take A Few Snap Years, Or A Lot Of Short Breaks.
Studying for a degree is a huge commitment. Three years at a minimum, more if you decide to study for a masters, and that means you will more than likely settle for that period of time in the city or country that your university is in and won’t be able to take a full gap year or take an extended nomadic trip during that time.
But you aren’t stuck inside the library or the lecture hall every day of that three year period!
University courses all have good solid blocks of time off built into the course, summer holidays are still actually a thing and there are plenty of half term weeks here and there. The specifics will of course depend on the degree you are reading but you can easily organise a two or even three month snap year over the summer and a short break of a week or two around that. And you can do that every year for the three years of your degree! So you can’t take a full gap year, so what? Exploring one country for a few months can be just as good.
And Weekend Breaks Too.
Again depending on the type of course you do, many academic degrees have the options for a lot of long weekends during term time. My first degree had every Friday, Saturday and Sunday off in the second and third years, whilst my Nursing degree didn’t, so it does depend, but if you do get the opportunity then make the most of it!
With great deals and short flight times there are plenty of budget airline flights to hop over to almost anywhere in Europe for not all that much money, most cities will have a ton of free things to see and do, and hostels for just a couple of nights can be very reasonable, so taking weekend breaks during your term time is more than realistic.
Get Seasonal Work Abroad.
There are tons of great opportunities for short term seasonal work abroad that are perfect for students. Internships, holiday reps, teaching English abroad, coaching in summer camps, au pairing, there are countless options. Okay, so you’ll be working most of the time and not technically travelling, but you can get to see a little bit of one very specific place and you can earn some all important cash while you are doing it.
It is important to remember that even though you have enrolled in university, made the commitment and are determined to graduate, you are never on a fixed path and you can defer any time you want. So you can complete your first year, take a gap year then come back to complete your course, or even take a gap year after each year completed or any combination of the above. The choice is yours! Okay, so it will take longer to complete your degree and you may miss out on some of the social aspects of university with having to mix with new cohorts of students every year but you get the benefit of travelling the world at the same time as getting a degree so who cares?
Find Your Priorities And Sacrifice.
Let’s be straight here, money isn’t exactly abundant when you are a student and travelling does cost money, so you will have to budget very carefully if you want to maximise your travel time, and this will also involve some sacrifice. Many students work their backsides off in part time jobs while they study, and that is great, but I know so many people who blew almost all of the spare money they had on going out partying and drinking every other night!
I’m not saying don’t go out and enjoy yourself, far from it. Student nights and freshers weeks are all part of the uni experience. What I am saying is if you want to travel as well you probably won’t be able to do this every single week, and you especially won’t be able to do it multiple times a week.
It is all about knowing what your priorities are and saving for them.
It Is Possible And It Is Even Beneficial.
So there you go, there are just some of the basic ways that you can get your degree and travel the world at the same time. I did it, twice in fact, and I’m sure you can find a way to do it yourself your own way.
No matter what choice you make, a healthy dose of travel alongside alongside a good education is only ever a good thing. It will balance out your academic leaning with an entire smorgasbord of experiences, paradigms and ways of seeing the world that you may not have even imagine before.
And remember, if you are worried about falling behind in the rat race to take time off to travel, then all the soft skills that you can gain on a gap year are impressive enough on your CV, and that is before you tell your future employer you had the intelligence, fortitude, organisational and logistical skills and sheer damn awesomeness to be able to graduate and have a gap year at the same time! The other applicants don’t stand a chance!
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Excellent points and I agree so much. I actually took a year out after my first year studying business studies because it wasn’t what I was expecting and took a gap year. I went back and used those credits to get my degree in marketing and project management instead where I was much happier.
That is awesome to hear Michele. Thanks for commenting. 🙂
Great tips! If I could go back and do it all over again, this is how I’d like to do it and incorporate a bit of travel into my studies.
Well I’m sure your choices were right for you at the time Natasha, but it’s never too late! ;D
Excellent advice. I totally agree travel will expand your learning so much more! Done right they can really compliment each other.
They really can!
It’s definitely possible to do both at the same time! Much like you advised I read my degree and only travelled during the summer holidays, but then I did my Masters while travelling a lot more intensely as part of the course. I studied languages in London so travelled extensively round Europe on short breaks and long weekends while studying but I got to live in Spain for 4 out of the 12 months (since I was studying Spanish and French!) Now I work as a translator and travel often as part of that job too.
That is amazing Olivia! I have always had the utmost admiration for anyone who can speak multiple languages (as that is something I really struggle with!) But languages must be a great degree and masters for travelling with! Thanks so much for commenting. 🙂
I would say travelling while you are studying is the perfect time! You have more energy to study all night and then get up and explore the next day, and your tolerance for hostels and cheap budget level transportation is a lot higher then too! Not sure I could do that now that I am a full on careerist and a lot older!
Haha I know exactly what you mean Jack!
I managed to travel while studying full time. I mostly travelled in the 6 or so months I had off a year but also did an elective term abroad too.
That’s awesome Stacey!
Totally agree! I read ancient history and archeaology at university and travelled a lot throughout the middle east during my studies, mostly because that is where my studies were concentrated, and I had the absolute time of my life! So yes, to all the students out there: do travel if you can! It is more than possible.
Oh wow those degrees sound amazing! I have always had a fascination with those subjects and have always fancied taking that fascination to an academic level! Maybe its time to think about my third degree?
What an amazing idea, thank you. It never occurred to me that you could do both at the same time.
Oh definitely! I didn’t really come up with the idea but certainly took advantage of it myself. It’s just that most people don’t think they can, so they don’t.
Thank you so much for wriring this post Mike! I am currently debating wether to go to uni full time or take some time off to travel, and I have been really woried that if I try and do both I would struggle to keep up with everything and burn out while still finding a way to earn money on the side. Your post has really encouraged me and I really admire everything you have done! Thank you so much x
Aw thanks Trish! I’m so happy you’re feeling encouraged by this and if I had anything to do with that then I am seriously glad. Whatever you choose to do just remember it will be the right choice for you at the time and you can always extend your time at uni to travel more or travel more when you graduate too. Don’t get me wrong it can be hard as hell but you CAN make it work. You have all the support you need here if you need it!
Interesting, it really seems so impossible to ‘have it all’ sometimes, but congrats on doing both by the way!