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.
Deciding what to do for the next few years of your life after college and wondering about how the decision will affect the rest of your life isn’t easy. There’s a lot of social pressure to do the ‘right thing’ and get a degree and a career too, which piles on the stress.
Let’s get one thing straight right from the start, there really is no right or wrong choice. It is all about what is best for you at that specific moment in time. For some people that may be uni, for others it may be taking some time out to rest, regroup and figure a few things out. And no matter what you choose to do in that moment there is nothing stopping you from changing your mind and taking a different path later on. Life is not as linear or as fixed as some people think it is.
For many people they can’t make the choice at all and en up doing neither, or worse, sticking with a choice that isn’t right for them.
So what do you do?
What if I told you that you could have your cake and eat it? What if I told you that you didn’t have to choose one but you could have both?
Don’t believe me? I’m living proof!
I’ve been travelling the world for fifteen years. I have travelled through over a hundred countries on five continents, sometimes for short trips, sometimes for extended gap years. And in all that time I have also found the time to get two, yes two, separate degrees and even extra post graduate training and qualifications too!
How to travel and study at the same time.
So how did I do it? Personally it was a combination of settling down for a while with short breaks in between studying and then travelling for longer periods around that. Basically I fit my life around my passion for travel.
That specific way might not be right for you, there are many different ways you can achieve your travel dreams and your academic ambition at the same time, but you can achieve it. 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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