Suggestions for Your Gap Year

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Taking a year out before starting college is becoming an increasingly popular choice for Irish students who are seeking a little life experience before knuckling down to three or four years of further study. However, to ensure that your gap year doesn’t degenerate into twelve months of watching Trisha and antagonising your parents, you are going to need a plan…  First of all, if you have received an offer for a CAO course that you want, then you will have to defer it. Click here to find out how. Once you have done this, then the next step is to decide what you want to do.

Volunteering/Charity Work

Volunteering is a big area of interest for gap year students. Working abroad is particularly popular, as students get to experience a little adventure along with their altruism. While some jobs offer a wage, most simply provide you with a small weekly allowance, while still others require you to come up with the money for travel/living costs yourself. This needn’t be as daunting as it first sounds. As you are giving your services to a good cause, you can fundraise to finance your trip – think jumble sales, table quizzes and hitting up rich Uncle Roderick for a couple of quid…

There are positions available all over the world and plenty of organisations out there that can help you find work. The organisation i-to-i, for example, has projects in countries worldwide, ranging from conservation work in Australia to teaching English in Vietnam. Most projects require you to raise approximately EUR 1, 500 to work on a four-week project, which covers meals and accommodation. You can find out more on www.i-to-i. com.

However, if you are looking for a longer project, then one option to consider is the European Voluntary Service (EVS). This allows young people between 18 and 25 to work as volunteers in another European country for six to twelve months. EVS is funded by the European Union and there are opportunities on a range of projects dealing with issues such as youth, racism, ageing, physical and mental disabilities, health, environment, heritage and unemployment.

Some of the benefits of becoming an EVS volunteer are:
return airfare from Ireland accommodation and food provided language and cultural awareness training before commencing voluntary service insurance cover pocket money allowance of €38 per week local support and guidance And according to Gemma, an Irish volunteer at a Danish youth centre, the EVS experience is well worthwhile.
“Although I’ve just been here two months, I’ve learned so much already. I’ve met so many people from all over the world and I have been introduced to their cultures and ways of living. I’ve become a more open-minded person and learned to appreciate differences and realised how important my roots, heritage and country are to me and how much I appreciate and love my family and friends. But the biggest learning experience of all for me has been personally. I’ve become a very strong, independent and determined person. I have learned to be self-reliant and dependent on my own strengths and work hard at my weaknesses. I know that I’ve matured so much and that if I believe in myself, I can do anything!”
You can get more information on the programme from the Irish office of the Experiment in Intercultural Learning (EIL). Give them a call on 021 455 1535 or email info@eilireland. org.

However, if you would prefer to stay closer to home, then you can find Irish-based volunteering opportunities on www. volunteeringireland. com, an umbrella organisation that promotes, supports and facilitates voluntary work in the Republic. There are a huge number of volunteering positions available – you can choose to donate just one or two hours per week or bunker down with a full-time residential position.
There are volunteer positions available in a range of areas – publishing, office work, management, sports and recreation and fundraising to name a few. The variety of jobs on offer is a particular boon to those who are unsure of what college course they want to take, as they can try out a number of different areas and get real life experience of what a job is really like.

Educational Opportunities

However, if all this talk of charity work is making you reach for your gold-plated inhaler, then perhaps you should think of something else to do on your year out. Why not give yourself a head start with an educational programme? If you failed to get the required points for the course of your dreams, then you could consider taking a PLC course in a similar area. Many of these courses allow you to progress to a diploma or a degree course in an IT or university after completion – check with your local college for details. Other options include taking a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate, which will allow you teach English both at home and abroad. Check out www. iol. ie/~acels/ for a list of schools.

Getting a Job

Getting a job for a year is another option for your gap year. This can be an excellent way of getting a bit of money together to fund your college career. However, there are some things that you should consider before you start sending out your CV. While a year of work experience may stand to you on certain courses, such as Business Studies, others, such as Maths, may require continuity of study. As well as this, ask yourself whether you will be able to go back to academic life after a year in the real world and be aware that you will have to save the majority of your wages if you want to have a decent lump sum to bring to first year.
If you are serious about getting a job, then try and get one that will give you some experience and contacts in your chosen field. A year of ‘real work’ will also give your CV a boost when you are looking for a job after graduation.


Many gap year students have an urge to travel. One option is to work for six months before heading off, thus financing your trip and allowing you to see the world in comfort. However, working abroad is a great way to meet the natives – just be sure that you have a job before you go or at least enough money to survive on while you look. Australia is a top option for those who want to get as far away from Ireland and the oncoming winter as possible. A working holiday visa is available for those aged 18 to 30 – surf to www. immi. gov. au/e_visa/visit. htm for details. The EU is another option – no visa is required and you can also brush up on your language skills.

So if you think you could cope with having an extra year on your classmates, then why not consider a year out? Not only will you gain independence, broaden your horizons and become a better person, but you will also have a feast of stories to bridge those awkward silences when you do start college… is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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