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Michael Robinson

Michael Robinson Senior Partner & President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland

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A Gap Year

The ‘gap year’ is becoming increasingly popular before, during and after university – particularly as a result of the recession. Many graduates are finding it difficult to get a job following graduation – mainly due to increased competition in the jobs marketplace, as well as a lack of hands on experience on the job. Taking a year out, allows each graduate/ student the opportunity to experience something different – be that travelling, working aboard or volunteering.

The first decision to make regarding a gap year is what you intend to do on your gap year. The three main options are:

  • Travel
  • Volunteer
  • Work


Travel:
some graduates take a year out to travel the world or to countries they have always wanted to see. This type of gap year provides the opportunity to both see and experience new cultures and languages and gain a wider understanding of the world at large. People often talk about the ‘life experiences’ they gain on such a gap year – often it being the first time that some graduates are responsible for their own way in life, budgeting their cash, finding living arrangements, navigating public transport and learning about the countries of the world. 


It is often the only time that a graduate may have the opportunity to experience such a lengthy period of travel – as once a career is embarked upon, mortgages taken up and responsibilities set, it is never again possible to take one year out to simply just travel.

Volunteer: volunteering can be a very rewarding opportunity. There are many types of volunteering opportunities ranging from working on a wildlife conserve in Africa, to teaching English in Japan. This form of experience adds greatly to the CV and if chosen correctly graduates can gain skills and experience that are relevant to their chosen career path. It is a great experience for both the graduate as well as the people who benefit from the work undertaken.

Work: some graduates prefer to go straight into employment and wish to seek employment abroad – be that via internships, working as an au pair or gaining paid employment within a specific industry. Often many graduates find that the only way to gain work experience is to take up a job in another country, with a view of coming home again once they have sufficient experience to better compete in the local job market.

Whichever path is chosen, the following MUST be considered before the travel is made:

  • Think about the logistics of getting to where you want to go
  • Consider the cost of getting there and the money required to keep you there
  • Plan when you wish to go and for how long you wish to be there
  • Research whether visas are required and any other important requirements


For more information on travel planning, volunteering and things to do on a gap year, visit www.gapyear.com.

Also check out your University Careers Service’s. They have plenty of information and advice to offer – make full use of them!

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