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Graduate's Gap Year program in Africa

I decided to take a gap year at the beginning of my 3rd year at university.  I didn't really know what I wanted to do as a career and wanted to see somewhere different.  Others I know that travelled were off to Australia to work and it just seems a bit generic.

 Rhian Williams on her travels in Africa after her project with Year Out Group member i-to-iI had some savings and got a job to fund my travels.  I spent one month volunteering at the Vervet Monkey Sanctuary in South Africa, then a few weeks travelling on my own through South Africa on the Baz Bus. I then went on an overland tour, travelling through Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya, ending with a week at the beach in Mombassa. I went there because it was somewhere new and I didn't know anyone else who had done something like it.

The best thing was meeting new people, getting to play with monkeys, seeing amazing sights - Fish River Canyon, Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, Lake Malawi: going to 6 different National Parks was awesome and seeing a leopard attacked by a troop of baboons was pretty cool.  I missed home comforts, such as your toiletries already in the shower or a nice comfy bed instead of a roll mat, but they pale in comparison to where I was.  Bush toilets weren't exactly fun either.

Neither my project in South Africa nor my travels in eastern Africa were directly related to what I want to do but I think I have acquired many transferable skills such as team work, patience, meeting different generations and nationalities and organisation skills, as well as budgeting.  There will always be people that have done more career related activities, but that's not what my gap year was about.  My gap year was about doing something fun after 16 years of education, getting away from the 'real' world to experience something else. Plus I still have plenty of time left to do other things that can lead into a career.

My advice to those considering taking a gap year before university would be that it depends on the person.  For someone like me I would advise going after university, as I gained a lot more independence and confidence from living away from home.  If I had gone before university I would have no way near been ready.  However, I did meet people travelling straight from school and if you have the confidence to do it, go for it!  Just make sure you have researched where you're going properly and stick to your budget - I met many people who spent their money at the beginning of their trip and couldn't do the things they wanted later on.  If you are the type of person that likes things here and now, don't go to Africa - you will stand in a queue at the bank to change money for two hours, food will take ages and to get on Facebook will take some time, that's if you can find an internet café!

Rhian Williams graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a BA in Economics.  He placement in South Africa was arranged with i-to-i.