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Making the most of your year-out-Chloe's story

 

Making the most of your year out

After a hard year of studying and A-Level exams, I decided what I needed more than anything else, was a rest from education. University had always been part of my plan, but it could wait. As one of the younger students in my year I still didn’t feel ready to pack my bags, move out and start tackling the world on my own. There was some more growing up to be done and places to see. A ‘Gap Year’ seemed the perfect solution. I applied for deferred entry at my chosen university and began planning my adventure.

Working for part of the year and travelling for the rest felt like a good way to challenge myself and start gaining the independence I would need for university. Over the year I journeyed to four countries via two different travel companies. On my first trip I taught and built classrooms in Kenya, thanks to The Leap. My second trip involved a group tour around South East Asia.  Both trips were very different but equally as memorable. However, volunteer work is a unique and life-changing experience that I think everyone should try at least once.

A friend of mine had always talked about what a fantastic time she had had in Kenya and her photos looked incredible, so I started searching online for projects there. My Dad knew of a company that was local to us, The Leap, so I had a look at their website. It suggested a very friendly, personal approach and Kenya seemed especially close to Guy’s heart. They also had the perfect trip option for me, 6 to 12 weeks in Kenya. It would involve teaching, building a classroom, working in an elephant sanctuary and the weekends would be free for travel. There would also be the opportunity to go on safari. After exchanging e-mails with The Leap for a while, my mind was made up. The e-mails were always very helpful and friendly. I was sold! So I booked onto the April trip for 6 weeks.

To get together the money together for my trip, I had to get a job. I worked full-time in retail for three months before it went into administration. With the credit crunch and not much experience under my belt I found it very difficult to get another interview, let alone another job! Luckily I had money saved for me by my grandparents. At eighteen I was allowed to use it and I decided I would spend it all on my year out. I was very lucky that this money was available to me. I would say to anyone that it is so important to get some money together before you plan any travelling! This helps you narrow down what your options are and where you can go.

Obviously, the more money you have the more trips you can go on so I would recommend saving up for at least a year before you travel, unlike I did. I would have loved to go on one more trip or spent longer in Africa. I was very jealous looking at pictures on Facebook of school friends who had travelled for a lot longer than me and to lots of different places. But I didn’t get myself organized early enough and was naïve in thinking it would be quick and easy to get a job! It’s good to learn from your mistakes and I think I made the most of the money I did have.

The cost of vaccines is also something you will need to consider and plan for accordingly. With many injections, timing is crucial if they are to protect you whilst away. Malaria tablets are something you will also have to budget for as the prices can be quite a shock! Your local GP should be able to recommend a travel nurse or provide the medication.

During the trip, I really enjoyed the good feeling you got from the volunteer work. It was tough, but was great to see some results. The personal approach of the company meant you felt very safe and well cared for in a strange and new country. It was nerve racking but also exciting to go completely alone and meet new people. The rest of the group were all people my age, which meant we had lots in common and could make really close friends. I made some fantastic friends that I hope I’ll always stay in touch with.

I learnt a lot about myself from living so closely with people and a lot about how to approach life. I would strongly recommend The Leap to anyone and I would love to go on another trip with the company sometime in the future!
I also feel very privileged to have travelled to Kenya whilst it was safe for tourists and volunteers, before the Foreign Office put a travel warning on the area! My trip was unforgettable and has made me determined to travel as much as I can during my life.

Helping to promote gap years at my old school and others in the area since being back in the UK has helped improve my CV and I have been able to secure a job in PR straight out of university. I don’t think I would have been able to do this without the confidence and conviction my gap gave me. Nor do I think I would have such a thirst to see as much of the world as I can.

When thinking about a taking a year out I would simply suggest you research and prepare thoroughly, save up as much money as you can, starting as early as possible and travel to as many places as you can. Make the best of any trip you organize by having a positive attitude and “leaping” on every opportunity that comes your way!