So you might be looking into whether university is the right option for you. A few years ago I was in the same situation. I knew I wanted to be a primary school teacher, but I also wanted to travel and take time to consider whether going to university was the right pathway for me.
First things first, my name is Claire and this blog post is about my Gap year experience.
I looked in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and signed up right away, deferring my university place. It gave me an insight into teaching whilst providing me with the chance to travel too.
I spent 6 months completing my course and then began applying for jobs. It was difficult to begin with as I’d come straight out of school and therefore had no experience in the TEFL industry. I had to apply for lots of jobs and there were times when I started to think I’d never get a job abroad.
Eventually I received a job offer from a family in Spain asking me to Au Pair for their little girl of 3 years old. I was then living in Spain, less than a week later, and questioning why on earth I had decided to place myself in a foreign country where I didn’t know the family I was living with or a word of Spanish!
Crazy I know! It wasn’t all sun, sea and beaches however, I did find it extremely difficult to adjust to the Spanish way of life. The language was such a barrier for me, no longer could I just wonder into town, ask for directions along the way and order lunch in a restaurant. I felt very isolated and really missed the comfort of my own home, my family and friends.
But after a couple of months, I settled in with the help of my amazing new Spanish family and began to teach both the family English and work in a school a couple of times a week and before I knew it I was having the time of my life, learning a new language, developing my own teaching skills and building on who I was as a person.
6 months later and I was back home in England with a whole new bunch of friends and a second family which I stay in touch with and visit regularly.
Not only did taking a gap year benefit my social and language skills it helped me to gain the independence and confidence I needed in order to start my new life at university.
When I moved in I didn’t feel home sick like many of my newly found friends, I felt well within my comfort zone with the knowledge that my family were only a few hours drive away and not hundreds of miles via aeroplane.
I had already adjusted to cooking for myself (and a whole family for that matter), cleaning and staying on top of my work load so settling into uni wasn’t really an issue. I also learnt a lot from my experience in teaching which is highly relevant to my course now.
The only thing that didn’t seem to improve was my sense of navigation and I found myself getting lost around uni several times a week for at least the first month! Although, you soon work it out with the help of a few friends and even after a year I still find myself having to confirm where certain rooms are… Maybe one day I’ll get there!
I am able to look back on my gap year with fond memories and I would really recommend it to anyone as I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it!
I can safely say that taking a gap year has been the best decision of my life.