A gap year can be a great way to expand your horizons and see the world, and it can boost your confidence and sense of independence too. However, if you’re planning to bid farewell to friends and family and set off on an adventure of a lifetime like this, you’ll need to be prepared. With this in mind, here are three things that all gap year students should know.
1) You can’t afford to neglect your health
One thing you simply can’t neglect, no matter how new and exciting your gap year experience may be, is your health. Depending on where you’re travelling to, you might be at risk of a range of potentially serious medical conditions. For example, in tropical and subtropical countries, malaria is common. This disease is spread by night-biting female mosquitoes carrying specific parasites. Each year, around 1,750 people return to the UK with this condition, so it’s not something you can be complacent about. Malaria symptoms can include diarrhoea, vomiting, night sweats, chills, headaches and fatigue. In severe cases, it can lead to complications such as kidney failure, abnormal liver function, anaemia, low blood sugar, convulsions and breathing problems. It can even prove fatal. The best way to protect yourself from this disease is to take anti-malarial tablets. To find out if you could benefit from these medicines, speak to a travel health specialist.
Other infectious diseases to be aware of include dengue, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, travellers’ diarrhoea, yellow fever, rabies and a range of sexually transmitted infections. Vaccinations are available to protect you from some of these diseases, and the actions you take while you’re away from home will be important too. For example, steer clear of tap water in areas of poor sanitation and try to avoid insect bites.
As well as safeguarding your health, it’s important to have suitable medical insurance in place in case you become ill or suffer an injury. If you lack cover, you might rack up big medical bills, or you may not even be able to access the care you need.
2) It’s important to have a plan
Having a vague idea of what you want to see and do when you’re away from home isn’t enough. If you want to make the very most of this overseas adventure, you’ll need to put a careful plan in place detailing where you’re going and what you want to achieve. For example, if you need to earn money while you’re away, it’s important to research the job opportunities on offer before you set off. Meanwhile, if you’re hoping to enhance your CV while you’re globetrotting, you’ll have to show evidence that you’ve used your time constructively rather than simply spending months on end sunbathing on the beach.
It’s vital that you plan your finances carefully too. The last thing you’ll want to do is run out of cash while you’re thousands of miles from home.
3) Expect to feel homesick
Last but not least, expect to feel homesick while you’re away. No matter how excited you feel before you set off, once you’ve taken the plunge and actually left, you’re bound to have moments when you miss your loved ones. Especially if something goes wrong or you’re having an off day, you might even question whether you made the right decision in leaving. When this happens though, bear in mind that these feelings almost always pass and, overall, your gap year should be a rewarding and enriching experience that you’ll be able to look back on for the rest of your life.