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Is a Gap Year for You?

To many starry-eyed matrics, fresh out of high school, university is an exciting future chapter to be boldly accepted and embraced as they smoothly transition from the end of their grade twelve year into their first year of tertiary studies. It’s natural for many to go straight from school to their local university or perhaps even move to different parts of the country to study. And whilst many get to welcome this new stage of life with open arms, others may not have been afforded the opportunity or elected to forego it. To the students that were unable to qualify for university, were not in a financial position to go or chose not to study tertiary-level education, a gap year may be the next obvious choice.

Every year almost 20% of South Africa’s matrics choose to do a gap year as an alternative to university and it is not seen as an uncommon choice post-matric in many households. However, gap years come in many shapes and sizes and what may be a perfect situation for one person, may not work for another. It’s best to tailor a gap year to YOUR needs. But what are the different options ahead of you and how do you figure out what your next steps may be?

In the technical definition, a gap year is defined as the year ‘break’ between matric and university and can give you time to reflect and prepare for your future. To many young adults, this could include consideration as to what kind of industry they may want to work in one day or perhaps which future career to pursue. It could even extend to what country they want to be in, whether they want to be a part of NGOs or many other factors.

So, what are some gap year options you could pursue?

For those confused as to which career path to take, internships, learnership or volunteer work could be the perfect solution. Taking the time to work at different companies over the space of your year (and maybe even in different industries) can help you figure out what you may and may not like from each role you take on and shed further light on what interests you as a career. You may find that the career you had in mind may not be suited to your skills and strengths or you have less interest in a field than you may have originally thought.

One of the many benefits of a gap year is its ability to expose you to a potential future of yours in a low-risk manner, which could have a knock-on effect on your life to come. For example, you may find that your childhood dream of being a vet is not really your calling or that you have an unexpected natural talent for customer relations. Taking on smaller roles in organisations doing part-time work can help you see your job opportunities and career development with new eyes (and may even lead to a full-time role in the future). By taking the time to see what you like and didn’t like, not only will you have a clearer image in mind for your future career, but you would have already earned career experience before many of your peers would have finished their first semester.

Another option to consider for your gap year, and one of the most popular options, is that of travelling locally or abroad. The options for this category are endless - you could backpack through Europe, volunteer for an organisation or cause you’re passionate about or even learn a new language. However, money and time might influence your choice of this option. Even if you are blessed enough to have your trip bankrolled by your family, this cannot be a long-term option. At some point, you will need to generate some form of income, generally in entry-level roles such as deckhands, bartenders, or student teachers. Many countries actively encourage foreign travel in exchange for skill development and teaching – such as teaching English to younger children or adults in a country where English is not a native language.

One of the advantages of this kind of gap year is that not only are you learning new skills, forging a potential career path, and earning some money at the same time but you are also exposing yourself to new and exciting opportunities from a multitude of environments that aren’t as structured as a classroom environment and allows you a fresh perspective.

If teaching does not appeal to you, there are plenty of other options out there! Many South Africans enjoy working on the superyachts in the Mediterranean where you can earn a salary whilst also seeing the world – what could be better? Otherwise, don’t travel too far from home and rather look locally for some incredible volunteer and work options that can force you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to see more of our beautiful country! For more information, take a look at these local options for the 2022/2023 gap year.

For some, university may not be an appealing option because not only do they not yet know what they want to study but also have no desire to go straight into work either. In cases such as these, a one-year course or diploma could be taken to help gain some necessary knowledge about a potential field they may wish to go into or to ensure that they will enjoy what they may yet study. University may also be a financial burden that many cannot or are unable to currently undertake. A short course addresses this problem too as not only is this a chance for many to dip their toe into a potential industry but it is far less expensive than a four-year degree, releasing you from a potentially heavy financial burden. Diplomas and courses can be done through multiple platforms and institutions but why don’t you look through what Future Banker can offer? There are multiple NQF certified courses and diplomas that can be undertaken and set you up on a path for success -

There are many pros and cons to taking a gap year but ultimately, we encourage you to do what works best for you. Should that be a year travelling through Peru, volunteering for beach clean-ups on our very own sandy beaches, working in a coffee shop or taking your first steps in your finance career by joining us at Future Banker, every option is as unique as the person choosing to do it. So, the question remains… what will you do with your gap year?

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