Is a post-uni gap year worth it?

More and more students are choosing to take a gap year after their degree. The number of deferrals is decreasing, and post-A-Level travels are out of fashion. Why consider taking a gap year after university?

A gap year, also known as a sabbatical, is typically a 3-12 month break from study. Many spend the time travelling, working, or planning their next steps. Some decide to take a gap year before university, but in recent years, it has become more popular among graduates.

Are you thinking about taking a gap year to travel after university? Lana Bester spoke to Jessica Licheri, an NTU Business Management and Accounting & Finance 2022 graduate, about her current post-uni travels. Jessica has spent the last 3 months travelling across Asia with her boyfriend.

Like many graduates, Jessica chose to travel after her graduation as she “did not feel ready to start a full-time job after university,” and describes her 3 months of travel as “a well-deserved break.”

A gap year allows graduates to have a break and help to plan what is next, as well as allowing them to enter the workplace refreshed and re-focused. “Travelling has helped me to grow as a person and encourage me to work harder,” she says.

Another benefit of taking a year out after university is that you can spend your final year concentrating on your studies, and not having to worry about the countless post-grad courses or job applications. Jessica explains that you can apply for graduate schemes up to 2 years after graduating and reiterates that taking a year out will not make achieving her dream job any less possible.

Jessica Licheri on her travels. Image Credit: Jessica Licheri

Professionally speaking, a gap year brings many benefits to the table. 84% of former gap year students claim to have gained skills they believe will help them be successful in their future careers, such as languages, organisation, and resilience. Neal Taparia, the cofounder of SOTA Partners and Solitaired, says that a gap year suggests that someone is “adventurous and willing to take risks.”

A gap year helps graduates to become a more ‘rounded’ individual with plenty of life experience. “Learning and growth isn’t just about education, I have learnt so much about different cultures and lifestyles which has further opened my mind”, Jessica explains. Travel gives you plenty of transferrable skills that employees love. Taking part in volunteer schemes or initiatives abroad are also seen as bonuses to future employers. Candidates who can provide a good reason for a work gap receive roughly 60% more interviews than those who did not take a gap year!

However, a gap year after university is not for everyone. The months immediately after graduating can be extremely important to some, and you may miss out on other opportunities, impacting your career. A gap year can also be hugely financially demanding, especially if you plan on staying abroad for a while.

If you are one for living in the moment and enjoying an adventure, go for it! A gap year can be the best time of your life, and hugely enhance your future opportunities if you do it right. Be sure to consider all your options and make an informed choice.

Did you choose to travel solo, with friends, or in group tours? Why?

I am currently travelling with my boyfriend. Luckily he had the same ambition to travel so it worked out well 🙂 I did consider doing a tour however it’s way cheaper to do it yourself and so easy to make friends!

Feeding an elephant. Image Credit: Jessica Licheri

How did you finance your gap year? Did you take out a micro-gap year to work beforehand, etc.? 

During my third year, I worked at Virgin Active alongside my studies so I was able to save money each month to travel.

If you didn’t travel for the whole year, what did you do with the rest of the time?

I am a swimming teacher so when I return after 3 months I will be teaching while looking and applying for a graduate role.

Do you think it is better to save your gap year until after graduating? Why not go before Uni? 

I am happy I went after university as I felt ready to go to university after sixth form but I didn’t feel ready to start a full-time job after university, therefore, this is perfect for me.

What are the benefits of taking a gap year after Uni?

Learning and growth isn’t just about education; I have learnt so much about different cultures and lifestyles which has further opened my mind. After 3 years of working hard this is a well-deserved break before going into the working world.

Why did you choose to take a gap year? Do you think the pandemic affected your decision? Would you say there’s a misconception that those who don’t secure work in their dream job after uni straight away escape to travel?

I have always had an interest in travelling and knew this is what I wanted to do. After the pandemic I was even more excited due to being restricted for so long!

I don’t think having a year out will affect me achieving my dream job; you can still start graduate schemes 2 years after graduating, and even if I don’t have the perfect job for me straight away I believe all will work out in time!

I would definitely recommend to whoever you can to travel as I’m enjoying everyday so much and this break from reality was so needed!

Do you feel like you are more ready to enter the workplace after taking your gap year than if you hadn’t? Do you think your experiences abroad made you more mature? Do you feel like you’ve grown as a person? What life experience would you say you’ve gained?

I think I am more ready however after having so much fun travelling it makes you never want to return back to reality! University definitely matured me a lot but travelling has helped me to grow as a person and encourage me to work harder in order to travel again! I have met so many nice people from all over the world and seen so many amazing things that I feel so luckily to have experienced.

Jessica Licheri on her travels. Image Credit: Jessica Licheri

What skills would you say you’ve learnt, and how/when? E.g. languages, valuable work skills. 

I learnt how to be more easygoing as you don’t always have a plan when travelling and this normally ends up better than you imagine. Unfortunately, I only learnt a few words in other languages, as everyone speaks English it makes it harder to learn the language.

Would you say that travelling has opened up work opportunities to you? Has it changed your mind on your dream career?

I wouldn’t say it has changed much however I would love to be able to work abroad as everything is cheaper and better value with lots of positive vibes.

Did you choose to volunteer/ take a ‘meaningful’ gap year? Was this because you were looking at building your CV and hoping to impress future employers? Do you feel that voluntourism schemes are self-serving (i.e., white saviour complex)? 

I didn’t choose to volunteer however it’s something I am considering for the future.

Many gap-years are now UK-based: Do you regret not choosing to spend the time trying to build your CV with internships and relevant work experience for your dream career? 

Definitely not! You can to that within university or even along side travelling in your free time. I have still been able to work on my CV and apply for jobs.

By taking a year out to travel, do you feel like you’ve delayed your career or further study at all?

Not at all! Many success stories aren’t until later in life so it definitely hasn’t delayed anything I have lots of time to focus on my career!

Lead Image Credit: Jess Nissen on Unsplash 

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