Take the gap

2013-11-13 11:00

In the second of our school-leaver series, we consider the gap year after matric – a great opportunity for personal growth.

Staying local

You don’t necessarily have to travel to the end of the world for a fun and memorable gap year. There are many local ways you can spend your time between studies:

» Get a job and save your hard-earned cash to pay for your future studies. You’ll enjoy some freedom and get a taste of the working world as you build on your skills.

» Volunteer with disadvantaged communities or with wildlife and conservation projects.

» Coach a sport or offer to be a teacher’s aid at one of your local schools.

» Research your career ideas, job shadow or visit the institutions you’re considering. Talk to students or lecturers to find out more about what you want to study.

» Do things you’ve never had time for, like getting your passport and/or driver’s licence. ? Do a language course or start a new sport or hobby.

Gapping abroad

The traditional gap year involves taking a working holiday overseas.

This way, you can fund the experience while you live it! Lots of gappers choose to work in boarding schools, pubs, ski resorts or summer camps – most of which offer staff accommodation and a network of other travellers.

» Embarking on an overseas adventure doesn’t necessarily mean shunning everything educationally inclined. School-leavers can sign up to attend a foreign high school as part of a student exchange and live with a host family.

Find out more from the Rotary Youth Exchange Southern Africa.

Visit: Rotary.org or Youthexsa.org.za

Call: 001 866 9768 279

» Do voluntary work across Africa or overseas. Experience different cultures, people and languages while you make a positive difference in the world.

» Work as an au pair – a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the culture of a country. Live with a host family and receive free accommodation, a language course and a small wage.

Visit: Aupair-world.net or Greataupair.com

» Teach your way around the world. You’ll need to complete a course in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Teaching jobs abroad include placements at colleges, universities and schools as well as private tutoring.

Visit: tesolsa.co.za

Call: 021 674 4118

Email: info@ctenglish.co.za

Do you need visas and/or work permits?

A visa is like a stamp of approval in your passport allowing you to enter, leave or stay in a specific country for a specific period of time.

You have to apply and pay for it and there are many different types, like tourist, study and work visas. You may also have to be vaccinated beforehand to apply for a visa or pass security and health checks at the border.

As a South African passport holder, these are some of the most time-consuming things to organise before a trip.

Remember that it’s illegal to work with a holiday visa only. You need a work permit from your employer too.

If you don’t comply with visa or permit rules – or you overstay the time allowed on your visa or permit – you could be charged, jailed, deported and/or blacklisted.

Visit: Globalvisas.com

Call: 021 427 6100

The Registration of South Africans Abroad (ROSA) is a software programme developed by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRC) so travellers can register online.

With your information on record, the DIRC can assist you in the event of an emergency abroad.

ROSA is only available to South African citizens who are travelling, living or working abroad.

Registration is free at Dirco.gov.za (under the Consular Information section).


» You can take your time to think about, plan and organise your finances, study goals and future.

» You can be of service to your or another country’s community.

» You’ll gain work experience and learn the value of money.

» As you travel, you’ll learn about new cultures or even a foreign language.

» You can gain maturity and become truly self-sufficient and responsible.

» You’ll cross paths with different people. These connections could become future business associates or lifelong friends.

» It could stop you from wasting money on a course you don’t actually want to do.


» It could turn into an unproductive waste of time if you don’t use it well.

» You could lose your academic discipline and motivation to study.

» Some people go off track and become negatively influenced by the wrong people. Could you?

» Sometimes it’s hard to find a job.

» Not having a job or focus can lead to you become a downbeat couch potato rather than enjoying your year.

» If you have been accepted to an institution and decide to take a gap year, you’re not necessarily guaranteed the same place the following year.

Stay in touch

Remember to check in with your family or friends every couple of days.

We live in a digital age: the internet, emails, Skype, smartphones and social networking reign surpreme. Internet cafés can therefore be found almost everywhere, and there are many package-deal travel SIM cards.

GO-SIM (Gosim.com) is an international SIM card that offers cheap roaming rates in over 180 destinations and on over 300 different networks. But don’t dismiss the traditional postcard or posted letter.

It feels really special to receive something in the mail (other than bills) – and they’ll be equally fun for you to write too.

How much will it cost?

Gap-year adventures don’t have to cost the earth. If you plan it well and look for deals ahead of time, you’ll be fine. Buy an around-the-world ticket – a cheap way to see a lot of countries – or explore one country properly by working odd jobs.

You can make money via a full-time job, such as on summer camps in the US or waitressing, if you have a working visa. Book tickets in advance, look for package specials on Groupon.com or find cheap flights and accommodation on Lastminute.com or Secrethotels.com.

A little hint...

Your gap year might involve more partying than time spent building serious career credentials.

Dancing on tables and irresponsible escapades are often part of a wild gap year, but be careful about what lands up on social media and public record.

You will be job-hunting one day and these are not things your future employee needs to know about.

What to pack

No matter what type of gap year you take, the following should be packed into your suitcase or backpack. Make a checklist so you can be sure you have everything you need before you depart.

»Passport and visas

» A USB stick

» Tickets and accommodation bookings

» Ziploc bags

» Health and travel insurance documents

» Sunscreen

» Debit/credit cards or traveller’s cheques

» Certified copies of NB documents

» Cash, plus extra for emergencies

» Important documents sent to your email account or the cloud

» Student card, if you have one – you’ll get lots of discounts

» Clothes – only the bare necessities

» Prescription meds and contraceptives

» Toiletries

» Small medical kit

» Two small combination locks

» Spare specs/contacts

» Phone, tunes and camera!

Useful links

Charitysa.co.za, Globalvolunteernetwork.org, Gooverses.com, Projects-abroad.org.za, Volunteerchildnetwork.org.za

Long or short?

The length of your gap year is entirely up to you: spend as little as a couple of months abroad or take the full 12 months.

» Get your copy of iMag in City Press on Sundays

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