Four reasons a gap year abroad opens up new opportunities

More UK students than ever before are taking gap years despite the rise in university tuition fees. Many predicted the demise of the travel trend when tuition fees were trebled in 2012, but it instead fuelled a 20% rise in the number of gap year students.

No longer is gap year travel exclusive to those from affluent backgrounds, it has become a rite of passage to adulthood with more than 2.5 million teenagers planning time out abroad each year. Once seen as a time of rest and carefree exploration, students and graduates are now heading off in search of the work experience and skills that could boost their employability in the increasingly competitive graduate job market.

Aside from the inherent benefits of boosting your CV, spending time abroad is a chance to challenge yourself, make new friends and have life-changing experiences along the way. If you’re not convinced, here are four reasons why a gap year abroad opens up a world of new opportunities:

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Learn a foreign language to boost employability

In an increasingly globalised world, being able to speak a second language is one of the best ways of increasing your employability. Businesses who deal with international clients and markets are far more likely to employ a bilingual candidate than one who only speaks the native language. Travelling abroad is the best way to learn a language as it forces you to speak daily and learn colloquial speech.

Further education experts AoC Jobs have also discussed how speaking a second language can increase your wages. Having a second language in marketing or technical industries can mean a pay increase of between 10% and 15%. Research has also suggested bilingualism can offset neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia. One study found that multilingual adults show the first signs of dementia at 75.5 years, while monolingual adults show signs from 71.4 years of age.

Get out of your comfort zone to encourage personal development

Opportunities to escape reality and do something completely different rarely come along. A gap year plunges you into the unknown and forces you to deal with change. This teaches you how to talk to new people, acclimatize to foreign surroundings and ultimately fend for yourself, all of which will boost your confidence and teach you how to be self-reliant – great attributes for adult life and the workplace.

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Immerse yourself in different cultures to become a global citizen

When travelling to faraway exotic destinations it is tempting to spend time topping up your tan or uploading Instagram-pretty photos.For a richer experience, immerse yourself in foreign cultures by following local customs, tasting new cuisines and talking to the local people.

Being aware of cultural values is not only fascinating, but can help us gain perspective of international issues. Many people live in poverty and conflict and this takes a whole new meaning when you develop a personal connection with the people there. It helps you to see how much you take for granted, teaches you be more appreciative of what you have and compels you to help others and give back.

Use the time away to make a real difference

Many people are taking working gap years, where they offer their services to a charitable organisation. Volunteering abroad is an incredibly rewarding and worthwhile experience both for the community and the volunteer. It’s a chance to make a real difference to the world while reaping the endless benefits of travelling the globe.

You can improve the lives of those living in deprived communities by providing health care, helping to construct shelters and schools, and teaching the skills which could lead to a better future. You could also volunteer at an orphanage, educating the children, playing with them and lending a compassionate shoulder for them to turn to.

Nature lovers can get stuck into conservation projects across the world. From protecting endangered rhinos in Africa to marine conservation projects in the Caribbean, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities to help protect some of Earth’s most beautiful species.

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