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      20.05.2011 23:41
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      A great way to spend a productive gap year

      I never thought that gap year was for me. I must admit that in my opinion it was for people who didn't get into universities of their choice or were not very academic and wanted a break from the school environment. How wrong I was! Although I have been working hard for my entire life and I planned to go straight to a good university, life got in the way. My parents had no means to finance my higher education (I was receiving a full scholarship throughout the two years of my A-levels) and I qualified for tuition fees loan only as I am an EU student and I had not been living in the UK for three years prior to entering higher education. I was worried that a full-time job during whilst studying full-time at university could affect my studies so I decided to take a year off and earn as much money as I possibly could and save it for education. As I was hoping to study sciences, my Sixth Form tutor recommended a charity called Year in Industry (which is a part of Engineering Development Trust (EDT)) that helps to find gap and sandwich year work placements in engineering, science, IT, logistics, e-commerce, marketing, finance and more. I immediately went on their website (www.yini.org.uk) where I easily found further information. As I learnt, an average YinI student is paid between 9-14k per year so for me it was the perfect solution - earning 'real' money and gaining relevant work experience! There is also a 'Combo' option during which you work for the first part of your year and then go travelling (companies such as ProjectsAbroad offer discounts for YinI) for a couple of months although I personally do not know anyone who has done it. I applied very early - just right at the beginning of the second year of my A-levels. The application charge is $25 and this is all I paid for the scheme. I had to complete quite a big questionnaire online and YinI created a CV for me based on that (I was allowed to make amendments throughout the year). Within a couple of weeks, I was invited for an assessment event in London during which I listened to the presentations about the Year in Industry scheme and interview tips followed by a brief, informal interview. Also, all of the applicants had to bring their passports to confirm the right to work in the UK. Year in Industry has regional offices all over the UK so if you live in Inverness, you don't need to come down to London for the event (which is compulsory) but you will be probably assessed somewhere closer to your home. I know that 'assessment' may sound a bit scary but in fact, it is very relaxed and informal event that gives you a chance to meet other applicants and YinI staff. From what I know, a lot of Sixth Formers worry that their grades are not high enough to get a good job but they are not necessarily right - many companies look for something beyond the grades, such as involvement in extracurricular activities and potential. Even if you are not predicted three As at A-level, then you still have a very good chance of finding employment. Following the assessment event, I was formally accepted by Year in Industry and this is when the job hunting started. I was regularly sent job adverts and I kept on searching for vacancies on the YinI website as well. One of the problems I encountered whilst searching the website is that it wasn't always kept up to date. I happened to ask my regional YinI office to send my CV to some companies and within a couple of days, it turned out that some of the vacancies were already filled which was a bit frustrating. Initially, I was extremely picky and I didn't want my CV to be sent to companies that offered IT or engineering work placements - I was determined to work in a laboratory and become a 'real' scientist. After a couple of months I realised that looking for a job in the tough time of financial crisis was not going to be easy and I decided to revise my criteria. I didn't really have any contingency plans (I decided to apply to university during my gap year) so I knew this was my only option therefore I started sending my CV off to all the companies that could offer any relevant work experience and I soon started receiving invitations for interviews. In the end, I attended two interviews. I was not entirely sure how to approach the first one as half a year passed since my assessment event so I treated is a bit like a 'practice' interview. I was asked me some 'standard' interview questions about my CV which I thought went quite well though I got a bit caught out with health and safety - I never thought I would be asked about it! I still really enjoyed my time there (and I received a free lunch!) and I was glad to have gained this experience. I felt a lot more confident when I was asked to prepare a presentation about a project I successfully managed for my second interview with one of the governmental bodies in Wiltshire. I also asked my friends and teachers to give me mock interviews so during the interview, I knew I was doing well as I was really well-prepared. And the next day I received a phone call from YinI telling me that I got the job! Of course, I joyfully accepted. After that, I started receiving a lot of forms to complete from the company, Year in Industry information packs and a lot of other information about what was going to happen. Most of the students start their placement in September (which was the case with mine), though some start in July and last from 10 to 12 months (my contract was for 12 months). I also got invited for a Year in Industry information day before I start my placement but unfortunately, I could not attend as I was on away. Meanwhile, I found out that during my gap year, I can also gain a Diploma in First Line Management Level 3 (accredited by the Chartered Management Institute) free of charge. I know that a lot of students worry they will lose their Maths skills - here you have a chance to either complete an A-level in Further Maths or complete a distance-learning Best Maths course (covering the syllabus of the first-year university Engineering Mathematics) which costs $125. I decided to complete both courses as I wanted to learn something about management and I already had a Further Maths A-level and I didn't want to forget the calculus or complex numbers. From mid-August I was just trying to pass the time as I couldn't wait to start my first full-time job and adult life. Meanwhile, I had to deal with domestics such as house hunting. As my company had recruited Year in Industry students before, we (there are four of us) simply moved into the same house as they moved out which saved a lot of hassle. We got on really well and quickly made very good friends. Throughout the year, we had a couple of chances to get to know other Year in Industry students working in South West. I spent my first few weeks at work trying to find my way around the building, getting to know other team members, attending induction meetings (to learn about the company) and learning about the activities I will be doing throughout the year. From the very beginning, I was involved in many serious tasks such as project and event management, data analysis or report writing for the board of directors. I even learnt how to write cost benefit analysis and business cases; there wasn't a single time when I had to make a coffee for anyone. My manager is a lovely lady in her thirties who genuinely wants me to make the most out of this placement and has been very supportive throughout the year. Apart from a line-manager, I was also assigned a YinI mentor who visited me twice during the year to make sure I was happy with the company and oppositely, that I didn't cause them any trouble. We are also encouraged to take part in annual Year in Industry competition called Contribution to Business Awards - I just submitted my entry! Unfortunately, now my year is coming to an end. I see how much I learnt in terms of transferable skills such as communication or time-management but I have also grown as a person. I am now much more confident and mature; not to mention making really good friends. I hope that the experience from this year will make my university life slightly easier - for example, I had to learn to cook (though firstly I learnt how to switch the fire alarm off!) and now I know how to deal with my electricity bills. I think that Year in Industry is a great scheme that provided me with a very valuable gap year experience which helped me to grow as a person and make my CV stand out. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

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        11.05.2010 15:38
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        HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

        To mark my 300th review I thought I'd write about something that has provided me with a lot of memories, plenty of stories and a lot of happiness... my gap year. Seven years ago, when I was 18, I decided to go and work abroad in Banff, Canada. I'd been skiing before and I liked the idea of living and working in a mountain village so I decided to put my grand plan into action! Although I was very excited by the prospect of going away, I was also daunted by the thought of going abroad alone. So I was really pleased when I found a gap year company on-line that arranged jobs, accommodation and flights for gapers before they set off (the company I used was called Changing Worlds, however this particular gap experience is now managed by a company called Oyster Worldwide). The arrangement fee with the company was around £2,000 (which was an awful lot of money to me), so I started to save... I worked 20 hours a week, part-time during my A-Levels and as soon as my exams were over I found a full-time job so I could raise more cash. The process of working and saving towards my trip was very rewarding. I don't think my parents thought that saving close to £4,000 (the money I needed for my trip and kit) was possible, but I managed it, which was a personal achievement in itself... I flew out from Manchester airport on Friday 28 November 2003 and I cried my eyes out when I left my family in the departure lounge. I knew that I'd be spending Christmas alone and I remember feeling like it was the end of the world... I met up with the other gapers on the aeroplane, that's when I was introduced to the girl that I was going to be living and working with - Mhairi. Once we arrived at our destination which was cold, dark hotel staff accommodation, I realised that I didn't have my backpack... just what I needed after all those hours travelling. But another perk of using the gap year company meant that I had a representative on hand to help. It turns out that one of my fellow gapers had mistakenly taken my bag and we swapped over the next day. The heating in the apartment wasn't working and it was -30ish so you can imagine how cold it was - we spent the first few weeks shivering it our wooden cabin of an apartment. A few days after I'd arrived I started working as a housekeeper in a four star hotel - alongside my new 'roomie' Mhairi. Now to say I was hopeless to begin with is a massive understatement. I was useless - I didn't know how to make a bed and cleaning was alien to me. However after some extra training I got to grips with it... slowly. Meanwhile Mhairi and I weren't getting on at all... I was extremely homesick and she got very frustrated with my tears and longing for home. I'd say that it took a good two months for my homesickness to pass - it really did hit me like a ton of bricks and on more than one occasion I contemplated going home - something which I'm so, so glad I didn't do. Over time I began to make friends with people from all over the world, I enjoyed the social life that Banff had to offer and I improved my skiing skills no end! After about four months Mhairi and I started to get on better too. We had a lot of fun drinking, dancing, skiing, gossiping and getting up to mischief. We are still friends now - but we still bicker and we are more like argumentative sisters than friends. During that trip I leaned to manage money, cook, clean and basically survive on my own. I had some very tough times - but some amazing ones too - ice skating outdoors, skiing down mountains, making Christmas dinner with my housemates and burning the turkey because we'd drank too much red wine, watching the Calgary Flames in the ice hockey play offs - LIVE, seeing my idol Rod Stewart sing at Calgary stadium, running up bar bills which my weekly wages just about covered, kayaking in the lake (once the weather had warmed up) and my personal favourite... making the local paper for stealing a life size teddy bear from outside a shop - we returned it by the way... ahhh the memories are endless! I also got the chance to go white water rafting and whale watching while I was away - and after a drunken bet with Mhairi I ended up skydiving - which was one of the scariest / most amazing things I've ever done. I also went travelling around North America... oh and guess what? I was offered a promotion in my housekeeping job... I didn't take it, I went travelling instead, but I don't think that's bad going for a girl that couldn't make a bed when she first arrived!! If you're thinking of taking a gap year then I'd say go for it - it will be the best thing you ever do, it will also be tough at times, but if you stick with you'll create memories and friendships that will last a lifetime...

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          29.07.2009 19:49
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          A wonderful year you may never get again

          I always knew I would take a Gap Year since I was in year 9 at secondary school-it was just a given. I had no idea where I would go, only that I would fill it travel and experiences. The plan was to travel after my A-Levels for the whole year, or most of it at least, and I was heading Down Under. Well, you know what they say about best laid plans! Those best laid plans involved me getting into a long-term relationship. Being very young and in 'love' I changed my plans as my boyfriend at the time did not have the required funds for an Australian Working Holiday Visa. So, we changed to going to Canada as it was cheaper and less restrictive. I was feeling very sad at the thought of not seeing my family for 11 months, but excited about the venture ahead. It was hard to find work at first; it's just a case of knowing where to look. We ended up on a ski resort fixing bindings to skis and snowboards, not a bad job, but my heart just wasn't in it-both the job and the boyfriends. 3 months later, I returned home. In hindsight, this was the best thing for me as it led me to going to Camp America that summer. I arranged this through CCUSA. They sorted everything from jobs to flights to my visa. I had the best summer teaching kids how to swim and a travelled along the east coast of America for a month afterwards. I wouldn't change it for the world. I would recommend EVERYONE to take a gap year. I caught the travel bug for sure-do it while you can, before the big bad world of mortgage and kids come into the equation!

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          31.08.2008 20:54
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          Madventurer rips you off.

          After my A-levels this summer I travelled to Ghana to volunteer in an orphanage. It was my first time doing something like this so I opted to do the project with a gap year organisation called "Madventurer." It appeared to be a good idea as it gave me the security etc i felt i needed. I honestly have to say I would never use them again, and would discourage others. I paid £995 for a month (not including flights) which paid for transfers and accomodation. I was also told 10% (£100) would go to the project I was working on. The truth is, I barely saw ANYTHING going to them. The orphanage desperately needed milk powder, food, and nappies - real essentials and Madventurer were EXTREMELY reluctant to buy ANY of these. The orphanage, (apart from receiving the odd donations), are heavily reliant on Madventurer, so I was livid when I knew the children and babies wern't being provided with what they needed. It left all the volunteers having to buy these things, when we all assumed we were paying for this in our project fee! One of the only good things about Madventurer is the excellent food our cook made in the house, for which we were really grateful, howful the breakfast, that the details promised, was almost non-existant - all we got was some bread (which half the time we had to buy ourselves). The crew leaders were also very poor. They were never there when you needed help/advice and one of them even moaned about taking us to the airport which was his job and we had indirectly paid for. My advice to others is simple: a) If you have the time and money - DO IT - volunteering and giving back to other people who are less well-off than yourself is so rewarding b) Choose a REAL charity organisation - - so you KNOW if the money is going to the people who need it, (or whether its just being fed back into the company's marketing!) c) If you can, ask for a break-down of money - find out where you're money's going! Good Luck! .x.x.

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          12.01.2008 03:04
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          Its all one big adventure!

          **GAP YEAR** *Temping Work - In Australia* Working abroad is definitely a challenge, well to me it has been. I decided to take a gap year and come over here to work for a year. I had just entered a new country, got an apartment so the next obvious step was to look for work. I went to recruitment agencies (see review for more detail) to help me find work in such a big city. First place I arrived was Sydney the most popular and well known city in Australia. I had already applied for a working holiday visa at home which meant I was entitled to work in the country legally. You need to have a visa which entitles you to work. Next step was to get a tax file number, without this you will not be given a job as you need it for tax purposes. This can be done online. Now all the paperwork has been done you I needed to open a bank account as most jobs pay you directly into your account. I chose the Commonwealth Bank as I was told in the hostel I was staying at that this was the best one, however I am not sure if this is the case as I never investigated any other banks. We set up the account fairly easily, you needed 2 forms of ID and an Australian address. Sometimes if you are staying at a hostel they will accept this address but you need to make sure the hostel will accept and distribute your mail to one. One thing which at home I have never seen is that we had to pay an upkeeping fee on the account every month which is $2 per person. As I had a joint account it was $4 a month. It's not much but I was annoyed I had to pay anything. Then it is advisable to get an Australian sim card as people will want a contact number. We chose Vodafone again as the hostel advised us. There are other networks maybe that are cheaper, yet again I did not check this out. Next point of call is getting work. I needed to make sure I could get to work either by walking, public transport or I could have bought a car. Personally I used trains as I lived only 10 minutes away from the city centre by train so it was very handy. The most sensible thing then to do was look for work in the city centre (everyone called it the CBD - Central Business District), I'd never heard this term before it was all new to me. Right so where to look for a job was my main problem at the start. The city was so big and there was so much information everywhere I was totally lost. I would advise people wanting to get a job in Australia to try the newspaper, sign up to recruitment agencies in person and there is recruitment website (an example is www.seek.com.au) which I found very useful. The problem with the newspaper is that a lot of advertisements are vague and you are not sure what the employer wants. Quite often you are ringing up about permanent jobs and they don't want travellers starting these jobs as in a few months they will have to recruit again so they want someone long term. My advice is to go to the casual or temporary section in the paper so you are not wasting time and money on phone calls you don't need to. The recruitment website www.seek.com.au is handy as you can filter what jobs you want to hear about, what area and lots of other useful filters can be applied so you only receive the updated and emails on jobs that are currently available in the area and for your needs. Sometimes the jobs are through recruitment agencies on this website but not always. You can apply for the job online hassle free. Signing up to recruitment agencies in person will take up a considerable amount of your time. Get yourself a clear detailed map so you can find your way about that area. If you are having difficulties in finding recruitment agencies there are two agencies called Freespirit and Geoffrey Nathan they will send your CV out to various different recruitment agencies for you when you sign up with them. You then will get paid directly through them and not the recruitment agencies. They claim you will get more money with them as they will give you what they call a 'living away from home allowance', however in my experience I did not get extra money. I got the same as what I got with the recruitment agencies paying me direct but in the long run I got more without going through Freespirit and Geoffrey Nathan and without them paying me directly. The reason is that Freespirit and Geoffrey Nathan do give you the living away from home allowance and you get taxed less on your earnings but they also take their fee out of that. So you are being charged by them and the recruitment agency. So I have only half the tax to claim back when I get home or at the end of the tax year. When I have been paid directly I get to claim back the full tax that has been deducted. They are good to get you started but it really is better if you can find the agencies yourself, financially you will be better off. Jobs are also posted in hostels and the travellers contact point which is worth checking out. The types of jobs available to you are generally different to what your usual job hunt gives you. Temping office work, retail work, cleaners, warehouse staff, labouring, farm work, fruit picking and bar or restaurant work are the general areas available to you. + Office work + It is best to go through agencies for this type of work as it's on a here and now basis, generally you get a call the day before or that morning letting you know an assignment is available. Your contract time can vary from one day to a year, sometimes extensions can be given and you get to work longer than you expected but you don't be told unto the last minute. From what I can see it is the best paid work. You do need to have substantial work experience in an office, even though a lot of the jobs are simple and menial. + Retail Work and Restaurant/Bar work + From my experience going around the shops asking who has work available is the most effective way of finding a job in this area. + Farm Work and Fruit Picking + This type of work generally is badly paid and very hard work. Sometimes you will get free lodgings and food. Quite often its share lodgings like dorms you would get in a hostel. If you work a certain time in this type of work it is easier to get your visa extended and it helps a lot when applying for residency. Do bear in mind that you will be working long hours, getting low pay and it is very physical work which will exhaust you. The scorching heat will not help as it is also very humid here too. Anyone who does this type of work I admire as I don't think I would ever have been able to. *OVERALL* My personal experiences of doing temping work have been varied. I have worked for reputable companies, however some of the jobs I have done have been very basic and extremely boring. Data entry gave me repetitive strain injury and my muscles ached so much I couldn't sleep at night. I have learnt new skills and have done some projects. Overall I feel the Australian's have been very friendly and work very much as a team in their offices. I have not experienced this at home but then I had only worked in a very small firm with only one other person in the office before coming here. There are lots of jobs here and sometimes they are finding it difficult to fill positions. Un-employment is very low here and people tend to feel more secure in their jobs and therefore seem happier. Maybe this has only been in the firms I have worked in and I have just been lucky. Either way it's a great place to work with lots of opportunities. Originally posted on Ciao under my username denisekelly40

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            22.10.2006 01:14
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            Its the best thing I ever did - but I am only young still!!!

            If you don’t like long reviews, you might want to leave now; this isn’t going to be a quick one!!! Nor is it going to be about how I arranged my gap year travels. This review is about how my gap year changed me, and why I think everyone should have one. When I was 18 years old I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life, I had a few half baked ideas about being a lawyer or a psychologist but sadly neither the commitment nor the intelligence to back them up. My fiends moved straight from their A grade A levels to their top notch unis to peruse their degrees in fine art, cultural studies, and drama. I moved from my mediocre results to a part time job in a nursing home. Gasp! I had been working with the elderly for a few months when a friend asked me if I would like to accompany her to Zimbabwe. It was only for four weeks. A short enough period of time to be not too scary and yet a month was long enough to be a challenge. When my Nana found out she sent me news paper clippings about the prevalence of AIDS in developing countries. Luckily my Dads ex army and was very pro travel, “you could get run over tomorrow and die down the street, or you could go to Zimbabwe and get caught up in a riot and die, either way when your times up its up!” Dads don’t you just love ‘em! So I brought a back pack and off I went in to the not so scary world of 5 star hotels, posh restaurants, and guided sunset tours on posh boats. Looking back I am mortified to admit that I learnt next to nothing about the culture and life of Zimbabwean people. I saw the Victoria Falls, I saw a wild lion, and I drank a lot of very nice beer. I lead a life in Zimbabwe that I could have lead anywhere in the world, I saw some beautiful sights, but if I am honest I wasted a golden opportunity. However whilst I was in Zimbabwe I did catch a couple of bugs, The travel bug, and the Africa bug and I returned home refreshed and enthusiastic, the trip hadn’t been what I would have done had I been on my own, but it had opened my eyes to the opportunities that were available. A few more months of 72 hour working weeks and I was away again. This time I brought a pen knife and a maglite torch to go with my back pack as I headed off to Ghana for four months. My Nana sent me a news paper clipping about shots being fired over the Ivory Coast – Ghana border. I thanked her for her concern. This time I travelled alone, but went with a company for e-co tourists. I lived in a slightly more scary shared house in one of the poorest suburbs of the capital city Accra. My house was basic to say the least. Housing eight volunteers from the UK and the US. We had 4 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and toilette, a kitchen with no sink and no oven, a 1 hob cal gas, and eight plastic plates and eight plastic spoons. In our lounge there were five plastic chairs and a round plastic table. That was it. The water supply to our house was intermittent, it really depended on whether the bill had been paid or not by the land lady and the electrics to the whole district were unpredictable. And yet when you taught in the schools, and walked around the area, and visited the out lying villages, you came home and realised what an awful lot you had. My placement was teaching English to children in a local school, in anyone class there were around 40-50 children. The school was basic, but efficient. The teachers were good at their jobs, they were resourceful and they were grateful for help from little old me. They welcomed me in to their lives and their community, inviting me to share in the little that they had. I saw and did so many things in my time in Ghana, after my placement had finished I went back for a further 6 months, so in total I was there just under a year. In Ghana I lived in a city with an open sewerage system, the hotter the day the worse it smelt. One time my water went off for around a week and I just couldn’t wash. I travelled in a taxi with no handbrake and no seatbelts. I ate enough rice to last my life time. I went out with my housemates and we squashed all 6 of us into one taxi, the police caught the taxi driver, charged him for over loading and we had to bribe them with money not to take his taxi away. Then they insisted on escorting us home in a police truck. I sat next to a police man whose gun was (unintentionally) facing my way, and discussed the weaknesses of Tony Blair’s foreign policies. I also watched girls of around 9 or 10 spend all day in the sweltering heat selling bags of water for the equivalent of about 2p. I saw a thief run through the streets chased by a pack of angry people slapping and beating at his arms, legs and torso until he bled. I worked in a crèche with 4 other staff where around 100 toddlers spent the day while their mothers worked the markets earning barley enough money to feed the family. I got my house broken in to three times, and a necklace ripped from round my neck. A car pulled alongside me and tried to rip my phone from my hand. My housemates were mugged in the street outside my house. I put my foot in to a flooded gutter. One of the school teachers took me to church, where I praised God for almost three hours and at 10am I ate omu tuo and drank the strongest alcohol I have ever known while sitting on a sun deck, just outside church. A man in the market showed me how to shake hands like a Ghanaian. Ladies at a local club showed me how to shake what God gave me. I became known as the best taxi barterer of all the white people. I ate soup with my hands. I swam underneath a waterfall. I received more invites into peoples home than I ever have done before. I asked for a man for directions and he walked me to my destination to be sure I got there. A man who had almost nothing invited me to join him and share his dinner. I “helped” a group of fishermen to pull their boat back in – well I tried!! I saw and did more things than I can ever list here. I met my husband, but that’s a story I will save for another time. When I eventually returned to England, I worked for another eighteen months before I decided what I wanted to do. I began studying nursing about 18 months ago now. I am a 100% better student now than I would have been before my gap year. My experiences taught me how lucky I am. I saw first hand, people who have to work so hard for things I used to take for granted. I cant really put in to words what my trip to Ghana did for me, it made me grow up, it made me appreciate our just and tolerant society and yet it showed me the flaws and weaknesses too. I learnt the real value of a benefit system, and the wonder of the NHS and the meaning of freedom of speech and of rights and of equality. These days I hate TV shows that seem to pity Africa and Africans. I am so fed up of seeing the same footage time and again. It is a poor continent and they do need aid and assistance but they also need recognition. I want to see shows about the real Africa, a bright and bustling culture. Resourceful, clever, funny, warm, friendly people and a family focused society that we could learn from. So as my friends come to the end of their degrees, I still have a long way to go. But do I regret it? Not for one minute. I mean if I face facts the government aren’t going to let me retire before seventy anyway, and I will qualify aged almost 23, so that means I only have 47 years to work instead of 49 – what a crying shame!!!

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              05.08.2004 00:27
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              Last weekend I met a girl on a plane. She was in the seat next to me for the 2-hour flight from Chicago to BWI, and we got talking. Turns out, we had a lot in common - I've spent quite a bit of time on gap years - working / studying in Europe, she's done the same in South America. I like to travel, she likes to travel. I speak multiple languages, she speaks multiple languages (quite surprising for Americans). She's interested in getting over to Europe for a while, they way I'm spending some time here in the States at the moment, so I said I'd email her some useful links. I was looking through my ciao ops on related subjects, and I saw just how many I'd written about my out of England experiences - and yet, this is a category that seemed perfect for me, but as yet did not have an opinion in it. So I finished off the article I was working on for work, and started to write. Out of my last 7 jobs, just one of them has been based in the UK. Most of the stuff on my CV comes with international addresses, and I've not spent my August birthday back home for a very, very long time. This is not necessarily a bad thing - I got into university without an interview, in part because of the stuff I'd already done, and I know most of my graduate job interviews were as much from that as from my volunteering or my actual grades. My international work experience started at age 16 and has taken me to new places for at least a few months every year since then. Perhaps quite strangely, I've not followed a set career path with my work placements. I've been an au pair, but I've also been a software developer. I've worked for individual families, for tour operators and for international conglomerates. Right now I'm working for the American arm of a Dutch company. The jobs have all been different, and yet the fact that they all have that international aspect in common means many of them result in the same kind of advice. ? GETTING STARTED Finding and applying for jobs abroad differs slightly from finding and applying for jobs in the UK. For some, you may need visas or other special paperwork. Though British nationals have the right to works in any EU country sans-work permit, this is not true of countries outside this group. For this job, I had to apply for a J1 visa, make an appointment at the US Embassy, get down to London, wait 3 and a half hours to be seen and then make sure I could present myself as someone worthy of this visa, and reliable enough to leave the country in question at or before my assigned time. Many companies will not consider you for a visa-requiring job before you have the relevant insert in your passport, but at the same time, it's much harder to get one without a concrete job offer. Once paperwork is sorted, you begin a job search. My placements have come through all kinds of ways: I applied through agencies that specialize in placing people abroad; I responded to an advert placed in a UK publication; I knew someone at the company; I did random research on the net and unearthed the name of a possible lead. With this latest job, I applied through a scheme that allows the children of current employees to apply for internships in international company locations. My mother works for them in the UK, so I was eligible to apply. There are hundreds of routes to international work, and it all depends on the job you are after, but in most cases the internet is one of the easiest and most effective places to start. When applying for jobs abroad, it helps to have a CV in the relevant language, and in the format suitable for that country (in Germany, for example, this includes having a photograph on it). While language ability and exam grades should never be faked, previous employment history or degree details can be tailored to meet the job you want, perhaps more so than in the UK. I wanted the job I have now, but they wanted someone with a degree in Communications. So, I stressed the linguistics part of my computational linguistics degree, highlighted the conference planning experience I had as a volunteer (the job here has no set title, but could pretty much be "Staff writer / Conference planner") and made sure they knew about my previous international placements. Since I'm sitting here writing this now, I guess it's pretty clear I got the job. As with domestic jobs (and by that I mean UK based ones, rather than those of the housework based variety), competition for positions varies. And, being "the foreign girl" can work for or against you. Here the ratio of applicants to jobs was only about 10:1 - in Vienna the summer I worked there it was more like 60:1. I'm lucky because I've been granted every job I applied for abroad, which is slightly better than my hit record in the UK. For the most part, people take a second look because I am not a local - I naturally speak fluent English which is always a plus, and I think they value the initiative it takes to get up off your seat and think about applying, but I've never doubted the fact that if someone was better, they would give them the job over some little British girl who just fancies spending the summer in Italy/Germany/Spain/Austria/America* (*delete as applicable). ^^ Top Tip for Getting Started ^^ Think about what you want to do, where you want to do it, when and why. Then hop online and start researching your options. There are some great information sites out there that offers tips on securing jobs, and links to relevant recruitment sites. ? MONEY All my foreign placements have offered some sort of remuneration. As an au pair, I got room, board and pocket money. As an intern in Germany, I worked for a year so was salaried and received paid holiday etc. When I worked in Spain I was employed by a British company, and as such got paid into a British bank account, tho ugh my rent and flights were also covered by the company, and I also received commission in cash every fortnight or so. Now I get a decent salary, am allowed to work 4 day weeks to allow me time to travel and have my rent, flight and visa costs paid by the company. Money leads on to an issue that can be problematic for short time workers abroad: bank accounts. In Germany and Austria opening an account took time but was not overly complicated. In the US, however, nothing can be done without a valid Social Security number. Though I went and applied for one during my first week (another ordeal in itself), it was well over a month before it arrived, and during that time I did not have banking facilities. Credit cards are my best friend when I'm abroad: they are universally accepted, do not incur fees from international use and can be set up to be paid off automatically each month, so there's no problem with you not getting your bill. Being foreign does not exempt you from paying tax, but sometimes being low paid does, as it would in the UK. In Germany they took tax out of my pay cheque, but I got every cent pack when I left, and this money was immediately transferred to my UK bank account. With Austria, again I got the tax back, but it took a few months longer. Obviously when I was being paid cash tax was not an issue, and here in the US, though I am paid by "check", HR decided I wouldn't need to pay tax and so are not taking it off me which is jolly nice of them. ^^ Top Tip for Money ^^ Though some may disagree, I would always recommend you take an unpaid job only as a last resort. Look for ones with a decent salary, and if it's low, see if they will offer extras for you for being international - housing assistance, flight contributions and so on. Sometimes help such as actually finding you somewhere to stay can be just as valuable as cash in your pocket - that's one of the hardest things to sort out from a diffe rent country, and as I found out during my 2nd week here, is not even all that easy to arrange at short notice when you're there. ? CULTURE SHOCK I'm lucky in that before I began working abroad, I'd already been taken on foreign adventures. I knew that the food was different and the people were different and the weather and the shops and just about everything else was different abroad. You can never be entirely prepared to up root yourself and move to a completely new country, but having a vague idea of what to expect helps. For the most part, I like the differences because they are just that: different. Having a 2nd breakfast daily while working in Germany rocked, and having 2 -3 hours on the beach each afternoon during siesta time in Spain was funky. Sure, little things bug me - like when the shops close at lunchtime on a Saturday and don't reopen until Monday morning, or when swimming pools require those unattractive swimming caps at all times - but these are generally things you can live with. Surprisingly, America is turning out to be the most foreign place I've worked. I didn't expect this - there's no language barrier, and I've seen enough American shows and movies to have a vague idea of what this place is like - but it's true. Germany felt like home to me....but America just feels strange. Part of this is the people I've met and their constant questioning: What possessed me to be vegetarian? How did my father / grand parents / gold fish die? What are my religious beliefs? Do I like Dubya (George W Bush)? Why don't we have tornadoes in England? Do I know the Queen? No, how about Prince William? How can I be British and not drink tea? When is tea time? How do we cope without walk in closets? Why did my parents divorce? How on earth did I get to have a masters degree at age 21? What is the point in having a free health care system? How can I do a job I didn't go to school for (= have a degree in)? I know not all Americans are like this, but that's kinda beside the point - enough of the ones I know here are for me to think it's odd. ^^ Top Tip for Culture Shock ^^ Don't even think about this sort of job if you're set in your ways and like things to stay as they are. When you're abroad, you live on their terms: shop where they do, work when they want you to (I hit the office at 7.30am here), even eat what they want you to to some extent since local produce is unlikely to be identical to that back home. The whole point of being abroad is that it's different, and though it may seem horribly foreign when you first arrive, you can quickly adapt if you try just a little. Working abroad is not just what I do - it's shaped who I am. I am thrilled by the experiences I've had, and having funded them all myself, without getting into debt makes it all the better. In fact, for the most part working abroad has made me rich - in knowledge, in experience and in cash. I know there are some people who would never dream of taking the jobs I do, who have such close ties to family they couldn't bear to leave them behind for a week, let alone a summer, or an entire year. I don't blame them - and I know international phone calls can be expensive. But if you really want it, you can make it work. Email is great. So is opinion writing - my mother and sister get most of their information about what I'm up to by logging on to dooyoo or ciao. I try to make the most of my time abroad, working on the assumption that I might never be in this part of the world again, so I should see and do stuff now rather than put it off. Here I jet off to neighbouring states at weekends - in Europe it was neighbouring countries. I go to museums, to plays, to the movies. I shop, I hike and I hang out. I try to mix in locals stuff with touristy stuff so I get to see a bit of everything. I take jobs abroad because they pay - I couldn't afford to do the travelling I like without term time and summer jobs, but by being out there I know I can work during the week and still have time to explore on the weekends. 3 weeks today I'll be in the Bahamas. I'm taking a flight down there for a few days to chill out before I come back to the UK the week after. The cost? Less than 100 GBP. There's no way I could envisage getting a flight from the UK for that price - it costs that much to fly from Manchester to London half the time. So while I'm here, and I have the time and the opportunity, I'd be crazy not to do it. My travelling jaunts will soon be dying down as I return to the UK and enter the world of those full time workers. My student days are over, but I won't be banished to the UK forever - my new job requires me to spend 3 months or so working in Australia / New Zealand next year, and that's just for starters. Even if I were going to be confined to the UK forever, though, I'd know I'd already had some incredible experiences working abroad, and those are memories that will never fade. I've learnt stuff about the world without having to keep my nose in a book for weeks on end: where Gdansk, Brno, Bratislava and Mantova are (and unlike my American colleagues, I don't think the Netherlands is in South America). I know where to get the best ice cream in Vienna, why you should wear 2 or 3 pairs of knickers when going to salt mines in Salzburg, what the Italians mean when they talk about having brioche gelato sandwiches and why you should always, always take a waterproof jacket to Poland, even in mid summer. Do I believe the title of this opinion? To some extent, perhaps. While I can and do come home after every trip, usually spending at least a few nights in my childhood home before setting off again, I'm never the same person I was when I left. So the Zoë who flew off for a summer in Germany aged 16 has never c ome home. And the Zoë who left Manchester a few months ago won't be coming back. But in her place, a new and improved Zoë will return - maybe scarred, maybe dented, but an improvement on the one who left either way. Working abroad does not make me a better person, but it most certainly makes me a different person with new ideas, new perspectives and, if trends continues, a new love for pancakes for breakfast.

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                12.02.2004 22:32

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                • "Deciding what not to pack!"

                Madventurer: Development projects and Adventurous Travel in Africa and South America - Advantages: Fantastic way to contribute to small rural development projects, Work in live with a group of people in the jungle, on a mountain, or by a river, Coach football in Ghana - Disadvantages: Finding the time, Deciding which country to go to, Deciding what not to pack!

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                05.06.2001 19:29
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                The costs of being a studen rise every year, as grants wither away into nothing and the fees are piled on. Getting into debt is frightening, and trying to live on no money can be dreadful. Working while you are studying can be a solution, but it eats into your coursework time and prevents you from taking out much time to relax. Realising that I was not going to be able to afford three years at Uni (and this was before fees were introduced) I opted to take a year out to raise some funds as I didn't want to get into debt. I lived in a small town and did not drive, so work options were limited. I spent the year working as a checkout girl in a Somerfield, which was not exciting, glamourous or well paid. It was tedious, and it really made me sure that I wanted to finish my education and find something better to do. At the end of my gap year, I had several thousand pounds to my name. I continued to live with my parents and commuted to college. I lived frugally, but between my savings and the grants, I managed not to get into debt. The year out really gave me a perspective and showed me what I didn't want to do with my life. Anyone living in a decent sized town or owning a car could find far more luctrative employment than I did. Starting Uni with several thousand pounds to your name is a real advantage - it gives you some freedom from cares, it means you don't have to sponge quite so much off your parents - I contributed to the household financies while I was living with them. I know its very tempting to plan that round the world trip or to set out to solve the ills of the world. It is a sad truth that these days, most students can no longer afford to take a year out just for fun. Taking a year out to work is a good option though, as it does take a lot of pressuer off you once you get to university. I used a lot of time in my gap year to further my own studies, to read more widely, to write and t o evelop other interests, so it certainly helped me to develop as a person. The break from studying can set some people back and you have to know yourself well to be able to tell if you are likely to suffer or not. I can only suggest that you reflect on your experiences of summer holidays - how much did you forget by the time you had to go back in September?

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                  03.11.2000 02:40
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                  I decided to take a gap year before I started by degree. It ended up being one of the best decisions I made about coming to university although I did regret it for a few months when the rest of my friends were away at campuses having a whale of a time. My main advice if you are thinking of having a year out would be to make sure you have planned something constructive to do in that year (Yes, I probably sound like a Mum, I know…) I didn’t really plan what to do on my year out and spent the first half of the year just wishing the time away. When I settled down into a job that was to last me the rest of the year I started to enjoy and appreciate the time out I’d taken. The advantaged were: a) It increased my confidence going out to work and gave me a better outlook on the world of employment b) I got to visit people at university for weekends before I actually went away – thus getting a feel for the lifestyle before I went c) I got to save some money for my first year, which believe me REALLY does come in useful especially in Fresher’s week. I also tended to find that once I started university it was often quite obvious which student had taken time out before university and those which had come straight from college/6th form. There was defiantly a difference in maturity and general outlook in life for some people.

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                  27.10.2000 21:51
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                  If you're not too sure of what to do after leaving school than a gap year is the best I can recommend to anybody on this world!! I went to work with Disney in Orlando, Florida for 1 year and had the time of my life, I can tell you... the amount of people you get to know from all over the world, all facing the same as you do... what to do after school? Go for it and have a blast in whatever country you've always wanted to go, there are opportunities to work in every single one of them. It will make you a lot stronger and will also help you on deciding what to do after it.

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                    22.10.2000 02:46
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                    I worked for an insurance company in my gap year. I was initially taken on as a temp for a summer placement but a job came up which meant I could stay all year. To begin with I was just a data input clerk but then I was given an administrator's role. My job meant that I had a great deal of responsibility where I spent time communicating with clients on the phone, via e-mail and fax. I used a computer all of the time which has meant that my skills in Word, Excel, Access and Outlook are much better than others who went straight to uni from school/college. The other skills I have like telephone manner and general communication with clients will look good on a CV! I recommend a gap year working in a company to anyone. I had a great time and made lots of friends. I also earned enough money to get me through the first term of uni (as well as enough to have a good time in my year out!!). I honestly believe that I have a more mature outlook than some of the people who went straight to uni. I still want to have a good time but I know what it will mean to my career to get this degree so I am going to work really hard too. I would recommend a gap year to anyone who isn't sure about going to uni, which uni or which course. The last thing you want do is go something you are not sure about. So, take a break, take a GAP YEAR!

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                    20.10.2000 21:42
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                    When I left college in the June after finishing my A Levels, I was all set to go off to Nottingham Uni to do a philosophy degree. Ultimately my plan was to do a 'general' degree and then specialise in journalism at postgrad level. I began the course in September and totally hated it - it just wasn't for me. Luckily I realised this before the deadline for the following year's UCAS applications and managed to apply for a place on the Journalism Studies course at Sheffield Uni. In mid-December I moved back home and began looking for a job. I had so many because I couldn't find one I liked. I worked as a sales assistant in a jeans store, a barmaid, a data input clerk, an office junior, a VDU operator and other similar jobs. But then, in the March I found a full time job working in a call centre. For a student, the pay was excellent, the atmosphere was good and there were lots of chances to win prizes such as mountain bikes, hi-fis and CDs as a bonus for achieving targets. It was a great experience. But the real reason it was a great experience was because it made me look forward to going back to Uni and doing the course I wanted to do. It made me realise that I wanted to strive for a career and not just a job. And it made me determined to put all my effort into my studies. People may think that a gap year has to be full of trekking through Nepal, backpacking round Australia or surviving in the rainforest in Brazil. But it doesn't. I would say that ANY gap year - whatever you do - will make you all the more eager and ready to start building for the future at University. I would recommend that everyone takes some time out between A Levels and Uni. Then you'll appreciate it that little bit more.

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                      10.10.2000 00:38

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                      Well ,I couldn't decide whether I should post this opinion in "Gap Year Experiences" or in "Gap year Horror Stories" or even "Working Abroad". the reason for my dilemma is that I (like a right muggins) decided to use my gap year for something that would be character building. The thing was that I was fairly well traveled, having been raised in Brazil, Argentina, Sweden and England, and having "done" a month's inter-railing round Europe and the States; I didn't really feel that I was could decently use travel as an excuse for a year off. And I did need a year off. I was at a stage in my life where things in England had gotten a touch troublesome, socially, and so the idea popped into my head: why not run away to join the army? I'd been under the impression that this was a perfectly acceptable substitute for joining the Navy as a way of getting out of all sorts of bother, especially as I can get seasick in a medium-sized puddle. So, I used my Swedish citizenship to get myself into the testing for the National Service, and hey presto, a few months later (by which time it was too late to back out) I found myself packing a few things and moving off to the Southern tip of Sweden, a little town called Ystad, to be precise. My home for the forseeable future was an Anti-Aircarft Regiment barracks, in a room shared by 12 other misfits brought together by a nation's laws and not by choice. Well... except for me that was. The first impression I'd unwittingly given the rest of my troop-mates (and the whole Company for that matter) was that of either: a) a total gun-freak, or b) a total freak. It appears that unless you really want to do something specific in the armed forces, you NEVER, EVER, willingly enroll yourself. I should have known, the golden rule when it comes to institutionalized groups is never to volunteer. Not for anything. Ever. Was it all bad then? Did I let myself in for 7 and a half months of being shouted at in pouring rain, sleet and snow? Funnily enough the answer was no. Yes, the first couple of weeks were pretty tough, getting used to a language I hadn't used regularly for 8 or so years, a culture with which I'd never really accepted fully, and finding out that I really was in the army now. However, I soon found out that because National Service is compulsory in Sweden, and because it is also a fairly liberal country, the actual regime wasn't exactly super-strict. In fact, I soon learned to basically ensure that wherever there was injustice, wherever there was work to be done, wrongs to right, tents to set up, treks to be trekked, potatoes to be peeled, missiles to be fired and boots to be polished, I would be found. Not! Well... not always. Maybe, most of the time. A lot more than I'd have preferred prehaps. But still, the moral of the story (and I'm wrapping up because I've gotten bored with this opinion, and because if I went on I'd have to tell y'all about all sorts of drunken foolishness which could land me in jail, or on the hit-list of the Outraged Fathers for the Protection of their Daughters Commitee) is that yes National Service can be a pain, but it can also give you lots of character, diseases (no-one had told me that Swedish girls were prone to that!) and life-long friends (when you're unified by being subjected to treatment, so imbecilic it's frightening, a friendship can be formed that will have already passed all tests a friendship can pose). So sign up today!

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