For many, the gap year is a sacred, life-changing experience. It’s a way of bidding farewell to your youth, embracing independence and adventure, and broadening as many horizons as you can possibly cram into a 12 month period. Being young and with the power of decision at your fingertips for the first time can be an exciting yet daunting proposition. With so many options on the table, the paradox of choice titillates and intimidates in equal measure. It can be as culturally enriching, charitable or CV-boosting as you wish it to be. The world is truly your oyster, so we here at IDEAL magazine have teamed up with Oyster Worldwide to give you our 5 IDEAL gap year ideas.

Stay Home, Learn and Perfect New Skills

There are two key decision to make before any other – whether you’ll spend your gap year at home or abroad; and if you plan to be earning or spending money during that time. We know it’s boring, and there’ll be no transcendent experiences with a logfire, a shaman and a peace pipe, but staying at home for your gap year can lay foundations which you’ll be building on for the rest of your working life. The options are many. Do an internship and gain invaluable experience in the process. Alternatively, enter paid-employment and put money aside for university and beyond (your fellow students will look up from their beans on toast with envy as you tuck into lobster for the third night in succession). Equally as useful, take the time to learn new skills such as driving, cooking or a new sport. Whatever you choose, use the time wisely and productively.

Charity and Conservation Work

One of the most popular gap-year focal points is charity or conservation work abroad. It’s a great option if you want to give something back to the country you wish to explore. Many choose to spend time in Central African countries, volunteering in the construction and renovation field, helping with building vital facilities for impoverished communities. Others go to South-East Asia and volunteer for conservation projects, such as the world-famous rescue centre in Tam Dao, Vietnam. Wherever you choose, make sure the company who assist your placement are accredited and committed to responsible practices.

Earn Money Abroad

Whilst volunteering is increasingly popular, many gap-year students also choose to work abroad and earn a living. There is bar and hostel work wherever there is demand – a young, traveller community can be found in every corner of the globe. Maybe you’d prefer farm work, with fruit-picking in Australia and agricultural odd-jobs in California being two of the most appealing options. The job of doing this casual work abroad is the opportunity to earn money and explore in depth the destination of your choice. It’s a great way to make friends too!

Do a Language Exchange or Teach One Yourself

We’ve already discussed conservation work, but have you considered conversation work instead? Going abroad to learn another language is a great way to expand your horizons, learn about another culture and make new friends. With a second language under you belt, work opportunities unavailable to the monolingual amongst us suddenly present themselves. Alternatively, Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) means you can settle in one location and earn money teaching. The hours are generally pretty flexible and the work (sometimes) enjoyable and fulfilling, giving you plenty of time to immerse yourself in a new culture and experience a different way of life.

Simply Explore

A gap-year needn’t mean 12 months of CV enriching. You are only young once, and likely won’t have this level of freedom and lack of responsibility again. Go wild! Enjoy yourself. You have the rest of your life to work.