Friday, 14 December 2012

Who Gap? You Gap!

The holidays present an opportunity for individuals who are currently in their first year of studies, or planning for their lives after high school, taking a break can be a very important part of a young person's transition period.   Why would you take some time off?  Should you take time off?   What would others say? What could my gap year look like?  Do universities or colleges find it interesting if I take a break? Won't I be behind?

The break from school provides a great time to consider all of these questions.  Here is an article we found interesting to help you consider whether gapping for a period of time might be a in your future!
The next few weeks we will explore these questions. 

Gap year travel: does time out really enrich?

Our education expert weighs the pros and cons of taking a pre-university break.

Gap year travel: does time out really enrich?
Rather than treating a gap year as an extended holiday, broaden your horizons and try to do something useful 

A close friend’s daughter spent her gap year teaching in a charity school for primary-age children in Mexico. “The children thought I had travelled there by donkey. I had done Spanish GCSE alongside my A-levels but I ended up teaching them Spanish as literacy levels were so low.” She lived with a local family. “Their plumbing was a bit down to earth but their generosity was amazing.”
Her younger brother spent his year teaching at a Church of England mission school in Zimbabwe. Afterwards he raised money to finance further education for pupils who have gone on to build successful careers. Another brother worked on a conservation project in Belize.
Each year some 50,000 young people do work placements abroad. Numbers have been growing since National Service ended in the late Fifties, as has the number of companies which organise gap years. One of the first was Lattitude Global Volunteering, founded in 1972.
“Rather than being an extended holiday our placements involve learning to take responsibility for others,” says Nick Adie of Lattitude Global Volunteering. “Young people should push themselves out of their comfort zones and do something productive with their time out.”
Lattitude’s programmes involve helping in schools, hospitals, care homes and conservation projects. They are not without dangers and difficulties. “I learnt how to deal with things myself and I am a much stronger person than I was before,” says one volunteer who taught at an Aboriginal school in Australia.
Callum Kennedy, director of BUNAC, which specialises in overseas work, says that competition for jobs is making work overseas placements more popular than ever.
“With unemployment at a very high rate, a work placement - particularly one that is relevant to a career - will add value to CVs, helping young people to stand out from the crowd in the job market.”
Using a gap year to learn another language at partner schools abroad is also considered a useful activity. This method offers total immersion, the most effective way to progress.
But while gap year organisations suggest skills acquired abroad will do wonders for your CV, how do universities and employers view it?
“A minority of gap year experiences are truly admirable,” says Robert Swannell, chairman of Marks & Spencer. “They require skill and determination, a sense of structure and of selflessness, for instance in such things as teaching in Third World countries.”
“That can be a useful, sensible way of spending an invaluable period,” says Giles Henderson, master of Pembroke College, Oxford. All three of Henderson’s children took a year out: his son, Simon, taught in South Africa, caught the teaching bug and is now headmaster of Bradfield College.
Robert Hingley, a senior adviser to the investment bank Lazard, explains: “In a shrinking job market, when you have 300 applications for every place, some 100 of them will be stunning but few will stand out. Almost all will have first-class degrees. Those who have taken an interesting gap year will have had the opportunity to progress beyond merely achieving things. At interview they may well come across as personalities. They will have grown up.”
But there are many companies selling risk-free excitement rather than the less comfortable virtues of service. “Often a gap year looks like a six-month jolly – and with a privileged person all the more so,” says Mr Swannell.
“Sometimes it looks like an extended holiday,” agrees Sir Michael Rake, chairman of BT. “A gap year carries no particular magic: employers look for technical skills and qualities of leadership, though time out may help you come across as a broader, more experienced person.” In a technical world like that of BT, with 7,500 applicants for 200 places on the BT Graduate Scheme, the gap year plays a relatively small part on your CV.
Mr Henderson reckons about 15 per cent of those going up to Pembroke College take a year out beforehand. Among these, there are distinct successes. But gap year plans have little effect on the admissions process and some science dons worry that successful candidates can forget some of the science and maths they knew when they came for interview. There’s a danger, too, that they will forget how to work.
A spokesman for Exeter University says: “We recognise that many students benefit from the experience of a gap year – whether it involves work experience, travel or employment.” He encourages applicants to explain in their Personal Statements “how their experiences will make them a better student in their subject of choice”.
Peter Frankopan, who teaches Byzantine and medieval history at Worcester College, Oxford, is cautious: “Gap year applicants can look like the finished product on paper, particularly if they come from the independent sector, but often the gap year is the latest of a string of achievements and activities undertaken to meet the expectations of teachers and parents. Part of the problem is that gap years have become professionalised: preset itineraries, trusted partners and “safe” locations might put parents’ minds at rest, but they also prevent the umbilical cord being cut.
“A gap year works if you leave home with an open mind and go off to find out more about the world – in other words, to grow up. But I’d much rather find that someone has done something genuinely useful,” says Mr Frankopan. Shouldn’t all 19 year-olds who can afford to take a gap year learn how to change a flat tyre, rewire a plug or cook a three-course meal? Or arrive at university with a command of one, or ideally two foreign languages?”
Foreign languages really do look good on a CV – in this country, at least.

  • Tommy Cookson is the former headmaster of Winchester College. He is a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph’s 'Weekend’ section

Friday, 7 December 2012

Gift Giving For a World Traveler or Gapper

It is the season when many individuals are thinking about or planning their gift giving for the festive season. mygapyear has put a series of ideas together to help inspire you as you cross friends, family or others off your list.  Our favourite seasonal delight right now is the Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar.   Below are some ideas from The Ottawa Citizen to help inspire your gift giving or travel planning this festive season.

Icebreaker's Nature Scoop Top
What it is: A lightweight, washable top made of wool from the merino sheep (that's one below).
Why it makes the list: From underwear to outer layers, Icebreaker products, from New Zealand, are fast becoming athletes' and travellers' garments of choice because they feel so great, breathe and are washable. And what other product comes with a "baacode" that allows you to (virtually) meet the very sheep that grew your wool?

Tuk Tuk Carry-All Bag
What it is: An ingenious bag from lug.
Why it makes the list: What doesn't this bag do? It's the right size for carrying on a plane and has a strap on the back so you can slide it onto the handle of your wheeled luggage. It has 15 pockets, including two insulated ones for drinks, cellphone-sized ones and a ventilated compartment for shoes. It also has a drawstring bag and a cushiony pad inside -- for sitting on in Central Park, or changing a baby at a play group. And that's the surprise: hidden latch straps let you attach it to a baby stroller, for use as a diaper bag.

Heys xScale
What it is: The world's smallest portable luggage scale, its digital display measures up to 110 pounds (50 kg).
Why it makes the list: Because weight loss is always in. Especially when airlines are getting stricter with baggage allowances, you're travelling to that S&M conference, and the clerk is asking you to remove weighty items from your bag as impatient co-travellers in the queue rubberneck. It's also designed and developed in Canada.

The Flip Ultra Video Camera
What it is: A compact, cellphone-shaped video camera that records 60 minutes of digital footage. A built-in USB arm connects the gadget directly to your computer, which means one less wire in your frightening "techsessories" drawer.
Why it makes the list: It's super portable, cheap enough to abuse and the single red button (record, duh) eliminates a lot of confusion. Watch out, YouTube, granny's got a Flip!

What it is: The Barcelona company that makes Buff calls it "the original multifunctional headwear." It's a bit like a bandana, but it's a seamless loop of a microfibre fabric.
Why it makes the list: Besides being très cool, it's amazingly versatile -- just go to to see the "12 ways to wear a buff" video, which takes you from balaclava to "pirate" and back to a cap. It wicks, keeps you warm or cool as needed, and comes in a plethora of prints, including this Bushtukah exclusive.

Delsey Helium Mobility
What it is: A lightweight, hard-sided suitcase that meets carry-on size restrictions.
Why it makes the list: With more airline chaos, carry-on is the way to go. And this one is exceptionally light, loaded with useful pockets and straps and has sturdy latches rather than a zipper. The clincher: with four wheels, you can pull it sideways down narrow aisles.

Supernatural Travel Yoga Mat
What it is: A yoga mat that's small enough to stuff in your suitcase.
Why it makes the list: Made of natural rubber, this mat allows the yogi or yogini in your life to om away from home. It's thinner than a regular yoga mat, but all you need on a hotel-room carpet.

Retreat Yoga Duffel
What it is: A duffel bag that's built big enough to hold a regular, rolled-up yoga mat, as well as all the clothes you need for a weekend away.
Why it makes the list: Made of recycled polyester and jute, with retro goddess images inside, it's the thing to have for yoga getaways. Pockets inside include one for a yoga block and a drawstring pouch for shoes. A detachable shoulder strap doubles as a mat-carrying strap. (Mat and water bottle not included, but would make appreciated additions.)

The BaByliss Pro TT
What it is: A tiny, perfect blow dryer. With a folding handle, it's less than seven inches long, but delivers full strength, professional power (it's probably better than the one you usually use at home). It also has two voltage settings, so it works here and abroad.
Why it makes the list: Because you want to have good hair when you're on holidays -- just think of all those photos.

Nap Sac, From Lug Travel Essentials
What it is: A travel blanket and pillow set.
Why it makes the list: Just give it a squeeze. Fleecy soft, this groovy set is comforting and cosy warm. An inflatable pillow tucks into the case and the blanket has a pocket for your reading glasses or iPod. Great for planes, trains, car trips or concerts.

The TS2 Detailer
What it is: A teeny-tiny, but powerful, hair straightener. It's small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but makes fast work of unruly bangs and frizzy ends.
Why it makes the list: Anyone who sees this thing in action (OK, any young woman), is amazed. Big hair goes sleek in seconds. We've even heard that some professional stylists are using this travel device at home.

Better Energy Systems Solio Classic Solar Charger
What it is: Tap into that big ball o' burning gas and power up cameras, cellphones, MP3 players and GPS devices on the road. One hour of sun yields 20 minutes of talk time or 50 minutes of music on your iPod.Why it makes the list: Flashpacking (tech-laden backpacking) is cool, and that "Morocco On Foot" blog is lookin' mighty fine. But, sadly, hauling a 10-pound adapter supply through the Sahara is no mirage.

TravelRest Pillow
What it is: An inflatable travel pillow that's shaped like an extended comma. Sling the tether cord over the seat back on an airplane or car and cuddle the cushion.
Why it makes the list: The typical horseshoe travel pillow still leaves you feeling like your head is forming a right angle with your torso. This innovative device keeps your noggin upright.
Bonus: When deflated, it takes up minimal space in your luggage.

All rights belong to:

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Learn how to gap in 4 mins 39 seconds

Travelling is an emotional experience.  Highs, lows and all the feelings in between.  As an organization, we have crafted our program to include Emotional Intelligence as a method of exploring more deeply who you are.   Travel is an amazing way to find out more about yourself, others and the world.  But, don't take my word.