Gap year

Gap year

A gap year (also known as "year out", "year off", "deferred year", "bridging year", "overseas experience", "time off" and "time out") is a term that refers to a prolonged period (often, but not always, a year) between a life stage. The most popular gap years are taken pre or during matriculation in a university or college, between college and graduate school and a profession, during a career change, pre or post marriage or having a first child and pre or post retirement. It is generally a practice undertaken by those from developed countries.


1960's: Where it all began

The origination of the 'Gap Year' concept came in the decade following the Second World War when youth travel and cultural exchange was discussed amongst Governments as a useful tool to create more of a global understanding to prevent future global wars. However, the first 'Gap Years' actually started in the UK in the 1960's when the baby-boomer generation in the midst of the 'Swinging sixties' headed off to India on the infamous Hippie Trails, inventing the 'independent travel market'. And in 1967 Nicholas Maclean-Bristol set up Project Trust, an Educational Trust, and sent his first three students to Addis Ababa, inventing the Gap Year Volunteer Placements market. These have been the two key elements to the gap year market ever since - 'independent travel' and 'volunteer placements' [also known more recently as 'Voluntourism'] . Work Travel (or 'Work & Travel') appeared as a third key element with the introduction of student work visas (or 'Working holiday visas') in the 1980's.

1970's: the pioneers and the growth

The demand for what was essentially new 'Independent Travel' continued through into the 1970's and resulted in the pioneers of the independent travel market establishing businesses to satisfy this demand. Australian Graham 'Screw' Turner based in London in 1973 loaded a double decker bus with the first paying customers and drove them to Kathmandu. They arrived 3 weeks late. Top Deck Travel, the company he founded, still exists today. In the same year a young Brit by the name of Tony Wheeler, headed off on an overland trip across Asia. His need for basic travel information inspired the book 'Across Asia on the Cheap' and was the first title under his Lonely Planet brand, which became the world's largest travel guide publisher. With a tour company and self help travel advice, the independent travel market was born. In 1979, another Australian Dick Porter, founded STA Travel to bring in the final piece of the puzzle. A high street travel agent for students and 'youth' (those under 26), with which he was able to develop global youth travel as he opened student travel agents around the world. Initially 'Student Travel Australia' it rebranded to the 'Student Travel Association'. Nowadays it is simply 'STA Travel'.

Whilst the first uses of the actual term 'gap year' are hard to find, it was certainly helped along with the launch in 1977 of GAP Activity Projects, a UK organisation facilitating volunteer placements for the 'Gap Year' in between school and university. Continuing on from where Nicholas Maclean-Bristol had forged the way 10 years earlier with Project Trust, GAP Activity Projects brought the gap year to the schools. A year later in 1978, The Prince of Wales with Colonel John Blashford-Snell formed the basis of what we know today as Raleigh International, launching Operation Drake, the first ever Gap Year Expedition - a round the world voyage following Sir Francis Drake's epic route. In 1984 Operation Raleigh was formed, renamed Raleigh International in 1992, by which time gap years were becoming more popular as a pre-university option to the wealthy few in private schools around the UK.

1980's: steady growth

In the UK in the 1980's the baby boomers were settling into family life with their young children and so travelling less and the next generation were influenced by the obsession for money, careers and wealth generation. The housing market crash meant less funds available for parents to fund youth travel. Steady UK and global growth continued as STA Travel opened up branches around the world. Other businesses followed suit (Usit Campus / Usit World), round the world tickets were developed for this new breed of young gap year traveller and the scene was set for the explosion of the 1990's.

1990's: the boom

A combination of the baby boomer's children reaching 18 (whose parent's encouraged world travel as they did in their youth), the UK coming out of recession and new, exciting, colouful media channels to bring gap year products to market resulted in an explosion of activity in the UK as Gap Year Travel and Gap Year Volunteering took off pre, during and post University. Demand grew, prices for air travel fell and the roots of it becoming a 'rite of passage' were set. In Australia the first serious waves of young Australians heading to live and work in the UK started to appear.

2000-present: online developments, global growth, natural aging

The modern Gap Year pioneers came in the form of Tom Griffiths and Peter Pedrick who brought the gap year market onto the web in 1998 with the launch of The two pioneers have invented products, offerings, phrases and concepts that form the skeleton of the global ‘Gap Year’ industry seen today. Known as the 'Gap Year Guru', Tom Griffiths is recognised as a global authority on gap years and acts as a media spokesperson around the world.

July 2005 Mintel Gap Year Reports show a market valued UK outbound at £2.2bn and globally at £5bn. The fastest growing travel sector of the Millennium, predictions are that the global gap year market will grow to around £11bn by 2010. The market demographic is split into those aged 18-24 (pre, during and post university), 25-35 ('career gap', also known as 'Career Break' and 'Career Sabbatical') and 55-65 (pre and post retirement gappers). Very much an option for all in transition between life stages, the affect on the entry into higher level Education, the changing travel markets and staff retention in businesses around the world is staggering.

Gap Year growth is accelerating across all age groups in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The US is expected to witness a boom in the coming years as the small percentage of those who have passports starts to rise.


Some students spend the time traveling others spend the time working, and many combine these into an international working holiday. A popular option for gap year students, also known as "gappers", is international volunteering. In the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, a great number of the volunteers who helped in South Asia were on a gap year. Also, many gap year students earn money while overseas by working cash in hand, often in the hospitality industry. Another growing trend for gappers is to enroll in global education programs that combine language study, home stays, cultural immersion, community service, and independent study. Such experiential opportunities exist in countries ranging from India to China and Morocco to Brazil.

Gap year in America

In the United States, the practice of taking a "gap year" before entering college remains relatively rare. Students either enter college (half enter the post-secondary system through community colleges) or the labor force directly after high school. After college, most university undergraduates directly enter the labor force. This trend can be partially traced to American culture, which stresses economic independence, as well as the considerably higher cost of post-secondary education in the U.S. Many American students may not be able to afford a year off. In 2004, over 65% of 4-year college students relied on loans to finance their education, with the average debt of roughly $20,000. Among graduate students average debt totaled roughly $42,000 in 2004.cite web|url=|title=Student debt, U.S.|accessdate=2007-07-20] Some organizations have offered young Americans structured gap year programs. These include Dynamy, with sites in Worcester, Massachusetts and Santa Rosa, California. [] Another American gap year option is City Year, with locations in urban centers around the U.S.. Other American companies, like Rustic Pathways, offer cultural immersion community service and travel programs around the world.

Gap year in Australia

Australia currently has 19 reciprocal working holiday programs with countries which include:
Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland,
France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland,
Italy, Japan, Korea, Malta,
Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UK,
Belgium, Estonia and Taiwan Typically restrictions for the working holiday visas include being 18-30 yrs, can prove access to funds and hold a valid passport. Work restrictions also apply to ensure that the purpose of the holiday is not to further an individual's career.

The U.K. and Canada remain two of the most popular destinations for Australians to visit every year, with 35,061 UK and 6,517 Canadian working holiday visas issued in 2003/4.

Youthworks run a gap year option in Sydney for Christian school leavers called Year 13 Gospel Gap Year [] . It has a continuous option for students living in Sydney, and an intensive option for regional NSW, Australia-wide and international students.

Gap year in the United Kingdom

British citizens are able to take advantage of the European Union as well as the reciprocal arrangements that exist and live and work in an overseas country for an extended period of time. Australia, New Zealand and Canada remain popular destinations due to the Anglo cultural similarities and Commonwealth ties due to the British Empire.

Prince Harry popularised Africa as a Gap Year destination when he volunteered in South Africa in 2004. Other opportunities available include working in skis resorts in Canada, Camp roles in America and working in the Australian Outback.

There are many gap year providers in the U.K. that provide opportunities for people of all ages. Many providers are listed on directory sites such as [] and The Year Out Group [] .

Gap year in the Netherlands

The most common form of gap year is work-holiday travel to another country, preferentially on another continent if the person taking it can afford the tickets. Australia and other English-speaking countries are among the most popular due to the high standard of Dutch high school courses in English, but culture/language immersion programmes in Spanish-speaking countries are increasingly popular, and are sometimes offered on all-in basis. Most will leave the Netherlands for only half the year, spending the other six months working to finance the trip.
Academia Vitae offers a preacademic gap year in Deventer for young students to study liberal arts. This is not a common form of the gap year in the Netherlands.
* []

ee also

* Sabbatical year
* Career break
* Ecoteer


External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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