It sometimes seems that the world is getting smaller as the internet is bringing knowledge into our homes. We still live on a large planet, however, and experiencing it on a screen doesn’t necessarily give us the whole picture.
Doing what we feel is right for our children as they grow isn’t an exact science, so we do what we can and hope for the best results. The school we send them to is carefully selected according to the information we have and we counsel them as they struggle through those formative years, while also having to cope with physical and emotional changes.
By the time they have completed their A Levels they are young adults and deserve to be treated as such. It is at this time that a parent has to loosen the apron strings and allow the young man, or woman, to experience the world. This is why taking a year out has become so popular with those who can afford it. Known as the Gap Year, this experience is helpful in giving a youngster a deeper understanding of our globe and the cultures that inhabit it.
But what else can a youngster gain from taking a year out? Well, going abroad alone or with a friend is no small task. Remember, we aren’t talking about a week on the sands of Ibiza here; we are thinking more along the lines of a developing country such as those to be found on http://www.theleap.co.uk/ and other online advisory sites. Volunteering to help forward a project in these countries will give a sense of purpose to a bewildered teen. The sense of adventure and finding the ability to stand on their own two feet often completes their development, and on their return home they are well rounded adults. They now have worldly experience and are mature enough to start planning their own future and making their mark.
A lot of planning needs to go into taking a gap year. It is not a simple case of buying a plane ticket and setting off. There are organisations that run programs around the world in many different countries. Your child will be safer and have a better experience if they arrange their gap year with one of these. They need to consider what they are going to do when they get to the destination of choice, and with a reputable organisation, the itinerary will be laid out for them in advance. Volunteering in a very popular activity for gap years, whether it s working in schools or digging wells, there is always work to be done that will benefit the local population.
The first step to take is to research countries on the internet. You may already have a country in mind, so now further research should be carried out into the customs and culture of that country. Now when people mention gap years, our minds may automatically think of countries in Africa. Are you aware that there are places available in Europe or America too? Just about every country in the world will find an organisation running gap year experiences. Maybe your child will decide to stay in this country and spend their gap year volunteering here. Not everyone is an intrepid adventurer, but everyone can benefit from the gap year experience.
When the ideal country has been selected, start looking for organisations that operate there. They will be listed on the internet. You will be able to discover what kind of activities they undertake and the experience to be gained by travelling with them. Often you will find that several organisations operate in the destination of your choice, each offering different activities. Here are some activities that may make your mouth water:
Conservation projects. Here you may be able to contribute your love of animals by helping to rear and protect various endangered species.
Archeology. If you have a keen interest in antiquity and strong knees, perhaps the excitement of potential treasure discoveries will lead you to an archeological experience.
Adventure. If you enjoy trekking, walking in the steps of the ancient Aztecs to the mountain cities will create memories to last a lifetime. Machu Picchu awaits a budding Indiana Jones.
Teaching. Children worldwide are desperate for an education and keen to learn English as a second language. Your child is in an ideal position to help a class of children to learn while also gaining valuable experience themselves. We often do not appreciate, in this country, how amazing it is that education is freely available to everyone.
Sport. It isn’t all about volunteering in third world countries. Would your child like to learn to ski or snowboard? There are courses run at some of the worlds best resorts. Perhaps mountain biking will be attractive to them. Head off on an expedition into real mountain ranges and build muscles they never thought they had.
Once a county and activity are chosen, it is time to contact the organisations that are available. You will receive further information by post that will detail the requirements that must be met and the code of practice to which they expect every participant to adhere. The companies will be rated and regulated so you can have peace of mind that your child is in good hands, and their safety is assured. You may have to take out medical insurance for your child, but this is often included within the course.
While they are taking part in activities within these organisations, your child will be treated as an adult, appreciated for the work they are doing, and learn to be independent. The tough job for a parent is to hold back their emotions as they take the excited teen to the airport. The enormity of the situation often only hits them as they board the plane, but this soon wears off as they head off into the blue.
Upon their return, you are likely to see a marked difference in their behaviour as they have acquired experience and have moved into adulthood. They now have a good worldly knowledge to prepare them for the next stage in their lives, whether it is a university course or employment.
The gap year serves a useful purpose in a child’s development and is set to be taken up by more people than ever before as new companies come onto the scene every year.