Life’s first journey

The Guardian:

Richard Irving, 19, was due to start a degree in international politics at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, in September, until he travelled to the Falkland Islands on his gap year last October.

But after six months working as a sheep hand and agricultural labourer in Fitzroy, arranged through Gap Activity Projects, and two months exploring South America, Irving, from Stroud in Gloucestershire, has decided to extend his time away from the books for at least another year. And when he does eventually go to university, he hopes to study English. No one warned him taking time out between his A-levels and university could change his plans so dramatically. “When you have time away from school, you start to think about things,” he says. “It raises questions about whether you’re doing the wrong course.”

But you don’t need to travel to the other side of the world for a life-changing experience. Jo Ebelewicz, 19, from Norwich, worked in a respite centre for adults with learning and physical difficulties in Islington, north London, for four months with the Community Service Volunteers during her gap year. She says her experiences have made her reconsider her future career and will always stand her in good stead. It’s never too late to organise a year out. “Things really do change. A well structured gap year, putting something back into the community in the UK or going on an expedition, can really make a complete difference. It’s a vital first step to independence,” Ebelewicz says. To help you on your way, check out and similar websites. The choice is yours. You have the world at your feet.