Gap year adventures: things to consider beforehand

A gap year abroad is much more than just an extended holiday away from the ordinary obligations that characterize modern life in the UK.  It also provides young adults with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the real world before embarking upon several more years of academic study.  To get the most out of a gap year experience travellers need to consider in advance several issues that can make or break their time away from home.

Maintaining good health

As soon as a firm destination is certain, gap year students should find out what vaccinations are required or recommended.  The vaccination process can be lengthy, so start it no later than eight weeks before a planned departure date.  Those who take prescription medications also need to do their research; some countries require individuals transporting drugs across the border to bring with a written order from a doctor authorising the medication.  Pack all prescription medications in their original bottles displaying date and dispensary.

Adjusting to a new culture and cuisine is challenging enough without having to also deal with health problems caused by tainted water.  Research all destinations in advance to find out if local water sources are considered potable.  If it is not, plan accordingly.  Bring extra spending money for bottled water and resolve to do without ice for the duration.

Some gap year students take ill while abroad despite all precautions.  Find out beforehand what options will exist for medical care and how payment for such care is handled in the target country.  It may be necessary to purchase a medical insurance policy geared for travellers or gap year students.  If so, tourists should scan all documents and email copies to themselves before departure.  That way, if original documents are lost for any reason, it will be possible to retrieve copies from any internet-connected computer.

Travel safety

For the same reason, travellers should email themselves copies of their passports, emergency contact phone numbers, and itinerary.  In some regions, naturally, computers may be scarce.  Therefore, another good idea is to carry physical copies and keep them separate from the originals.  Women who carry their passport in a purse, for example, should stow a copy in their suitcase.

Gap year students should go ahead and book a room for the night they arrive at their final destination.  This can help new arrivals, who may be almost dropping with jet-lag, from falling prey to scam artists who see them looking confused about where to go next.  Wearing a money belt can help keep valuables secure from thieves, so buy one before you leave the UK.

Culture shock

It is common to find a new culture so different that it almost seems threatening.  Stave off culture shock by learning as much as possible beforehand about a target destination.  Learn at least a few phrases in the local language and find out what standards prevail when it comes to clothing.  Dressing in attire that does not stand out helps to promote safety.  It is also essential to investigate local laws in advance, particularly with regard to potentially tricky issues such as alcohol use.

These recommendations, while important, should discourage no one from taking a gap year.  As long as proper precautions are taken, there is every reason to expect a gap year to provide an adventure that is a boon to mind and body alike.

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