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Taking a gap year

Photo: It's important to make sure you are prepared and plan your year off in advance

As a deaf young person, taking a gap year to travel, work or volunteer is a great way to increase your confidence, make new friends and learn more about the world. It can also bring specific challenges.

When can I take a gap year?

People take gap years at different times for different reasons. You might want to take a gap year between leaving school and starting university, to earn some money to fund student life. Or you might want to take a gap year after leaving a job, to go travelling or learn new skills before getting another job. 

If you choose to take a gap year between leaving school and starting further education, it might affect the support you get in further education. Talk to your Teacher of the Deaf to find out more.

In England, you must stay in education until you're 18. 

What can I do on a gap year?

There are lots of different things you could do on a gap year. Some of the most popular options are:

  • Volunteering
  • Travelling
  • Getting a paid job
  • Work experience
  • Part-time courses.

If you choose to travel abroad during your gap year, read our tips below to make sure your trip goes smoothly.

  • At the airport - arrive early and keep checking the departures board. Tell the person at the boarding gate you’re deaf and need to be notified when it’s time to board. There are apps available which give users real-time alerts for changes in flight plans.
  • On the plane - tell the flight attendant you’re deaf and may need in-flight announcements in person.
  • At the station - if you see lots of people on the platform move away, ask someone what’s going on. If in doubt, check with station staff.
  • At the hotel - inform the receptionist that you’re deaf so that they can alert you in case of emergency. Major hotels may have alerting devices which flash or vibrate strongly when the fire alarm goes off.
  • Tour guides will usually help by writing information down, pointing or using hand gestures. Book the tour in advance and ask for a transcript if possible.
  • There are some deaf tour guides. The sign language might be different but at least they’ll be deaf aware.
  • If there are activities you want to do with an interpreter, check in advance about disability access on the company’s website.
  • Visit the information centre and get lots of leaflets. Ask staff to make bookings for you.
  • Go online or download apps (Expedia, Trip Advisor, airlines, etc.) to make bookings.
  • In some countries, there are services for deaf people such as typetalk.
  • Write things down if necessary.
  • Make sure there’s space in your luggage for your hearing equipment, and don’t forget to bring spare batteries.
  • Consider buying a dehumidifier for drying out your hearing aids, especially if you are visiting a hot country.
  • As with any other precious belongings, lock up your hearing technology when you’re not using it. 
  • You can buy a waterproof bag to keep your hearing technology safe and dry on the poolside or beach while you’re swimming.
  • If you’re with a group of people, ask one of them to guard your hearing technology while you’re swimming, and take turns in the water.

There are plenty of benefits to taking a gap year - probably too many to list here, so here are just a few reasons to get packing and go for it:

  • You get to explore new countries and discover new cultures.
  • Stepping outside your comfort zone can help you to become more confident and independent.
  • You might learn new skills by volunteering.
  • By meeting fellow travellers, you make new friends from around the globe.
  • Taking a break might help you to return refreshed and ready to focus on your education or career.
  • It adds a unique experience to your CV.

Forums, blogs and social media can be a great place to find tips and learn from other people’s experiences of gap years.

UCAS have links to different organisations where you can find gap year opportunities and ideas. 

Prospects have ideas and tips for what you can do on your gap year and use it to get work experience.