Gap years are more popular than ever. Students are facing increased pressure when it comes to gaining admittance into university, and many are opting to take a year off and explore the world before continuing with higher education. This allows them to return rejuvenated and ready for new academic challenges, as well as having learned and experienced a bit of the world.

This is not a new trend. Students across Europe and Australia have been planning this rite of passage for decades now. However, we're seeing new enthusiasm for gap year programs in other parts of the world—and particularly in the United States. The results are encouraging, and many students who return from a year abroad report feeling energized and enthusiastic about continuing with their university education.

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Students who take a year off after completing their secondary education have a range of options available. Some set out for Europe strapped with a backpack; others seek out opportunity to learn Spanish or Portuguese in South America; still others look for adventure and opportunities in Asia, home of jungles, beaches, cities and half of humanity. Thanks to the affordability of round-the-world airfare, there's no reason to think that one couldn't do it all on a gap year.

Some students view the gap year as an opportunity to beef up their resume and add a few layers of experience to their repertoire, hoping this will make them more attractive to recruiters and academic institutions. Others secure university admission and then request a one-year deferment. Many universities are happy to accommodate; and, in fact, some are even encouraging newly admitted students to take a year off first.

TEFL Teaching Gap Year Programs

There's much to see and experience when one takes a year to travel and explore the world. Many gap year students spend a portion of their year volunteering or involved in community service. It's also common to spend some time working, earning money that they can use to offset the expense of their year abroad. Many gap year students teach English as a second language in non-English speaking countries, as that employment can be much easier to obtain than other kinds of work.

To teach English, experience is not usually necessary, but some kind of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) training and certification is critical to getting started. TEFL certification course offered by SEE TEFL is ideally suited for the latter. Asia -- Thailand in particular -- is especially well-suited to gap year students looking to earn some money while traveling. Employment opportunities for travelers are limited, to say the least. However, English teachers are in high demand across much of the world, and that adds value to TEFL certification for gap year students.

Qualifications in teaching English as a foreign language are also something for the resume. Gap year students are quick to point out the inherent value involved in taking a year off and traveling. Doing so helps them avoid burnout and gives them a chance to gain life experience before making crucial decision related to their future careers. Apart from that, TEFL certification is a valuable add-on that stays with them when they return.

Thailand is a particularly attractive destination for teacher training programs, as demand for teachers is high while the cost of living is low. This allows institutes like SEE TEFL to provide high value-for-money teacher training programs. Given the fact that the qualifications earned are accredited and internationally recognized, it's easy to see why so many students gravitate to Thailand for TEFL training, and many stay on to teach there.

Gap Year English Teaching Opportunities

SEE TEFL teacher training is based out of Chiang Mai, a regional capital in Northern Thailand. In 2013, Chiang Mai was voted one of the friendliest cities in the world by readers of Conde Nast Traveler. It's a spectacular place to spend a few weeks or months on a gap year.

The institute offers two different teacher training programs:

Four-Week TEFL Course in Chiang Mai

The primary SEE TEFL offering is an intensive 120-hour program that is fully accredited and results in an internationally recognized TEFL certificate. It equips graduates with the skills, strategies and confidence that they'll need to teach English as a foreign language anywhere in the world. The training includes six hours of observed teaching practice with real students in Thai schools. This generates valuable feedback that graduates can apply when they step into their first professional teaching role.

Trainees also enjoy the following benefits:

  • A daylong cultural orientation program to prepare teachers to work in a Thai school
  • Support in arranging a visa
  • A primer in Thai language
  • An attractive job guarantee
  • Ongoing job support upon graduation

Once teachers have graduated, SEE TEFL guarantees that they will find a placement at a private or government-run Thai school in Thailand. Officially, the program assures teachers that they will find a placement within two months, though many are already hard at work in as little as two weeks.

English Teacher Training with a Paid Internship

The second offering may be better suited for gap year students who prefer to spend less time working and more time exploring Thailand. It begins with two weeks of induction training in Chiang Mai. This is followed by a one-semester (4-5 month) paid internship at a rural school in Thailand.

Interns will receive full SEE TEFL Certification if they submit 3 lesson plans with teaching materials plus a 2,000 word essay reflecting on their teaching experience to SEE TEFL at the conclusion of their Internship. Other than that, this teacher training includes most of the perks and benefits of the standard TEFL training course. Training and internships are available twice per year, to coincide with the start of the autumn and spring semesters according to the Thai academic calendar.

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Planning a Gap Year

Planning a gap year is complicated, especially for those who plan on visiting multiple destinations during the course of the year. While there are countless variations on a worthwhile itinerary, there are several reasons to consider beginning a gap year in Thailand with SEE TEFL.

First of all, Thailand is a regional travel hub for the whole of Southeast Asia. The international airport at Bangkok is a practical first stop for travelers who plan to visit Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and even parts of Indonesia. Generally speaking, round-the-world tickets are cheaper when they stick to major transport hubs such as Bangkok.

Second of all, but beginning the experience in Thailand, students can earn a TEFL certificate that they can use across multiple nations for the duration of the year. If finances become tight at any point during the year, returning to the classroom or even teaching private lessons is always an option.

There are several other considerations that should be taken into account before striking out from home:

  • Accommodation: Guesthouses and apartments in Chiang Mai are plentiful and affordable, and SEE TEFL can assist with setting up monthly accommodation in Chiang Mai if desired.
  • Insurance: This is an essential consideration whenever traveling abroad; fortunately, there are plenty of gap year insurance plans on the market.
  • Health: Many gap year travelers are anxious about the state of healthcare in the countries they'll be visiting; Thailand is a popular medical tourism destination and there are many high-caliber hospitals and clinics in Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

Teaching English while on Gap Year

Teaching English is a great way to enhance a gap year experience. The chance earn income while traveling is an important consideration for many students. When you possess internationally recognized credentials, it's rarely difficult to find teaching jobs overseas.

But there are other less tangible benefits as well. Teachers are highly respected in Thai society. Complete a TEFL training course and going to work in a Thai school automatically places gap year students in a position of respect. The interactions with students and their families are edifying -- even *life changing*. The rewards of a more tourist-oriented gap year pale in comparison.

SEE TEFL offers a few fringe benefits in this department as well. Graduates have the opportunity to volunteer in Thailand after they complete the program. This is a great way to gain extra experience teaching without the pressures of signing a contract or teaching for a wage. This also works well when graduates don't have the time to commit to a full semester of teaching.

Thai schools involved in the volunteer placement program usually don't have the budget to attract paid native-speaking English teachers. They depend upon the benevolence of others. The fact that TEFL-certified teachers are willing to give up a few days or weeks and spend time with these underprivileged students has a lasting impact on the school—as well as on the gap year students who participate.

Gap Year Program

Taking a gap year in Thailand is a great way to prepare for university. Students gain real life experience, pick up the fundamentals of second and third languages and return with resume-enhancing job experience that places them several paces ahead of their peers.

But perhaps most important of all, gap year students return home as global citizens with a new appreciation for the world they live in and the myriad cultures that it holds. To maximize the value of a year abroad, it's important for students and their families to spend plenty of time exploring options, planning tentative itineraries and contacting agencies for support along the way.

If you are interested in taking a year off from your education, teaching English in Asia and gaining valuable cross-cultural experience, contact SEE TEFL for more information or register for one of its teacher training programs today.