Catherine Dawes, 22, graduated in English and Philosophy from the University of York. She is now studying for a post-graduate qualification at the London College of Communication.
GAP YEAR EXPERIENCE:
Through i-to-i, Catherine spent eight weeks on a community development project in Bolivia, and eight weeks in Lima, Peru, as a translator for www.manuela.org.pe. In between projects she travelled through South America. The project in La Paz, Bolivia cost £1,295 for 8 weeks, including accommodation. The project in Lima, Peru cost £1,595 for eight weeks, including food and accommodation. Catherine funded her travels by working for seven months in media sales.
What was your motivation?
"Because I was going on my own I decided to travel with an organisation rather than arrange it myself. There was a huge range of projects on offer."
What skills did you learn?
"My Spanish improved, as did my confidence. Being out there on your own means you have to get used to talking to complete strangers. I learnt how to take the initiative and get involved in situations. You also have to get used to working with people who are very different to you."
"I had so many amazing once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as swimming with dolphins in an Amazon river."
"I’d originally meant to work on a newspaper in Lima and it was disappointing when that fell through."
Did it improve your employability?
"Yes, it improved my Spanish and the projects I worked on always come up in interviews. I’ve also got more direction. While I was away I met a travel writer. When I got back to the UK I arranged work experience, which really confirmed that I wanted to go into feature writing."
Advice to students considering a gap year?
"It’s worth volunteering or doing work while you are away, you will get so more out of your time."