Taking a gap year is one of the most rewarding experiences young people can have and a great way of broadening your horizons and gaining valuable skills. Before you set off on a gap year, it's important to feel you have done enough gap travel preparation. One of the ways you could prepare for your gap year is to have a 'trial run' putting some new skills and volunteering ideas into practice.
The National Citizen Service is a brand new campaign run by the government that will commence during the summer of 2011. Its aim is to encourage thousands of Y11 students who will have just completed their GCSEs to participate in a variety of skills workshops and community projects, and is run by 12 different organizations across the country. Students that sign up can join in the 6-8 week course, involving three weeks of full time work, and then another 30 part-time hours. Some courses even offer the chance to stay at special NCS camps over the first two weeks, but the courses and activities depend on which area of the country you live in, so you’ll have to check it out.
The activities involve a mixture of community projects, which could involve erecting a new youth shelter and painting over graffiti, sports activities during which you get the opportunity to meet and train with famous athletes, visit sites of interest and take part in skills workshops. The hours that you work during the community project are very flexible and they don't expect to spend your whole summer with the service. The nature of the activities depends on your location, but you can find all the information on the Directgov website.
Not only is the NCS a fun and constructive way of spending the summer, it can be the perfect introduction any gap year travels you may be planning on taking in the future, as you start to build your experience of team work, volunteering, working with local communities and fundraising. It will also be something useful to add to any college applications and personal statements as it shows that you have both the determination and dedication to achieve something worthwhile.