Taking a sabbatical often requires meticulous planning and a little bit of courage. In the third of this four-part series, Ros Walford provides a little inspiration by giving the lowdown on just some of the many things you could do during a career break.
What would you do if you had the opportunity to take a career break? Learn to hang-glide or speak Russian? Write a bestseller? Travel the world by boat? There are as many options as there are fish in the sea and deciding on an itinerary is all part of the fun. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Ok, so this may be a romanticized picture of life as a foreign student, but it could be close to reality if you make the right choice. If enrolling at a university is too much commitment, check out study holidays run by tour companies. They offer everything from cooking classes in Thailand to jazz workshops in the south of France, photography courses in Kenya or art classes in northern Spain. Be sure to find out if the course is suitable before you book – for example, is it aimed at beginners? How big is the group? What is the ratio of students to teachers? You can search for holiday courses around the world on golearnto.com.
For academic types, this is the opportunity to carry out a research project, such as examining family genealogy or carrying out scientific fieldwork (see the Royal Geographical Society vacancies bulletin for fieldwork opportunities).
Buying plane tickets will give a structure to your trip but don’t be afraid of keeping your options open. There’s nothing quite like choosing your next destination on a whim. Don’t be put off if you have to travel alone – you’ll meet far more people and feel a huge sense of freedom.
Long-term programs such as those run by the international development organisation VSO seek volunteers with professional skills and qualifications to work on projects for up to two years. There are also numerous organizations seeking short-term volunteering positions. Check the website of the charity that you are interested in for details of their own scheme, sign up to an agency such as Cross-Cultural Solutions or Projects Abroad, or browse the internet for independent projects.
Many people use teaching as a means to travel and live abroad. It’s possible to get casual posts for just a few months (with or without a teaching qualification depending on the location), although most teaching posts require a commitment of a year or more. There is a massive demand for English teachers in China and South Korea, where the pay is fairly good. If you don’t have a teaching qualification, it is wise to obtain a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, either in the UK or at a language school abroad. This intensive crash course (one-month full time or three-months part-time) will train you in the basics of teaching English. The most globally respected qualifications are the Cambridge Celta and Trinity CertTesol. See the British Council website for a list of accredited colleges and certificates.