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Check out your placement

Check out your placement

Important questions you should ask before making any gap year decision.

The number of students taking a gap year or trip abroad is growing. Most placements are set up by organisations or charities and, in some cases, they ask you for a lot of money to arrange them. Do not assume that because they operate from a UK address or produce impressive brochures that everything will run smoothly. Some are good and some are not. So before you commit yourself, sign anything or hand over cash, check them out.

Start by asking the following questions:

About travel

  • What are the travel arrangements? Which airline will you use?
  • If you have to return early, can you transfer your ticket?

About accommodation

  • Do you have the address of where you will be staying?
  • Have you been given a clear idea of the standard of accommodation?
  • If you are staying with a local family, are they being paid? Why are they having you to stay?
  • How far are you from the nearest town?
  • How far are you from where you will work?
  • What specific dangers or problems might you face there? (Being prepared is often key.) Are the streets safe after work? Is it safe for a single woman or man to wander around? How volatile is the local political situation? Contact the Foreign Office Travel Advice Unit (020 7270 4129 or BBC2) for more.

About the work

  • What hours will you work and how much free time will you have?
  • If you expect to be paid, how much will you get and when? Weekly, monthly? In arrears?
  • If you're teaching, who will you be teaching, how many in a class and what age range?
  • Will you be given any support materials, or will you be expected to take your own?
  • In some societies, women (including foreign visitors) have a subordinate role at work and at home. Could you cope with this?

About the organisation

  • What kind of insurance do they provide? Does it cover repatriation and personal injury? Have you seen a copy of the policy?
  • Will there be an English-speaking representative of the organisation close by?
  • Will you be offered an induction or briefing course before you start work?
  • Will you receive adequate training for the work?

About the values of the organisation

If you are paying, where does the money go? How much goes on travel, accommodation and administration? Is it value for money?

  • If they are a charity, why?
  • Who is the organisation benefiting?
  • Are the interests of the local population being served?
  • Will your activities be welcomed by the local people? If not, why not?

If you receive too many vague or unsatisfactory answers to these questions, think twice about going. You're the customer so make sure you're satisfied.

Three golden rules:

1. Get everything in writing
2. Speak to someone who has been with the organisation within the past year
3. If in doubt, contact The Gap Year Company Ltd, or your local Careers Service

This story was supplied courtesy of

Updated: 07/09/2009

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