Brits abroad take it easy

12th September 2003 at 01:00
Neil Scrase learnt so much from his gap year teaching in Canada that he took two more and built a career around working abroad.

But during his travels the 25-year-old frequently encountered British students going through the motions of a gap year to satisfy friends, employees or parents.

He is also familiar with companies who cater for them.

He said: "Gap years can be easy. There are organisations which send people to top private schools in Africa. Students do voluntary work which does not add much value.

"These are usually people who feel under pressure from peers and parents - sometimes the CV also enters into the equation."

Mr Scrase spent one year teaching English in Japan with Student Partnership Worldwide and a year raising awareness of Aids in Tanzania.

"In Japan many people were just going through the motions of travelling and working abroad and did not make much effort. They did not learn the language or socialise with the locals and would go partying in English groups. One girl was unable to renew her contract because she was so disrespectful of Japanese customs," said Mr Scrase.

He said employees and students should be cautious when choosing and judging gap experiences.

"Going to India does not make you culturally sensitive and companies which recruit gap-year students must recognise that not all trips are demanding.

"It depends on what you do and who you are. If you want a spiritually rewarding experience you have got to work at it and want to learn.

"Taking a gap year is not about ticking a box. You have to do your research, think about the work and make the best of it.

"I would not be the person I am today without those experiences, but I have put in the effort to learn from them."

Inspired by his gap experiences Mr Scrase has taken the opportunity to travel with his job at the HSBC bank. On the international management programme he travels between countries, learning about local cultures.

Today he flies to Hong Kong to begin his first three-year placement abroad.

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