Many in the world are captivated this week by the wedding of Prince William of Wales with Miss Catherine Middleton. Here at GoAbroad, we're no exception -- but not just for the reasons you might expect.
A gap year -- a concept that began in the United Kingdom in the 1960s -- is most commonly taken after secondary school and before starting university. However, over recent years there has been an increase in 21-23 year olds taking a gap year after completing their degree. It is common for students to participate in international education programs that combine language study, homestays, cultural immersion, community service, study abroad, internships and independent study.
While the idea is common in a number of countries (particularly those in the British Commonwealth), the gap year concept (both pre- and post-college) is also growing in popularity in the United States - as evidenced in a recent Huffington Post article.
Although he had traveled abroad with his parents, William's gap year involved a number of international adventures as his official website says:
He undertook a number of new activities during the year, including preparing for survival exercises with the Welsh Guards in Belize, working as a volunteer with Raleigh International in Chile, working on a dairy farm in the United Kingdom and visiting countries in Africa.
In October, November and December 2000, Prince William visited southern Chile, during 10 weeks as a volunteer with Raleigh International. He helped to construct walkways from log posts and taught English in local schools.
And Raleigh International's website reports that
Prince William raised enough money to support another young person on a Raleigh expedition who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford to go.
Catherine's international experience started early. For two and half years in the mid-1980s, she lived in and began school in Amman, Jordan with her family when her father's work took them there. Later, according to the new biography of Catherine released by Clarence House:
Catherine undertook a gap year in which she studied at the British Institute in Florence (Italy), undertook a Raleigh International programme in Chile, and crewed on Round the World Challenge boats in the Solent.
So William and Catherine both participated in Raleigh International expeditions in Chile. William's was from October to December 2000, while Catherine's was from January to March 2001. The two met for the first time the following fall at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland, where they were both students. William majored in geography and Catherine majored in art history.
And, of course, we know that Prince William proposed while they were in Kenya -- so there are sure to be more international adventures for them as a couple.
Raleigh International expeditions generally have three parts (Adventure, Environment and Community), each lasting about three weeks. Projects are planned with local partners allowing participants to get involved with rural communities and habitats. People can apply either as venturers (17-24 year olds) or as volunteer managers (25+) who undertake a variety of roles including expedition photographer, medic, communication officer and logistics manager. Raleigh grew out of Operation Drake, whose patron was HRH Charles, Prince of Wales -- William's father.
For more information on Raleigh International, check out their listings on GoAbroad.com and their YouTube channel. Currently, they are not offering options in Chile - but they do have programs in places such as Costa Rica, India, Malaysia and Nicaragua.
We wish the couple all the happiness in the world on their special day -- and appreciate their individual examples of choosing to include abroad experiences in their gap year. That's an example we admire here at GoAbroad!