Many in the world were captivated by the fairytale wedding of Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton. The romance, their kind-heartedness, Kate’s impeccable style; it’s easy to adore the royal couple. Here at GoAbroad, we’re no exception — but not just for the reasons you might expect.
You see, both William and Kate participated in gap year programs abroad — as did William’s brother, Prince Harry.
What is a gap year?
The concept of a gap year started in the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Young people often set off on gap year programs after finishing secondary school (high school— for you yanks) and before starting university. However, over recent years there has been an increase in 21 to 23-year-olds taking a gap year after college. To build on their degree and effectively continue their education, more students are participating in international education programs that combine volunteering with language study, homestays, and cultural immersion..
While gap year programs are commonly pursued by students from a number of countries (particularly those in the British Commonwealth, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada), the gap year concept (both pre- and post-college) is also growing in popularity in the United States. And with the example William and Kate set for all students, it’s not hard to see why.
Prince William’s gap year travels
Although he had traveled abroad with his parents, William took full advantage of his gap year opportunities and got involved in a number of international adventures. 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 UK, and visiting several countries in Africa.
In October of 2000, Prince William visited southern Chile for 10 weeks as a volunteer with Raleigh International. He helped to construct walkways from log posts and taught English in local schools.
Prince William also raised enough money to support another young person on a Raleigh expedition who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford to go, supporting the spirit of volunteering.
Kate Middleton’s gap year travels
Kate’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 biography released by Clarence House, Kate undertook a gap year in which she studied at the British Institute in Florence, participated in 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 their love of international adventures and education is clear.
If you are itching for adventure and want to learn outside of the classroom, follow the example set by William and Kate and look into gap year programs abroad.
Follow in Kate and Will’s intrepid footsteps
Check out Raleigh International’s gap year programs abroad. Currently, they are not offering options in Chile – but they do have programs in Costa Rica, Malaysia, and Nepal. Projects are planned with local partners allowing participants to get involved with rural communities and habitats. People can apply either as venturers (17 to 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.
Or, blaze your own trail with one of the many other gap year program providers available. Choose from cultural exploration, language immersion, work experience. This is a choose-your-own-adventure opportunity!
As we continue to be enchanted with the royal couple, we appreciate their their individual examples of choosing gap year programs abroad. We hope they continue to lead by example and that more and more students continue to opt into meaningful travel and participate in international programs.