Careers Advice

What can you do in a Gap Year?

With our educational institutions moving online due to the continuously changing government regulations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, many students in our community are considering a gap year in their studies, with the hope of continuing next year when the dust may settle. So, what can you look forward to in a gap year?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have recently seen a large decrease in available jobs, with some industries suffering more than others. The space industry, however, is one of the sectors that have continued to grow with minimal distractions. 

A gap year offers you a great opportunity to gain new experiences in addition to giving you time to think about how you would like to proceed in the future. For example, you could:


Gain New Skills: 

As a student in the space sector, you might want to learn Python and/or other programming languages such as MATLAB, C or C++. In a recent report by the Space Skills Alliance , it has been shown that 49% of early career employers actually look for engineering graduates who have some knowledge of programming. Aside from coding, you can also learn other skills such as; data analysis, CAD design, or even project management, to name a few (depending on your interests).


Learn A New Language: 

Since working in the space sector is very diverse and involves various nations, learning other languages such as Russian (necessary for being an Astronaut), French, Spanish, Italian, etc can be very beneficial. This will extend your communication abilities by making you a multilingual individual.


Get Work Experience: 

If you wish to gain relevant experience in your field of interest/study or are planning to save some money for your future studies, consider gaining some work experience. Whether it be paid/unpaid, you will have the opportunity to learn a great deal. Even if your work experience isn’t space related, you will gain a lot of life skills, such as time management. You can have a look at the jobs posted regularly on the Satellite Design Competition, Lunar Rover Competition, etc.



With the time you have, you could support a cause while gaining valuable experience. This could be working with a charity, tutoring a child, remote work for a Non for Profit Organization, helping in conservation, etc. Volunteering will help you become more empathetic,  so consider volunteering for something you feel like contributing to. You could also volunteer for the UKSEDS and gain invaluable experience working on a number of different teams.


Online Courses: 

Taking a break from university doesn’t mean that you can’t study. There’s numerous online platforms such as Coursera and EdX which offer free/paid courses on any subject you can imagine. For most of these courses, you have the benefit of applying for financial aid if you need it. These are called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). There are even courses that give you university credits! This way you can learn anything, from engineering to art, in the comfort of your home. Other notable online learning platforms include LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Skillshare, Pluralsight, Team Treehouse, Dataquest, Codeacademy, Future Learn, etc.


Learn A Life Skill: 

If you’ve always wanted to be a better cook or learn self-defence, this is your chance. Although some of these may have to be online, you can still attend a yoga session, improve your public speaking skills or even learn to dance, and so much more!


Become A Bookworm: 

If you're planning to know more about the space sector, reading books can be a great option. You can read about the history of space, the space race, Britain’s contribution to space, spacecrafts, and so many more. Even Elon Musk who is one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our generation, began thinking about his rocket company, SpaceX, after reading a book called the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Start reading and who knows one day you might start your own space company!

Find something that interests you and get a book. It doesn’t have to be a physical one, you could also get an ebook or an audio book. At the end, you might even come up with a revolutionary idea! As the youngest Noble Laureate Malala Yousafzai said, “Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”


NB: Although, you’re taking a break from your institutional studies, going on a gap year isn’t unlike going on a vacation. You have to track your time and activities so that you can be more productive, which is by no means an easy ride.


Armin Ziadlourad

Armin studies MSci Astrophysics at University College London

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