How have Birmingham students spent their time out?

Taking time out can give you have the chance to broaden your skills and gain valuable and enjoyable life experiences that you will never forget, no matter how you choose to spend your time.


Most students do some travelling as part of their time out. The most popular destinations are Australia, Indonesia, the Far East, USA and Canada.

Some students work before they set off, in order to fund their trip. Others find work as they travel, in order to pay for their trip. Many arrange their trips with work experience schemes and use the money they earn during the organised part of their trip, to fund further travel afterwards.

I spent my time out travelling - Physics graduate
"I gained a lot of confidence from organising the tour, and I know that helped me when looking for a job. My employer had no worries that I had taken a year out, the opposite if anything, because they appreciated that it takes initiative and independence to successfully accomplish this kind of travel. I'm very glad that I did it, and when work gets dull, I can look at my hundreds of photographs, and think I am only 23 years old and I have seen more of the world than many people do in a lifetime."

Paid work in the UK

Graduates sometimes treat the first summer as another vacation and apply for vacation work. Others go along to recruitment agencies to get some work at the start of their time out.

If you are a current student or graduate of the University of Birmingham, you can access a wide range of vacancies through Careers Connect. Also consider applying for graduate internships, which can offer paid experience from two weeks up to a year – ideal for getting experience on your CV, trying out different projects and boosting your skills within a short period of time.

Paid work abroad

Many people find work abroad, either to fund their travels, or to gain valuable work experience before returning to their studies or to continue with their career.

Recent Birmingham graduates who have used their time out to work abroad suggest that you:

  • Remember to take a copy of your CV with you.
  • Move out of hostels and rent a house short term; employers are wary of contacting you via hostels.
  • You can get help with looking for work though an organisation like IST Plus or BUNAC, but you are likely to pay a fee for this.
  • Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is also a popular option. You can gain a TEFL certificate by attending lessons before you set off or in dedicated centres around the world. While this is an internationally recognised qualification, it is also possible to find English teaching jobs that do not require TEFL qualifications.

Voluntary work in the UK

Voluntary work can be a great way to find out about about careers you are interested in, to develop your CV and to contribute to a worthy cause.

There are lots of ways of finding voluntary work in the UK. Many students and graduates simply approach employers they are interested in working for, directly. Many employers and voluntary schemes advertise placements; use Careers Connect to look for work experience.

If you are thinking of gaining some work experience, remember to check out what will be provided on the voluntary placement, as you may need to budget for more than just your time! For instance, will it include:

  • Accommodation?
  • Food?
  • Travel?

Voluntary work abroad

Participating in voluntary work abroad can be a great way to see the world, contribute to a worthy cause, gain useful work experience and develop invaluable skills.

Most students find work experience placements with organisations before they set off and it is important to find out what the placement will include and exactly what you are agreeing to commit to. You should ask about:

  • Travel - for example, how will you be travelling? Do you need any vaccinations?
  • Accommodation - for example, do you have the address? How safe is the local area?
  • Work - for example, what hours will you be working? Will you have any free time? Is there training?
  • Agency / organisation - for example, will there be an English-speaking representative? Do they have an insurance policy that covers personal injury? Who does the organisation benefit?

How to find out more about organisations

  • For registered charities, contact the Charities Commission, who will be able to tell you if the organisation has a sound financial basis.
  • Ask to speak to current volunteers either by telephone or email.
  • Ask to speak to ex-volunteers.
  • Find out about any "partnership" organisations and speak to them.
  • - the World Service Enquiry’s Directory only lists organisations that have a good track record.

I spent my time out volunteering abroad - Commerce graduate
"I went to South Africa and worked in a children’s home in one of the Townships in Cape Town as a volunteer. I was working with 20 girls aged between 14 - 19 years old all of whom were physically, sexually or emotionally abused, orphaned or simply came from desperately poor families... The best decision I've ever made!!"


Expeditions can be undertaken on a commercial or a non-commercial basis

  • Commercial organisations - these expeditions can be expensive, but your trip will be planned for you, saving you time and effort. Sometimes these projects are run to raise funds for charities. In this case your sponsorship would cover your own costs and would also contribute to the charity.
  • Non-commercial expeditions - these are usually instigated by and organised by students, academics or research organisations. Funding is sometimes available, depending on the work or research being undertaken, but the planning and organisation can be complicated and time-consuming.

How to find out more

  • For registered charities, contact the Charities Commission, who will be able to tell you if the organisation has a sound financial basis.
  • Ask to speak to people who have undertaken previous expeditions of a similar nature.
  • Find out about any ‘partnership’ organisations and speak to them.
  • The World Service Enquiry’s Directory only lists organisations that have a known, good track record. See our time out and gap year resources page for a link to this, and other useful sites.

I spent my time out on an expedition - Geography graduate
"I went on a Trekforce Expedition to Belize, mapping Mayan settlements in the rainforest, also carrying out a construction project, it was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone. Fundraising was hard work but rewarding."

Short courses

Taking time out can give you the chance to take short courses to broaden your skills, prepare for working abroad and travel or simply to develop an interest.

There are many different courses available on a local level, and your local council website is a good place to start. You may also find that local colleges offer a wide range of part-time or short courses.