July 14, 2017

Gap Year or a Sabbatical? That is the question

There are so many different reasons for people to take a year off. Some people might have just finished high school, others have come to a crossroad in their career paths or perhaps want to learn something new. With unlimited options to choose from - the choice is yours.

(Photo by Jan-Hendrik Hanekom)

People choose to take a year off to travel for many different reasons. Perhaps it’s to take some time off from finishing high school to recharge or to refresh one’s priorities in life. Sometimes, life gets to complicated and a big change in environment helps to replenish the soul. Maybe it is to gain a deeper understanding of a different culture, learn a new language, further career opportunities or to discover a hidden passion. Whatever it may be, it is the choice to expand one’s world.

Before we continue, let’s take a look at the difference between a gap year and a sabbatical. According to the website meetplango.com, the term ‘sabbatical’ actually derives from the biblical Sabbath which serves as an ancient human need to build periods of rest and rejuvenation into a lifetime. Traditionally sabbaticals were predominantly taken by academic orientated careers and teachers but in recent years this mould has been broken. Sabbatical travel is simply an extended leave from work to pursue a break and can be enjoyed by anyone! 

Now we take a look at the term ‘gap year’ or ‘bridge year’ which according to Macca Sherifi is considered constructive time out to travel in-between life stages. It could mean travelling, volunteering, enrolling in a gap year course or working abroad, or even all four! Gap year experiences have gained popularity in recent years and as reported by the New York Times, Harvard has seen a 33% increase in number of students taking gap years. In essence, gap years allow students to figure out where their passions lie without external pressures while still remaining productive.

How about the African bush?

Now we have a better understanding of the differences and similarities of a gap year and sabbatical, which one do you fit into? If you are thinking about taking a year out of your life to experience something great, something deeply meaningful, something in the African wilderness, then we have the perfect experience for you. EcoTraining offers a Professional Field Guiding course. This course, also known as the ‘PFG’ course is a one-year course where you will be submerged into the wilderness, away from cities, noise, pollution. You will live for one- year in four different unfenced camps across South Africa and Botswana.

The four different unfenced camps where you will stay

The four different unfenced camps where you will stay

What is the benefits of doing a PFG course as my gap year or sabbatical?

(Photo by Simon Weber)

Doing a PFG course has many benefits, especially with EcoTraining. PFG students comprise of a group of twenty people from all around the world. You want to learn a new culture? You have twenty to choose from. Not to mention the culture of nature and its inhabitants. Spending a year with such a diverse group of individuals, friendships are forged and unbelievable memories made. Living in the bush has a magical way of harnessing the best version of oneself. Your vision becomes clearer, your instincts become sharper and not to mention the close observation encounters of wild animals passing through the camp!

On this course, you will learn and experience diverse ecological and geological terrains, landscapes, wildlife species to mention a few. Whilst the first part of the year comprises of theoretical and practical learning, the second part of the year you will be placed at a reputable lodge as part of the Lodge Placement Programme. You will have the opportunity to be a part of great projects. For instance, EcoTraining PFG student, Waldo Jordaan will be our first student to travel to Europe to take part in the Rewilding Europe Programme that is headed up by former EcoTraining student Georg Messerer. EcoTraining is seriously making waves globally and aims to influence a world of environmentally conscious citizens.

What do our students say?

If you need a bit more convincing then see what our students say as to why they decided to join this course.

Willem van Liemt, 17 (Dutch)

“I heard about this course through a friend of mine a few years ago and he was so enthusiastic about it. He said that I really needed to do this because this would be the chance of my life. I just finished high school and am currently too young to go to college.  I wanted to do something special with this year and applied to EcoTraining. I am very happy to be here and can’t wait to get started!”

Sean Harris, 22 (South African)

“I am from Johannesburg. I found out about EcoTraining through the internet. I obtained my graphic design qualification prior to signing up for this course, but guiding has always been my passion. Due to certain complications, I wasn’t able to enrol on the course.  Now I am ready to take the next step.”

Dylan Sanders, 18 (Tanzanian)

“The bush has always been my passion and my father Mike Sanders was a guide for many years. He gave me the inspiration to take up guiding as a career. I had just finished school and started looking for a guide training school.  EcoTraining was recommended to me. The rest is history...”

Callan Neilson, 22 (South African)

“I always wanted to do something in this line of work. We own timeshare on many game reserves so we always spent time in the bush when I was a child. That is when my love for nature was born. I did not enjoy some of my previous jobs and I have always tried to find a way to get into the guiding industry.  It has been hard up to this point and there were some obstacles in my way that made it so much harder. With these obstacles out of the way, I can now focus on my dream career. I heard about this course through one of my friends who is currently doing the same course.”

Dewald Bester, 20 (South African)

“Nature has always been a passion of mine and I really appreciate everything about nature. It is truly where I am in my element.  I grew up in and out of the bush all my life and I really feel at home in it.  I was referred to EcoTraining by my uncle Pieter Brits, and I can’t wait for the journey to begin!”

Leon Pauleikhoff, 22 (German)

“I was a zookeeper for four years in Germany and when I came to South Africa for a safari with my family, I decided that I could not work with animals in a cage anymore. I really fell in love with this country after that trip and wanted to work in Africa. I then went to Botswana for three months to work on a nature conservation project in the Tuli block.  One of EcoTraining’s past students, who worked on this project with me, recommended the course.  Nature is my passion and I want to do something important to serve nature.”

Guillaume Perrimond (French)

“I came to South Africa for the first time about three years ago and worked on the Karongwe Game reserve for GVI. I have always wanted to spend as much time as possible in nature. I really fell in love with what I was seeing at Karongwe and decided to come back. I met Andreas Fox who works as freelance instructor for EcoTraining and he convinced me to join this course. I have also done a lot of research and have spoken to many people who have recommended EcoTraining as the best training provider.  I would like to work in the conservation industry after the completion of my course.”

Jelmer Vonk, 22 (Ireland)

“I came to South Africa for the first time six years ago, which was my one and only time in Africa. I went to college and studied biomedical research but in my second year I realised it was not what I would like to do for the rest of my life and so I decided to quit. At that stage, I did not really know what I wanted to do and a friend of my parents, who have a travel agency here in South Africa, suggested I visit the EcoTraining website and see if it is something I would like to pursue. I have always wanted to do something with animals and found that EcoTraining could offer the opportunity for my dreams to come true.”

George Berthon, 26 (UK)

“I studied conservation biology for six years.  I had a few different jobs since then but did not really know what to do with my life. I first considered working as part of a research team but feel I am not quite ready to do that now. I settled in Hazyview and spent about eight months working at the reptile park. During this time I met a few field guides who convinced me to look at becoming a field guide. I really did not think it was possible, especially trying to find a job in South Africa as a foreigner. It has been said that with a lot of determination it is possible, so never give up on your dreams!”

Chris Bates, 37 (SA)

“I have 10 years of work experience behind me in the corporate world. Recently I decided to become self-employed. I did an EcoTraining course in Makuleke in 2007 which I won through the EcoTraining competition at the Getaway show.  After this upcoming One Year course I have just begun, I aim to start my own business. I first need to get to know the basics before pursuing my dream to offer birding and photographic guided tours.”

From the quotes above, here is the group of students who just graduated
(Photo by Amanda Hattingh)

From the quotes above, here is the group of students who just graduated

If you are looking for a great gap year opportunity or sabbatical, or aspire to become a Professional Field Guide, you will need courage and a wild spirit. You will need to love nature, love biodiversity and all it has to offer. If you think that this adventure is for you, enquire more about the Professional Field Guide Course with enquiries on enquiries@ecotraining.co.za.








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