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Warriors Academy: How to spend a gap year in South Africa

You’re coming to the end of your academic career. Whether this is high school or university, it can be a very confusing time for many young professionals. Some may plan to continue their education, either through an undergraduate or graduate degree program. Others may find they are not quite ready to take that step and need some time to travel or really think about what it is they would like to do. No matter what path a student or young professional may take, the important thing is that they continue to grow both personally and professionally.


In case you or someone you know is in a similar position, our team at Holiday Course Guide wants to help ease the decision-making process. That is why we wanted to tell you about the Warriors Academy in South Africa. The programs offered by the Warriors Academy are perfect for students, young professionals or anyone looking to expand their horizons. We thought the best way to introduce you to these incredible programs was to let the Warriors Academy speak for itself. We interviewed the founder of Warriors Academy to help you get to know a bit more about the programs on offer and to get a sense of the team behind the programs.

Who are you, what is your role with Warriors Academy, and how did you get involved with the company?

My name is Rudi Viljoen. I am the founder of the Warriors Academy. My wife, Rene and I started Warriors Academy, 16 years ago, because we saw a need to help guide and prepare young adults for what life has in store for them. Many young people do not know what they want to do after school. This often comes with a lot of stress and pressure. We wanted to take this pressure off and give these young people and their parents another option, other than going straight into university or a career. We wanted to create an adventurous and exciting environment where participants are free to explore and discover their own greatness.


What types of programs does Warriors Academy offer and who primarily signs up for courses with you?

We provide four 7-week seasonal Quests throughout the year. Participants may choose to do one of the quests or all four as part of our Gap Year Program. We also have a Multi-Activity instructor program which is a two-year program aimed at those wanting an international career in adventure tourism. All of our programs are designed around experiential learning and focus on adventure fueled activities while incorporating personal mentoring and coaching. The activities can include anything from kloofing, hiking, bungee jumping, animal encounters, sailing, scuba diving, and so much more. These different experiences create a growth environment which supports participants to get to know themselves, explore their possibilities and help them to create the lives they want to live. We have several national and international students who join our programs. Participants are often just out of high school and aren’t sure what they want to do, others are looking for an adventure abroad, and some are just out of university and are looking for some guidance before going into the corporate world. We welcome any student with an adventurous spirit who is looking to be challenged and to grow as a person.

Why do you think your program is beneficial for students?

Our program has the opportunity to change a person’s life. Not only are students taken out of their comfort zone, but they are mentored and coached throughout the program. We aim to build up each participant's self-belief, confidence, and emotional fitness, giving them the tools to get through anything life throws at them. We also focus on helping them find out who they are and set goals for who they want to be.

What makes Warriors Academy unique compared to other programs?

We have been running our programs for 16 years are accredited by the International Gap Year Association. Our programs are not just experience-based but are focused on coaching the individual so that they can lead an enriched and fulfilled life. All our facilitators are trained as coaches and understand the value of using each adventure experience as an opportunity to mentor and guide the individual towards personal growth, developing a strong mental and emotional fitness level.


Do you have returning students to your programs?

We are so proud to say that we do. We have found that students often do one of the Quests and then end up signing up for the whole Gap Year program. We also have several siblings and family members who come through to join the program. Over the years, one family has had 5 of their children come and take part in the different Quests.


What is a Gap year?

A gap year is a time-out from studies or careers normally taken by students after school or studies. A gap year can be many things for different people. It's said that a well-structured and thought out gap year has the potential to set you up with the emotional skills that will serve you for the rest of your life. A gap year could be the biggest time-investment that you can make in your future. From 16 years of experience in the Gap year industry, I have many testimonials confirming these findings.

In your experience what are the benefits of taking a gap year?

Most parents see the gap year as simply a time off for their son or daughter to go and explore the world. It is true that it can be an amazing, adrenalin-filled adventure and that is fantastic, however, what parents and their children should take note of, is that a well-designed and structured gap year can make the difference in succeeding in their future studies, careers, relationships, and happiness. The real benefit of such a gap year is the development of their emotional maturity, the ability to deal with the challenges that life will invariably throw at them. To have the strength to cope with their studies, to commit and finish what they set out to in the face of adversity and fear of failure. To have that x-factor that sets the doers from the dreamers. To take responsibility and go make their dreams and aspirations reality. That is the real value that hides between all the fun and adventure.


What type of person would benefit from a Gap Year?

Our Warriors Gap Year program is specifically designed for the young adult who is serious about their future and understands the value of personal growth and maturity. It is perfect as a transition between school and studies or career. The Warriors program is perfect for the curious mind and the adventurous spirit.


What is the difference in a person – from when they start to the end of their gap year program? – From your point of view

For the last 16 years, I have seen the incredible personal growth in each one of our students. I have seen boys becoming men, girls becoming women. I have seen powerful young minds growing when given the opportunity and freedom to discover their own greatness, creating their own values, and to stand in their own power. Every year-end we have our graduation ceremony and I stand in awe every time seeing the growth, the maturity and the excitement of our young Warriors. I can with absolute confidence say that these young Warriors are by far better prepared to take on the world after the program than what they were before it.


Describe how you teach emotional fitness on this program? – activities/workshops etc

As a coach and student of human behaviour I have learned that creating a growth environment, using powerful language and guiding these young minds towards self-discovery and self-mastery through various adventures, physical but also mental challenges are the catalyst for emotional maturity. The Warrior's attitude and philosophy are to allow each Warrior to find their own way. We deliberately stay away from pre-described dogma’s, political correctness or cultural programming. We want them to be free and explore in a safe and loving environment so that they can figure out, how it is for them. We start each year with a very powerful self-mastery workshop which sets the scene for the rest of the year. How we speak, how we act, how we take responsibility for our experiences is part of daily life. They develop over the year a new language, the language of the Warrior, which is a language that empowers them towards awareness and results.


How do you want participants to leave the program?

It fills my emotional glass when I see them leaving strong and inspired to go out there and make a difference, to succeed to be happy, to love and value themselves as unique beings.


Interested in doing a gap year with Warriors Academy? Click here!

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