There is no doubt that taking a gap year is a great way to expand your horizons and experience new places. During some of that year volunteering abroad is a positive way to use the time, giving the chance to learn new things while, leaving behind a legacy that could benefit others for a lifetime.
Ask anyone who has spent time volunteering abroad and they will tell you that it is, quite simply, one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Investing your time and money in doing something that benefits others is a feeling like no other. If you’ve never done anything like this before, you can find it a confidence boosting exercise, a learning experience as well as an ideal opportunity to meet other people with similar interests. You will have the chance to put your skills to work in achieving something that will make the lives of others better and, unlike simply donating your hard earned cash, you’ll get something back too – a lifetime of memories and new friendships. Your future employers will also take an interest to see that you have spent your time off learning a new skill.
There are volunteering opportunities all over the world from far flung places to much closer to home. Your destination could be influenced by the kind of activity you are interested in doing or by your own personal preferences. You might want to spend time in a completely unfamiliar environment in an underdeveloped country or prefer the confidence of city life in a modern town. Perhaps you’re looking for a one-off experience or something that relates to a career you wish to pursue. For example if you plan to go into the media, you can find opportunities for radio presenting in Africa or TV presenting in South America or, if perhaps teaching is a direction you’re keen to take you will certainly find teaching opportunities in most continents. Usually this will involve teaching English as a Foreign Language so you may find that a TEFL course is included within your programme. Some companies such as Real Gap can even help with finding paid teaching opportunities abroad. With so many changes afoot on the planet, there are more and more eco projects to choose from and helping to protect or study wildlife is a popular choice.
Many volunteering projects are based in underdeveloped areas. Working with a professional organisation ensures that your destination has been thoroughly vetted for safety considerations and has a local contact you can call upon for help. You’ll usually pay a fee which includes all the administration involved in your trip. Some organisations include flights in the charge and some do not so do be sure to check when you’re budgeting. Living accommodation and arrangements vary dramatically depending on country and activity so do be sure to check what they are to ensure you have packed everything you need. Prior to your trip learn a little of the local language as many projects are based away from large cities; locals may have no knowledge of English and will be more welcoming if you at least try to communicate in their language.
Though time spent travelling is an amazing learning experience, including volunteering in the mix during your gap year will result in lifelong memories for you and lifelong benefits to local communities. With so many different types on offer there will certainly be something that will appeal to you and ultimately add interest to your future CV. Make sure also to read about gap year travel insurance to ensure you are fully covered for the whole year for your gap year.