Gap year – why not volunteer for work overseas?

Young people that choose to do volunteer work abroad during their university gap year will benefit in several ways.  The teaching institutions believe that students who are interested in issues abroad are more rounded individuals, that are likely to be successful in their university career. Many tutors appreciate the opportunity to work with students who have already proven themselves to be dedicated to the global community.  Potential future employers will also look favourably on an applicant’s gap year that has been spent in acquiring skills and experiences outside his or her home nation.

Gap year: popular destinations

Volunteer opportunities for students on their gap year abound in many developing areas of the world, such as Africa, South America, Asia, Central America and Oceania – an area of the world comprising the Pacific Ocean islands. In many of these destinations students will confront an unfamiliar culture, and depending on the type of volunteer project, the basics of a new language might have to be learned.

It is also possible to stay in Europe and still participate in important volunteer work.  Teaching projects and activities that centre on the conservation of vital land and marine resources are available in many European nations.  Climate change education is also a popular focus for gap year programmes on the Continent.

Gap year: popular schemes

A gap year of volunteering can be in various parts of one foreign nation or may be spent in one small village.  This type of gap year is frequently structured as an internship, since the student may be working intensively on one issue under the direction of a single set of mentors.  An internship, however, is not the only possible structure a gap year can take.

Many students find that they prefer to volunteer to work abroad on a series of projects that need willing hands.  Teaching, conservation work, sports education, HIV/Aids awareness programmes, construction work, agricultural work and helping at an orphanage are just a small selection of the type of work available. Organising a gap year around project work can allow a student to travel to a variety of destinations during the 12 months.  Other students find that they prefer to work on a single type of project to acquire specialised skills, such as drilling water wells in needy areas of the world.

Other students prefer to broadly diversify their projects from the very start.  It is perfectly feasible to plan a gap year that involves three months of volunteering to teach basic English skills followed by three months of a more physical contribution to a needy community, such as building housing in the wake of a natural disaster.  Such a far-ranging approach can help students to clarify their interests and improve their skills.

Useful tips and information

Those who have already settled on a career choice or academic path will benefit by finding a gap year programme that matches their primary interests.  Students looking at a medical career, for example, should consider projects such as volunteering at a community health centre in a nation such as Nepal.

Those with a love of animals might want to assist at an elephant sanctuary located in India.

In all cases, those considering a gap year volunteer experience should research the company or programme under consideration thoroughly before any money changes hands.

A gap year volunteering abroad can provide experiences that help students grow both on a personal and a professional level, making them into more well-rounded individuals that will have an advantage as they pursue their future goals.

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