With your A-level results confirmed and your first year at university deferred, it’s now time to start planning for your gap year. Whilst it presents the perfect opportunity to work full-time, gain some valuable experience and earn a few pennies, a lot of students use the time as an opportunity to volunteer and make a real difference to the lives of others. Although there may be an initial cost to volunteering, it’s certainly a life experience worth having and will impress any potential future employers and universities.
So how many different volunteering opportunities are out there and what do they involve?
Volunteering to teach in the developing world is arguably the most popular choice among gap year students but is also very rewarding. Most programs involve teaching English to children so that they have better prospects for the future and is unbelievably rewarding when you see your pupils’ skills and confidence grow as a result of your work. Most teaching programmes allow a stable learning environment to be build around children from an early age.
Teaching programmes aren’t just limited to the developing world. Europe is also a popular destination, particularly for language students. There are opportunities to reside with a family eager to learn English and the benefits are reciprocal as volunteers have the opportunity to immerse themselves entirely in to a foreign culture and advance their language skills also.
Being a conservation volunteer will involve work that aims to protect natural resources and environments across the globe. The variety of conservation work is immense, ranging from releasing baby turtles in to the sea and constructing turtle hatchery to conserving marine ecosystems given that ocean waters serve as a critical source of food and valuable minerals to communities around the world. Restoring marine ecosystems ensures protection for endangered marine species.
Conservation volunteering provides an one with an incredible feel good factor – knowing that the work you have done will help preserve the environment and wildlife is unbelievably satisfying.
Physically challenging, but again, very rewarding, construction work can include building homes or safety shelters for those less fortunate than yourself. Helping to build and renovate facilities in the local community will allow you to literally see the difference you and your team have made by the end of the project.
Whether it be a children’s shelter in Thailand or a home for a rural Costa Rican family that you assist in building – construction projects are worth it just to see the joy and happiness on the faces of the people you’re helping.
Overall volunteering is a great way to spend a few weeks or months of your gap year. Not only will it be an unforgettable experience and provide you with a real sense of achievement, studies have revealed that career prospects for volunteers are greater than those who haven’t volunteered; 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without. Therefore, if you’re considering taking a gap year, volunteering is a no brainer. Work full time during the first few months and then use your saved money to invest in a volunteering project in the summer with Volunteering Solutions, who offer programmes in India, Thailand and Ghana – you definitely won’t regret it!