Volunteering on your gap year can be a noble and eye opening experience. The thought of enriching somebody else’s life is one that many want to be a part of, but that many fail to actually commit to. If you are somebody who is dead set on volunteering in a country in need of help, whether this is to build houses, schools, to deliver aid or water or to teach the children, there is something that everybody can get on board with. When you are deciding on whether you want to volunteer during your around the world travels, you need to plan thoroughly, consider all of your options and really open yourself up to the idea of helping others. You need to consider whether or not the volunteer programme is right for yourself, and you need to consider whether or not you are right for the volunteer programme.
Before you commit to volunteering, you need to think about whether or not you really really want to volunteer. In order to decide this, you need to consider your motivations for doing this. Is this something that you have always wanted to do? Are you doing this to help people, or so that you can say that you have volunteered? If you embark on a volunteering mission simply to get a cool profile photo, then you could actually do more harm than good. Remember, people are depending on you, so it’s important to get your priorities in order, be sure that you have a thick skin and that your emotional intelligence is in check, because if it is not, a volunteering programme could either hurt you, or you could hurt it. Go in with the attitude that you can learn from the experience and you will find it both enriching and eye opening.
Your capabilities and expectations:
You need to think about the experience you have and the skills that you can transfer onto the job when you are volunteering. Volunteering is hard work and it means long difficult days, so it’s really not for the faint hearted. You may find yourself roughing it in hammocks regularly, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be fun. Having these experiences can really shape you as a person and help you to get out of your little bubble, to see what the world is really like. Sounds exciting right? Whatever agency you go with, or whatever task you complete you will need to go in with the expectation that you will be faced with challenges, some days you will struggle, and other days you will thrive just remember that you are going to be helping somebody every day.
The company you want to work for:
So, now you’ve decided that you are going to volunteer, that you are made of strong enough stuff to handle it and that you’re doing it for the right reasons, it’s time to think about what agency or organisation you want to go with. There are so many different organisations to choose from, so it’s really important to make sure that you are planning ahead and that you put a lot of research into where you are going to let your loyalties lie. Some organisations will fund you to volunteer, and some trips will be self funded, so it’s important to have a plan of how to raise the money if that is the case. Some organisations offer different periods of time, ranging from a week, to a month to the whole summer etc. Think about how much time of your gap year you would like to dedicate to volunteering and go from there. As well as being accepted onto a volunteering programme, you may also have to apply for a work visa if you are working there for an extended period of time, or if you choose to complete your studies in the country you are volunteering in, you may need to complete a student visa extension, for example in the UK as an international student, you may need to complete a tier 4 visa extension.
There are many things you need to consider in this life changing experience and it’s important to open yourself up to new possibilities and challenges. Everybody should consider volunteering for one time or another in their lives as this can be a truly enriching and important experience to look back on fondly.