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5 Reasons to Volunteer During Your Gap Year

What is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a period of time, normally a few months to a year, when an individual takes time away from their daily life to explore different cultures and skills and become immersed in the journey of self-discovery. However, an increasingly popular trend is gap year volunteering, a far more impactful way of embarking on a year of adventure and growth. So, why do people take gap years? Consider all the benefits of travelling, and add the opportunity to volunteer – and it equals one of the most enriching and transformative experiences someone can have! 

Why Should I Take a Gap Year?

There is a common misconception that students can only take gap years between their high school and college or university years, or directly after university. Ultimately, gap years are not limited to age or stage in someone’s life! A gap year can be taken after school, after university, as a career break, or later in life after employment. Statistically speaking, gap years typically start in September; however, they can be completely tailored to your specific circumstances. This blog covers why gap years are good, but why volunteering during your gap year is even better. If you’ve always wanted to go on a gap year, now is the time! 

Why You Should Take a Gap Year

1. Skills Development

Developing skills is one of the best reasons why gap years are important. Gap years offer a unique opportunity to gain valuable life skills that go beyond the walls of any classroom or curriculum. Gap year volunteering especially lets you develop leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills while also developing other mindsets such as being compassionate, determined, and motivated. Volunteering programs can be specific or completely diverse. So, experiences like volunteering during your gap year can be super helpful in gaining clarity on what interests you or what career path you wish to pursue.

2. Impactful Contributions

Gap year volunteering is a powerful way to make a positive impact as you travel. No matter where you are in the world, when you participate in community development, environmental conservation, or educational programs, you are making impactful contributions to help support the locals who lead these initiatives. The impact you can leave works as a mutually beneficial experience, allowing you to gain insight from locals and learn new life lessons from those you work with. Volunteering experiences leave a lasting effect on you, and combined with gap year travelling, you will receive an impact that will last a lifetime! 

3. New Perspectives & Cultural Experiences

Volunteering during your gap year is a completely immersive experience that can give volunteers a better understanding of new perspectives and cultures that they wouldn’t normally have if they were tourists. The cultural exchange in your gap year can provide invaluable life lessons and challenge any preconceptions you once had. Dedicating your time and effort to a cause gives you a deeper understanding of the diverse world beyond the tourist areas of a country. Not to mention the new relationships that you foster that can broaden your perspective in unexpected ways!

4. Overcome Challenges

Embarking on an adventure like a gap year can come with some challenges, but working around obstacles leads to an opportunity for personal growth! Gap Year volunteer work helps you step outside of your comfort zone, learn how to adapt to new environments, and discover more about yourself. The challenges you can face during a volunteer experience will not only improve your confidence in tackling issues but will also give you a great sense of accomplishment. Challenging yourself is definitely one way to have the best gap year ever!

5. Build Lifelong Connections

During your gap year, you will meet many amazing people from all walks of life along the way. It is a fantastic way to connect with people, creating new bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime. It’s always easy to make friends with people who are in the same position as you. That’s why gap year volunteer work is so beneficial, as you will meet so many people through volunteer programs. From the locals you work with, to fellow volunteers, creating friendships is vital to your gap year experience, and made so much more natural as you will be volunteering with like-minded people with the same interests as you! 

So, why are gap years beneficial? The experience of a gap year provides fresh ground for planting new seeds for you to grow, personally and professionally. The people you meet along the way and the contribution you can make through volunteer work can help these seeds grow into meaningful experiences. What should I do in my gap year? Well, if you’re looking for a transformative journey that mixes culture, adventure, and giving back, gap year volunteering is perfect for you! It might be the best decision you make.

colourful hot air balloons in the blue sky

Best Gap Year Volunteering Tips

  • Do your research 
  • Create a budget, consider a fundraiser 
  • Fight homesickness with dedication to the volunteering program
  • Don’t be afraid to explore new project types
  • Read testimonials from former participants 
silhouette of gap year volunteer walking along beach rocks at sunset

Gap Year Volunteering Programs

Environmental & Community Gap Year in Costa Rica

Duration ⏲️: 7-10 weeks
Location📍: Costa Rica

Live in the exotic Costa Rican rainforest and engage in activities like conserving remote indigenous territories, working on sustainable solutions for poverty and clean water projects, education and school building, reforestation, and biodiversity. Carry out gap year volunteer work alongside unique species and beautiful landscapes, and immerse yourself in the rich culture by staying with locals.
Contains 3 modules:
– Community work
– The Great Trek – group hiking adventure
– Environmental work

No skills are required! Only enthusiasm for the outdoors and meeting new people!

panoramic shot of cape town with mountain and sea

African Marine & Wildlife Gap Year

Duration ⏲️: 5-6 weeks
Locations📍: Mozambique, South Africa & Eswatini

Explore the beautiful African wildlife from sea to savannah! Learn and gather research about the endangered species in each country. Travel to Africa and have up close and personal experiences like no other!
Weeks 1-4: Become a qualified diver and research the marine life during gap year volunteer work in Mozambique.
Weeks 5-6: Camp in the wild, hike the mountains, and explore the culture in Eswatini and Kruger.

Great for students studying marine biology, zoology, conservation, or if you’re just passionate about wildlife!

herd of elephants walking in a line in the wild

Gap Year – Around the World On a Budget

Duration ⏲️: 12 weeks
Locations📍Nepal, Ghana and Bolivia

This project really shows you why gap years are important. Embark on a budget friendly gap year adventure by volunteering in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This unique opportunity blends volunteering and exploration. Kickstart your gap year volunteering journey with a community project in the Bolivian Andes that supports children’s centres and sports coaching. Aid educational initiatives in rural Ghana and engage in agricultural education efforts in the women’s empowerment project in post-earthquake Nepal. Volunteers should be able to speak basic Spanish. If you require Spanish classes or a refresher, this can be arranged by our placement advisors before your gap year!

parrot flying in rainforrest

Environmental & Community Gap Year in South Africa 

Duration ⏲️: 7-10 weeks
Location📍: South Africa

Camp out in the African bush and experience close encounters with Africa’s iconic wildlife. Learn how to survive in the wild while contributing to projects such as; conservation, food security, educational initiatives, tree planting, farming, sanitation, and clean drinking water. This project is a great way to take a gap year career break.
Contains 3 modules:
– Community work
– Trekking through Drakensberg mountains
– Environmental Conservation

No skills are required! Only enthusiasm for the outdoors and meeting new people!

under water shot of diver swimming

Gap Year in Africa – Wildlife Conservation

Duration ⏲️: 12 weeks
Locations📍: South Africa, Zambia, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Lions, elephants, and rhinos – oh my! Explore 4 countries within Africa on this once-in-a-lifetime experience with Africa’s wildlife. Volunteering during your gap year is a fantastic way to see the Big 5, help rehabilitate lions in Kruger, educate children in Zambia about conservation, and contribute to sustainable dolphin tourism in Africa’s best diving spots, Zanzibar and Tanzania.

No skills are required! Only enthusiasm for conservation and a good level of fitness.

view of mountain flags in front of the mountain

Reach out to our helpful advisors to talk through your options and customize your trip!

This blog was written by Kayleigh Irvine

The blog was edited by Eric Black


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