Taking a gap year before embarking onto the next stage of their academic careers is an increasingly popular trend for North American high school graduates. Some, like Malia Obama, are even deferring their college enrollment to do so. With volunteer organization Projects Abroad, a global leader in short-term international volunteer programs, bridging high school and college with a gap year is an option that can still help make a difference around the world for anyone eager to experience it.
Typically, a gap year can take place over a full year, a semester, or even just a month or two spent fulfilling an inner calling before heading back to the classroom. Volunteering abroad is just one meaningful way to spend a gap year, and it’s an option that offers several benefits, says Elizabeth Cauchois, a Program Advisor for Projects Abroad USA.
“Students taking their gap years in developing countries find that their experience as volunteers impacts them significantly. They devote their time, energy, and skills to helping others, learning about cultural exchange firsthand by living and working in local communities, and exploring the world. This gives them a measure of independence and maturity that few other experiences can, and many students feel more confident and prepared for their impending studies. A well-planned gap year can make all the difference.”
Projects Abroad has more than one option for gap year students. Global Gap is a pre-designed gap year volunteering program for a group of students to volunteer together throughout the course of an academic year (eight months). The group travels together to five countries — Ghana, South Africa, Peru, Nepal, and Thailand — to participate in a wide variety of volunteer projects and internships, such as helping local teachers improve their English and learning new classroom management techniques.
Students can also customize their gap year by participating on standard projects of their choice. They can choose exactly what they want to do, where they want to go, how long they want to go for, and when they want to start. This gives gap year students enormous freedom when planning their gap year and their travels can take them across the globe.
“A gap year is accessible to everyone,” Cauchois emphasizes. “We have a number of projects that are available on a budget, but that still offer safety and are well-coordinated. Volunteering abroad is possible on any budget and we are always happy to speak to and advise students who are looking to make their trip a reality.”
A gap year is an experience for anyone, and there are various ways to go about planning a year focused on traveling and volunteering. Learn more about gap year volunteering with Projects Abroad.