Are you feeling burnt out after finishing high school or college? Do you crave adventure and new experiences? Taking a gap year might just be the solution you need. A gap year is a year-long break from formal education or work, typically taken between high school and college or during college.
However a gap year is not just for teens! A career break can be just as beneficial at any age and volunteering on your time off has so many benefits too!
Why Take a Gap Year?
There are many reasons why taking a gap year can be beneficial. Here are just a few:
- Time to explore your passions and interests.
- Chance to gain real-world experience.
- Opportunity to travel and see the world.
- Break from the stresses of academia or work.
- Chance to learn a new language or skill.
- Opportunity to give back through volunteer work.
- Time to reflect on your goals and aspirations.
The Benefits of Taking a Gap Year
Benefit #1: Increased Self-Discovery and Self-Awareness
During a gap year, you have the opportunity to step back and reflect on who you are, what you want out of life, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. This period of introspection can help you gain a better understanding of yourself and what motivates you. By the end of your gap year, you may find that you have a clearer sense of direction and purpose.
When volunteering you will talk to locals, as well as other volunteers from around the world. This can increase confidence in talking to people formal walks of life, and can be a great skill to bring back home.
Benefit #2: Improved Cultural Understanding
One of the most rewarding aspects of a gap year is the chance to immerse yourself in new cultures and ways of life. Whether you’re backpacking through Europe, volunteering in Africa, or studying abroad in Asia, you’ll have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and gain a deeper appreciation for different cultures and customs. This increased cultural understanding can help you become more empathetic, open-minded, and adaptable.
By choosing to stay in one of our homestays you can also increase your cultural immersion and live life like a local. Host family’s welcome international volunteers and treat you like one of the family. This is an excellent way to integrate into local life, gain an authentic experience and see the side of the country from another perspective. It can also help you sympathise with the local residents and improve your experience when on project.
Benefit #3: Enhanced Resume or College Application
Employers and colleges value applicants who have taken a gap year. This experience shows that you are proactive, independent, and willing to take risks. A gap year can also help you develop skills that will be valuable in the workplace or in college, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.
Some of our volunteer projects can also count towards college or university credits, as well as providing practical experience you may need for your course. For example, we have a lot of medical and nutrition students join our programs, and they are able to gain practical skills in the field.
Benefit #4: Improved Mental Health
Academic and work pressures can take a toll on your mental health. Taking a gap year can be an opportunity to recharge and focus on your well-being. By taking a break from the daily grind, you can reduce stress, improve your mood, and build resilience. You may also find that you have a newfound sense of purpose and direction when you return to school or work.
When you volunteer, you are giving your valuable time to others, and when you can see a direct effect of that, it is extremely rewarding. The simple act of helping others has well-known benefits to improve your own mental wellbeing too.
Benefit #5: Increased Confidence and Independence
A gap year can be a transformative experience that helps you grow as a person. By navigating unfamiliar situations, such as traveling to a foreign country or volunteering in a new community, you’ll develop increased confidence and independence. You’ll learn to rely on yourself and trust your instincts, which can be invaluable skills as you move forward in life.
If anything goes wrong, for example you miss your flight, you will need to deal with that situation by yourself, which, whilst it may not feel like it at the time, can be a beneficial experience! Every experience is a learning curve, and you will come home having learnt a lot and with a new take of life.
Benefit #6: Opportunity for Personal Growth
Whether you’re learning a new language, mastering a new skill, or volunteering in a new community, a gap year is an opportunity for personal growth. You’ll be challenged in ways you never thought possible, which can help you develop new perspectives, overcome obstacles, and achieve personal goals.
Some things don’t always goas smoothly as they might back home. Public transport is often much less developed, and you may face delays or lack of easiness of getting around. “5 minutes” does not always mean 5 minutes, things may move at a different pace! Sometimes this can be frustrating but going with an open mind and taking it all in will allow you to have a true, authentic experience.
Common FAQs about Taking a Gap Year
Is taking a volunteer gap year expensive?
It depends on the project tyle and location. There destinations that are cheaper to ru on the ground and so are cheaper to volunteer. We try to keep our fees as low as possible, so as many people have the opportunity to volunteer abroad. Check out this post on the cheapest places for a 2 week volunteer project: Our Most Affordable Volunteer Abroad Programs for 2 Weeks.
Will taking a gap year set me back academically or professionally?
Not necessarily. In fact, taking a gap year can enhance your academic and professional prospects by providing you with new skills, experiences, and perspectives. Many colleges and universities even encourage students to take a gap year before starting their undergraduate studies.
How can I make the most of my gap year?
Volunteering abroad can be a fantastic way to spend a gap year. Not only do you get to help a developing community, you can also see some of the world at the same time! If budget allows you can mix up countries and projects and volunteer in several places. Taking a gap year means you may be able to find paid work somewhere to fund more travel and volunteer opportunities!
How do I finance my gap year?
There are many ways to finance a gap year, including scholarships, grants, crowdfunding, and working. It’s important to research your options and create a budget before embarking on your gap year.
Is a gap year right for me?
This ultimately depends on your goals, interests, and personal circumstances. However, if you’re feeling burnt out or unsure of your next steps, taking a gap year can be an excellent opportunity to explore your passions, gain new experiences, and grow as a person. Seeing the world, other cultures and mixing with people from around the world can be extremely eye-opening and is an incredible experience, whether you are 18 or 80!
In conclusion, taking a gap year can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Whether you’re looking to explore your passions, gain real-world experience, volunteer abroad or travel the world, a gap year can provide you with the time and space you need to grow as a person. By taking advantage of the benefits of a gap year, you’ll gain increased self-discovery, cultural understanding, confidence, and personal growth, which can set you on a path to success in your academic and professional pursuits.