Does your last year of high school or college have you feeling as worn out as your old gym socks? Sounds like you need a breather from all things university life—leaving all of your stresses behind for gap year volunteering could be just the fix. Today’s travel-seekers have more incredible gap year volunteer programs at their fingertips than ever before. And, you can live it up on your trip while still making a positive difference in the world. Ready for a meaningful change of pace in your life? No worries—gap year volunteer programs have got you covered! Here’s what you need to make the most of it.
Ever dreamed of exploring the Buddhist temples of Thailand or the grasslands of Tanzania? If you’re ready to start globetrotting, you can find awesome gap year volunteer programs in just about any corner of the planet. There are endless options for exhilarating yet purposeful experiences. Let’s dig into some of the top destinations for gap year volunteer programs abroad.
India. Pop quiz: what’s the planet’s second most populous country and the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions? You guessed it — India! Gap year volunteers in India will be spellbound by the country’s age-old culture and deep tradition. Plus, Bollywood rocks! Still, India’s ginormous population of 1.3 billion includes a massive number of orphaned children and socio-economically vulnerable women. So, if your heart is feeling pulled to childcare, women’s empowerment, medical science, or education, gap year volunteering in India is where you need to be.
South Africa. Have you been itching to experience life on the African continent? Then gap year volunteering in South Africa might be your match. And while this nation is known for its amazing scenery and bustling economy, the reality is over half of South Africans are living in poverty. Gappers passionate about community development, youth mentorship, healthcare, and wildlife will find themselves right at home in a South African gap year volunteer program.
Peru. Looking for a getaway near the Andes Mountains or Amazon rainforest? Then think about doing a volunteer gap year in Peru — also called “the land of the Incas.” You can trek up to the towering ruins of Machu Picchu on a weekend while empowering disadvantaged women and children during the week. You could also put your skills to work as a volunteer working in earthquake disaster recovery, English teaching, or conservation. Gap year volunteer programs abroad in Peru can easily pair service work with unforgettable memories!
Everything else you need to know about volunteer gap year programs
Costs. So how much dough will gap year volunteering cost you? Program fees vary depending on the length of the program, the number of countries that will be visited, and the program’s cost of operations. The price will also depend on what’s included. Some programs will have a price tag that amounts to a year of college tuition! But don’t freak out! You can save up your summer job salary, ask family and friends for donations, apply for grants, or kick off a stellar fundraiser using this FundMyTravel tool.
Accommodations. When it comes to a gap year crash pad, there are a couple of different set-ups. You could be sharing a room with fellow volunteers or have your own room in a local host family’s home. Now, if the idea of shacking up with new faces sounds intimidating, hakuna matata! It’s totally normal to feel nervous about living with strangers. Just remember that making new friends is a healthy part of the gap year volunteering abroad experience.
Visas. As a gapper, you’ll need some credentials to live in the country you’re volunteering in. This will be a visa that vouches for the fact that you’re legally staying in the country for a period of time. Your gap year coordinators may take care of getting your visa, or they’ll give you all the deets on how to get it when you land at the airport. Wanna get a head start on understanding visa requirements for gap year volunteer opportunities? Use this nifty GoAbroad embassy directory to get contact info for any embassy in seconds!
Safety. Your gap year volunteer work is going to be filled with some pretty mind-blowing and life-changing adventures. So while you’re riding the wave, don’t forget about personal safety. As a foreigner, you’ll be in unfamiliar territory and run into different cultural norms. Basic street smarts can significantly lower chances of lousy experiences like getting robbed. Leave your passport tucked away safely in your room and walk with copies of it. Ask your program staff for even more safety advice!
GoAbroad’s Inside Scoop
So what’s the lowdown on how to make the best of gap year volunteer programs? Keep a daily journal to document your service work abroad. Journaling is a great way to reflect on your personal growth and sharpen your understanding of your day-to-day experiences. It’s also wise to immerse yourself into your new community by speaking the language and getting to know locals. This will gain you their respect and make for a truly memorable experience.
And you might find yourself suddenly missing the memories of your parents yelling at you for not washing the dishes. Don’t fret too much — feeling homesick while gap year volunteering abroad is completely normal. Try setting up a weekly call time with your peeps back home. Or bring some of your culture to the new country. Something as simple as organizing a Thanksgiving dinner can ease your blues.
Alrighty! You’re well on your way to changing the course of your life! When your program wraps up, you’ll be armed with a deeper understanding of the many social challenges that communities around the world face. And you can say you actively worked to contribute to meaningful solutions. Gap year volunteer programs leave participants with irreplaceable skills, memories, and societal contributions that follow them forever.
Feeling like you can barely contain your excitement? That’s because there are gap year volunteer opportunities calling your name. So, grab the baton and continue in the proud footprints that gap year volunteers leave around the world.
You know you wanna keep learning about gap years! Watch our awesome video on why a gap year is the best decision you’ll ever make.