Gap Year Travel Abroad Programs, Projects, Internships, and Experiences
Updated for 2017
While taking off a year between high school and college is immensely popular in the United Kingdom and Australia, the "gap year" is just starting to take off in the United States. Gap years recently came into the spotlight when Malia Obama (President Obama's daughter) announced she would be taking a gap year before starting her freshman year at Harvard. Read on to learn more about the gap year and get recommendations for gap year programs!
Gap Year Travel Abroad Programs
As the competition to get into a good college, graduate school, internship, and full-time job heats up, it’s important to take a break and give yourself an opportunity to recover from the non-stop pressure to succeed and the stress of competing with your peers. Whether it’s before college enrollment or even a year off from work, there are myriad reasons why we decide to take time off from whatever we’ve been doing to explore, relax, and realign. And gap years increasingly are a common option for students transitioning from high school to college: each year, it’s estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 students take this route, whether it’s to travel, work, or pursue other goals before enrollment in their college or university.
In a nutshell, a gap year is a hiatus from academia, which allows students to pursue a meaningful adventure (however they define it) and arrive at college focused on their goals and with a greater measure of independence than they may have had before. Popular in Europe - particularly the U.K. - the concept of a year in limbo has only recently begun to catch on in the United States, where parents are concerned that their children will accrue debt and decide not to attend college at the end of their break.
THE RISE OF THE GAP YEAR
The good news: there’s little need for concern, says Robert Clagett, former senior admissions officer at Harvard College. Gap years are part of a positive trend, he noted, writing, "It is by no means a new idea, and for university-bound students in some parts of the world, it is practically the norm. But since the convention for most in this country is to graduate from high school in the spring, then head off to college the following fall, it has taken time for it to take root."
In fact, gap years can provide the opportunity for students to earn money, not spend it. “It’s not unusual for students to spend maybe half their gap year with a job,” Clagett said in an interview with the New York Times, discussing a gap-year student who spent the first third of her year tending llamas in North Dakota, then moving on to an internship with an Oklahoma City judge. She wrapped up her experience as a volunteer working with children in the Dominican Republic.
Harvard is one of many universities nationwide that encourages incoming students to defer application or enrollment for a gap year. Harvard admissions officers who were concerned that applicants were facing intense pressure to succeed - even as early as pre-kindergarten - collaborated on Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation, which discusses the advantages of taking a gap year: "The pressure of gaining entrance to the most selective colleges is commonly blamed for much of the stress we observe. But those of us who work in college admissions recognize that college is only one of many destinations in the fast lane. The accumulation of ‘credentials’ simply continues to intensify as the stakes increase. The ‘right’ graduate school looms after college, and the ‘right’ sequence of jobs is next. Such attainments make it possible to live in the ‘right’ kinds of communities and to begin the job of bringing up the following generation, one that might need to vault even higher hurdles."
HOW DOES A GAP YEAR BENEFIT YOU?
Gap year programs made the news in May 2016 when the Obamas announced that their oldest daughter, Malia, will be attending Harvard University in the fall of 2017 - and taking a gap year first. Malia graduated this spring from Sidwell Friends, a Washington, DC Quaker day school. Malia's choice, and her parents’ permissive response, has received mixed reviews in the media. An article in the The Atlantic warns, "While Malia Obama’s decision to take a gap year appears to be a personal choice and there is no reason to think she won’t earn a degree, other students put off college for financial and other reasons that can lessen the likelihood that they enroll at all."
And a New York Post article about Malia's gap year reviles the concept as an "ultimate sign of luxury." Amanda Uhry, founder and chief executive officer of Manhattan Private School Advisors, states, “Gap years are for the rich. It turns into a big vacation a lot of the time. Is a poor kid going to take a gap year? Forget it! With the cost of tuition climbing each year, they can’t afford it.’’
Actually, students of all backgrounds can afford a gap year. Florida State University highlights research showing that gap years not only contribute to students’ professional and educational pursuits, but they also boost their academic performance once they start their degree programs. Because of this, FSU offers freshmen scholarships of up to $5,000 to support their gap year. In addition to Florida State University, schools such as Princeton, Tufts, and University of North Carolina have begun offering financial aid and structured programs specifically for students pursuing this option.
According to US News and World Report, college-sponsored gap year programs often cover some or most of the expense. In the University of North Carolina’s Global Gap Year Fellowship, students are given $7,500 to create their own six-month service experience. And Princeton University’s Bridge Year invites students to take on nine-month service projects throughout Brazil, China, India, Peru and Senegal.
The American Gap Association, a nonprofit accreditation and standards-setting company, reports that American students participating in gap year programs climbed 27 percent between 2012 and 2013. Its member organizations awarded a combined total of about $2,800,000 to students seeking financial assistance for their gap years - and 90% of students who took a gap year returned to college within a year.
READY TO START YOUR GAP YEAR?
The gap year opportunities listed below are a great way not only to explore the world, but also to learn more about yourself as you help to better communities all over the globe. From volunteering with marine conservation in the Seychelles to getting paid to teach English in Thailand, there are so many options to explore. The following organizations (a few of the many out there to choose from) have lots of opportunities for anyone who needs a break and is looking to wander while educating yourself - and even the world around you.
Have you always wanted to visit Africa? Alongside many other impactful volunteer abroad opportunities, Global Vision International (GVI) offers a four- to 12-week program in the Seychelles you’ll help with a marine conservation expedition, including scuba diving, surveying, and a hands-on education in biodiversity. As part of this program, you’ll take PADI Advanced and Coral Reef Research Diver courses, along with extra dive courses locally at a discounted rate. You’ll also learn out to identify fish and coral in the Indian Ocean, visit and dive among the tropic islands - with sharks, rays, and dolphins - as you develop different techniques that will help you survey coral reefs at five different sites. Plus you’ll have the chance to visit breeding areas for hawksbill and green sea turtles and enjoy your time in one of the most beautiful areas of the world.
Depending on weather, the goal is to have every volunteer dive or snorkel one to two times a day for five days a week. Other than diving, you may be able to take on additional activities such as training sessions, marine debris surveys and removal, environmental education sessions, or alternative income training, based on local and project needs. The base you’ll live at offers dormitory-style accommodations along with shared cooking and cleaning duties - and during your weekends you’re free to explore the surrounding areas and islands of the Seychelles as you embrace the Creole culture.
But what does this all mean? GVI is the leading marine data collection organization in the Seychelles, meaning that a lot of their data is used by other organizations in the area. This data is used to show an accurate account of the overall health of the local coral reefs - necessary information when setting and creating new management policies.
If you’d rather travel to Mexico, GVI offers a short-term internship on the Yucatan Peninsula, where you’ll help to assess the health of the Mesoamerican barrier reef system, increase awareness of marine issues, and provide data to help with policymaking around the marine ecosystem. You’ll start with an extensive training program - including a diving assessment - followed by practical application of your studies. Throughout your internship, you’ll complete weekly written assignments and field discussions, watch presentations to learn about the work you’re taking on, and work alongside researchers in the field to assess reef health, determine species and breeding success of sea turtles, develop the expedition base as an ecological research and awareness center, and set up an education and awareness program within the community. After successful completion of the internship, you may have the opportunity to work with GVI or local partner organizations in Mexico or in other countries. This program lasts six weeks to six months, and starts from $4,900. To learn more and to apply for GVI’s internship program in Mexico, please click here.
To sign up or learn more about the many gap year opportunities GVI offers, visit http://www.gviusa.com/. And to learn more about gap year travel, be sure to download GVI’s Gap Year Guide, which covers all the questions you’ll have about embarking on your adventure abroad!
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY
I was a 6 month intern on the Thailand elephant conservation project and it was just amazing. I got to live with a family and learned their language which let me communicate with them and see how funny and amazing they are. I got to actually make a difference and see beautiful elephants in the forest! I taught English and conservation at the school, played with the nursery children, make some amazing friends, and live in the middle of a beautiful forest! It was the best experience of my life!-Rosie
Maximo Nivel offers many opportunities for you to spend a gap year volunteering, interning, and learning all about Latin America. Travel programs through Maximo Nivel can vary depending on how long you’re available, when you’re taking your gap year - say between high school and college, or undergraduate and graduate school - and your background and interests.
If you’re pursuing a degree in international development, law, or a related field, you may be interested in Maximo Nivel’s Human Rights Internship. With a minimum four-week commitment, this internship is perfect for students who are in a degree program but looking for a break between undergraduate and graduate school enrollment. With this internship, you can spend a month or longer in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru learning about the culture while you help with community outreach, education, research, and fundraising. You’ll be placed with a local organization, NGO, or government agency where you’ll assist with a development project while looking at the roles of politics, religion, gender, and ethnicity within that community. You’ll need to have intermediate Spanish language skills to be able to communicate effectively throughout the project, and will complete a final project at the end of the internship.
In addition to internships abroad, Maximo Nivel offers volunteer abroad opportunities for anyone aged 17 and older. One of the many options is a Sea Turtle Conservation project in your choice of Costa Rica or Guatemala, along both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. For the first two days of the program, you participate in an orientation, and from there, you’ll travel to the project site to support local biologists and researchers that manage the turtle nesting habitats. You’ll take part in beach patrols each night where you will tag nesting turtles, relocate nests into hatcheries, count eggs and hatchlings, clean the beach, and take on other support activities. This program lasts two weeks’ minimum, and you’ll work five to six hours each day, Monday through Saturday, with alternating night and day shifts. To apply, you’ll need to be flexible with your project activities, responsible and safety-minded, and physically prepared to work and live in a remote area with few amenities. However, you don’t need to have a Spanish language background to participate.
Maximo Nivel also offers TEFL certification perfect for gap year travelers who want to gain new skills while visiting Latin America. For four weeks, you’ll visit Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru and gain experience in an accredited certification course, which will open you up to all kinds of paid teaching placements worldwide. Once you have your TEFL certification, you’ll be able to work as an English teacher in a school, business program, through private tutoring, and so much more - and Maximo Nivel even offers teaching placements for graduates in their Native English Program in Latin America. This is an excellent way to gain classroom experience and boost your leadership skills while getting the most out of your gap year travel - learn more at: http://maximonivel.com/tefl-tesol.
If you’d like to gain a truly immersive experience on your gap year abroad, check out Maximo Nivel’s volunteer program with indigenous communities. Based in the rural Andean region of Peru just outside of Cusco, you’ll live for at least one week with an indigenous family while helping them with day-to-day activities such as tending livestock, helping with agricultural projects, constructing and renovating buildings, and even teaching at a local school. To get the most from your experience in Peru, you should be flexible and adventurous, and physically fit enough to take on tough but fulfilling manual labor. Learn more about volunteering with indigenous communities during your gap year at: http://maximonivel.com/volunteers/indigenous-communities
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY
I've never participated in an international volunteer organization before and after talking with a few other travelers, found that I was very much treated with Maximo Nivel. Not only do they have an awesome staff to help you out with your stay and answer any and all questions, but their programs are very organized.-Lauren
They start you off with a welcome orientation and tour of the city, which I found very helpful. I couldn't have asked for a better host family to stay with and the project I am working in is soooo much fun! I also was able to brush-up on my Spanish in a one-week class, which proved to very beneficial. Maximo really makes sure you feel right at home. Furthermore, they provide you with other information for traveling and give you plenty of time to explore!
Your time as a volunteer here is invaluable and the Maximo Nivel staff is always there when any kind of support is needed.
Since 1993, International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT) has provided TEFL and TESOL certification to allow travelers to teach English worldwide. With an online course, in-class programs, and even a combined online/in-class course, ITTT has certified more than 100,000 graduates to date, with more than 7,500 students completing training each year. This organization also provides lifetime English teaching job support for all graduates, including leads on unadvertised jobs, employer databases, CV and resume review, and much more. ITTT’s online classes start at $190, in-class programs start from $1,490 for four weeks of training, and combined courses start from $1,195.
ITTT provides high-quality, internationally accredited online TEFL courses for students of all learning styles, allowing you to earn TEFL certification from home, at your own pace, and with or without tutor support. You also can choose a specialized training in Teaching Business English, Teaching English to Young Learners, and even an advanced Diploma in TEFL. Courses range from 60-hour introductory programs, to 50-hour specialized ones, to 250-hour TESOL diploma classes. After you’re certified through ITTT’s online program, you’ll be able to travel the world and get paid to teach English during your gap year.
If you’re ready to earn your TEFL certification abroad, and have the opportunity to start teaching English immediately during your gap year, check out ITTT’s in-class courses, which are offered in 25 different locations in Costa Rica, Spain, China, France, and beyond. ITTT’s four-week, in-class programs are divided into six segments to provide you with the best training possible: teaching practice, foreign language experience, language awareness, student profile, teaching techniques, and a materials project. Once you successfully complete your in-class program, ITTT will provide job placement support to allow you to teach English in the country of your training, or even beyond.
If you’ve always wanted to visit China, ITTT offers a wonderful program where you can earn your certification in Beijing, Zhuhai, or Shanghai. Demand for English teachers in China is high - in fact, hundreds of positions are advertised each day - so once you earn your certification, you’re likely to be offered a teaching position quickly. Courses run year-round on a monthly basis, and between the capital city, the Pearl Sea, and the metropolis of Shanghai, you’re bound to find just the right program for you.
If South America is more your style, consider signing up for ITTT’s TEFL course in Peru, where you’ll receive high-quality training from experienced teacher trainers at a school in Cusco. As the gateway to Machu Picchu, Cusco is an amazing place to earn your TEFL certificate while exploring one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites and historic cities. Through this program, you’ll have practice sessions with current English language students so you can hone your skills in a classroom environment - allowing you to gain hands-on experience to be the best teacher you can once you graduate.
ITTT’s combined TEFL course is a great option if you want to earn TEFL certification alongside other students in-person, but if you don’t have the time yet to attend a full, four-week course. This combined program starts with a 120-hour online course that you can complete from home, in your own time. After that, you’ll take a five-day in-classroom course in one of more than a dozen locations in the US or Canada, or an 8- to 10-day program in Spain, Thailand, Italy, France, or the United States. This program starts at $1,195, and you’ll receive full TEFL certification after successfully completing both portions of the combined course.
Alongside many other volunteer opportunities worldwide, Projects Abroad offers a 27-week program for gap year students who want to embark on an international adventure. This program spans three continents, five countries, and 12 different service opportunities, and is specially designed for high school graduates who want to take a year off before furthering their education.
To start, you’ll receive two weeks of orientation followed by a daycare service program in Ghana, where you will volunteer with children in a village outside of Accra. After that, you’ll take on one- to two-month service and adventure programs in South Africa, Peru, Nepal, and Thailand, assisting with a wide variety of projects ranging from childcare, to education, to community development, and much more. During your travels, you’ll work closely with local staff learning about important issues facing developing countries, such as housing, education, environmental conservation, and human rights.
This program is designed for five to 15 volunteers at an all-inclusive price of $29,995. This includes all food and housing, medical and travel insurance, airport pickup and drop-off at each destination, and sightseeing tours and activities in each destination.
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY
I decided to travel to Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, with Projects Abroad for a two week High School Special program after studying Mandarin for a year at school. I had been researching numerous companies offering trips to China and felt that Projects Abroad’s program, which seemed to be tailored directly to me, would be a wonderful experience that would broaden my cultural horizons. My time in Chengdu was everything I imagined and more!-Monica
I had never travelled abroad alone before my trip to China, and the Projects Abroad employees did a wonderful job at easing any concerns that I had prior to my departure. When I arrived at the airport, I was immediately greeted by a friendly staff member who introduced me to other students who I would be working with throughout the trip. I was then brought to my home stay, where I was introduced to my lovely host family, who taught me about traditional Chinese holidays and about everyday life in Chengdu throughout my time with them.
Our mornings were spent at the Mandarin Club, where we took lessons in language and culture. Although I already spoke some Mandarin, our teacher taught us about the local dialect, which made me even more comfortable speaking in the city. I was also very interested during the lessons about the daily, traditional, and business components of the Chinese culture. After our morning lesson, we went to different types of businesses throughout the city. We worked on a presentation for China Linguist, one of the city’s major linguistic companies. We also visited multiple law firms to learn about the Chinese legal system the differences between western and eastern law.
My free time was filled with visiting local attractions and restaurants, which enabled me to immerse myself within the Chinese culture.
My trip with Projects Abroad was fantastic! The staff’s work allowed me to fall in love with a city so different from my own.
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
IVHQ offers a huge number of volunteer abroad opportunities perfect for gap year students. Most of IVHQ’s volunteer programs start from one or two weeks, though you’re welcome to stay longer or try out a variety of programs during your break. And it’s one of the most affordable volunteer abroad programs in the world, with placements starting from just $180 for your first week overseas.
One option is a trip to New Zealand, where you can work on several different conservation projects. IVHQ’s Coastline Conservation and Education program has a focus on keeping the New Zealand coastlines and beaches as beautiful as can be. You’ll assist with coastal cleanup and educational presentations teaching local schools and businesses how to prepare for scientific analysis of the litter and debris found during these cleanups. You’ll also work on “trash to art” recycling projects along with data collection to further understand the effect of the debris on the ecosystem.
If you’d like to visit South America, IVHQ has several programs in Bogota, Colombia. The Construction and Renovation project invites you to help build and repair homes, schools, and hospitals throughout the city. You won’t need any experience in the project area, but you will need to be fit and able to take on work outdoors. Throughout this program, you’ll work with a local foreman to carry out projects like tearing down walls, installing kitchens, painting walls, and more.
If you’re interested in either of these programs or want to learn more about opportunities in the many other countries IVHQ works in, check out: https://www.volunteerhq.org/
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY
5 star rating for a 5 star experience!-Melanie
International Volunteer HQ offer a wide range of volunteering programmes in countries all around the world. They are so affordable, and your money goes a long way! There is not one part of my experience that I could fault. The coordinators was supportive from the very beginning, they really cared and made sure that my questions never went unanswered. Because of this support, including an amazing customer service/coordinator team, information booklets outlining the programme, online training and even checklists, I never once felt uncomfortable or nervous about the trip. Thanks to IVHQ I was never left in the dark and was very well prepared for what was to come.
This was my first volunteer experience, and certainly not the last. The simplicity of the application process, affordability of programmes and ongoing support once you are booked in is definitely why I am going to book through IVHQ again, hopefully once a year for many years to come!
I would love to give some suggestions for improvement, but I honestly can't think of any, my experience was just that good! I have already got the word out and recommended IVHQ to friends and family. Thank you for an amazing experience! Bring on more to come!
Volunteering Solutions has a wide range of volunteer abroad, intern abroad, and summer sessions for gap year travelers all around the world. With programs lasting from one week to six months in Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America, you’re sure to find the perfect placement overseas.
One of the many opportunities you may enjoy on your gap year is a four- to 24-week Animal Rescue Center Volunteer Program in Singapore. Through this program, you’ll be able to work with the largest wild animal center in Singapore - although with only 11 staff members, there’s a great need for volunteer assistance. You’ll work five days a week fostering respect and compassion for animals within the surrounding community, while improving the living conditions of captive animals. Possible assignments include the following: Wildlife Guardians Team, Gardening/Housekeeping, General/Administrative, Captive Animal Welfare, Cruelty-Free Living, Wildlife Trade, Education, Events/Fundraising/Road Shows, plus any other projects or assignments that need to be done during your time there - a fantastic opportunity for students wishing to pursue a degree and career in animal welfare or conservation. Throughout your stay, you’ll live in a volunteer house, and on weekends you’re invited to explore the area and learn all about the culture of Singapore.
If you’re interested in learning about human rights, or even pursuing a career in law, business development, or a similar field, Volunteering Solutions offers a unique opportunity to volunteer in NGO support and human rights in Morocco. For one week or longer, you’ll work with an organization that focuses on social and political issues in Rabat, including human rights, children’s support, women’s rights, education, skilled learning, government accountability, and beyond. A few tasks you can help with include marketing, organizing community events, reporting and documentation, and assisting with business development. This program starts from $410 for your first week in Morocco, and you’re invited to stay eight weeks or longer. During your weekends and free time, you’re invited to explore markets and restaurants, and even travel to other cities such as Marrakech and Fes to learn all about the amazing mix of European, Arabic, and African cultures throughout the country.
If you’re interested in a fun, active volunteer opportunity for your gap year, check out VolSol’s football coaching program in Quito, Ecuador. As a volunteer, you’ll coach sports to children aged 6 to 16 in an after-school program that’s geared toward developing leadership, team building, and healthy habits. As a coach, you’ll prepare training modules for the kids, help a local coach with training sessions, create team assignments, take kids to doctor’s or dentist’s appointments, and even help out with English teaching at a local community center when you’re off the field. During your free time, you’ll have the amazing chance to visit the Andean plateau, explore Amazonian rainforests, and even take a side trip to the gorgeous and unique Galapagos Islands. You’re invited to stay one week to six months in Ecuador as a football coach, with a program fee starting at $400 for your first week abroad.
For more information about these programs and many more around the world, visit Volunteering Solutions at: https://www.volunteeringsolutions.com/
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY
In January 2016, I travelled with Volunteering Solutions for 1 month in Ghana. It was such a great experience.. I worked for 2 weeks on a "Girl education" project, which gave me the opportunity to teach in english, science and healthcare (I'm a nurse). The girls were wonderful and very happy about my teaching. I also visited two orphanages and spended some time with the (very cute and wonderful) little children. I made great friends, and travelled around with them in the weekends. The last 2 weeks, I worked at a hospital. My colleagues there were so nice to me, and the doctors took their time to teach me all about the tropical diseases (such as malaria). I bring a lot of new knowledge with me to my work as a nurse in Denmark and I feel that I gave the doctors and nurses in Ghana new knowledge from Denmark. Traveling with Volunteering Solutions is recommendable and very safe. I met another Danish girl in Ghana, traveling with another organization than me. We became very good friends, but suddenly one day she got very sick. I brought her to my town (she lived 1 hour away in a very small village), placed her at a hotel and told her to call me if she got any worse in the night time. She got worse, and I had to go and get her to the hospital in the middle of the night. Her own contact person was not there, and he didn't come to help her ( not before 2 days later). My own contact person in Ghana, a guy called Fred, helped me and her a lot and took her to our place for a few days when she was discharged from the hospital. I will never forget that and I will definitely travel with Volunteering Solutions again some day.-Line
Agape Volunteers is perfect for gap year travelers who’d like to spend time volunteering across Africa - and with programs ranging from one week to a year, you’re welcome to spend all or just a part of your gap year with Agape Volunteers.
One opportunity that’s great for recent high school graduates on a gap year is their sports program in Kenya. As a volunteer, you’ll work with local football (soccer) clubs and Kenyan schoolchildren. Sports are an extremely important aspect of childhood development as a way to forge friendships, stay healthy, and have fun - and while football is the most popular sport you’ll coach, you’re also welcome to introduce the children to your own games and ideas, and bring along equipment for new sports. You’ll also be able to work in a classroom helping the teachers with their day-to-day activities.
While in Kenya, you’ll live with a host family or in a volunteer house close to your placement. When you arrive, you’ll receive an orientation along with an information packet that will explain culture, customs, language, and how to stay safe on a day-to-day basis. Throughout your stay, you’ll have breakfast and dinner with your host family, though you’re encouraged to try local vendors and stalls near your placement for lunch. In your off time, you’re encouraged to explore, meet with other volunteers, and learn more about the community in which you’re living.
To learn more about this program and the others Agape Volunteers offers for gap years, visit: http://www.agape-volunteers.com/
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY
I had one fantastic time in Kenya, fantastic, awesome and surreal are the best words I can use to describe my time there. The people were just awesome and the level of support was fantastic. Thank you, oh and I am planning to return to June for 5 weeks!-Johnny
If you’re interested in a gap year at the beach, Naturally Africa Volunteers may just have the perfect option: their Ghana Turtle Conservation and Ecotourism project is a great opportunity for students who’d like to learn more about wildlife conservation and sustainable travel. Available each year between September and March (sea turtle nesting season), this program creates a powerful relationship between its volunteers and host community, all of whom band together to plan, manage, and carry out important work in conservation and ecotourism.
As a volunteer, you will be based in Ghana’s Green Turtle Lodge, which has been working closely with community development projects since 2003. During your stay, you’ll contribute to vital work in conserving nesting sea turtles, providing education workshops in the fishing village and schools, and learning about sustainable lifestyle and tourism practices. From day to day, you might take on beach patrol to monitor turtle nesting and prevent the females from being disturbed while laying eggs; gathering and analyzing data to monitor the different sea turtle species that lay their eggs on Akwidaa Beach; and coordinating workshops with fishermen and visiting schools in the area to educate the community on the importance of protecting sea turtles. You’ll also learn about ecotourism and help promote responsible tourism throughout your stay.
If you would like more information about this program or any of the other opportunities Naturally Africa Volunteers offers, please visit: www.volunteerafrica.com
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY
My time in Malawi was amazing. Meg, Sam and Aug were the main reason. They provided a balanced view on how to go about my role as a volunteer. I can not describe how inspired I was by the whole trip and the staff at the cottage. The structure of the project was brilliant. You can clearly see the priorities. Keeping a good relationship with the village population and the elders was their main focus. Providing amazing support to the wound clinics, HIV support groups, nursery and home based care groups was incredible. I am very lucky I was part of the development of the different village I visited. At the weekends I got to experience other parts of Malawi. Like the landscape and culture outside the village. I wish I could have stayed for longer. I hope to return to Malawi in the near future.-Maria
Love Volunteers provides a large number of unique and affordable volunteer programs worldwide - whether you’d like to travel to Argentina for children’s development, to Cambodia for environmental conservation, there’s no shortage of placements perfect for gap year travelers.
One unique program that might interest you is a Bat Rehabilitation Project in Australia. Australia is known as the home of many exotic creatures, including multiple indigenous species of bat. Due to human encroachment, however, many of the habitats in which bats thrive are under threat. It’s for this reason that Love Volunteers works with a Rescue and Rehabilitation Center to care for all species of sick, injured and orphaned bats, including hundreds of flying foxes. Receiving no government funding, the rescue center relies heavily on volunteers and donations from the public. As a volunteer, you’ll gain hands-on experience in wildlife rescue and care, including bat rehabilitation, rescue and release, preparing food, feeding and watering the bats and other animals, exercising the animals, cleaning animal enclosures, providing enrichment activities for the bats, grooming the bats, laundry duties, and keeping the grounds clean and tidy. Throughout your stay, you’ll live in a cabin with a communal area and three meals a day.
If working with bats and flying foxes intrigues you, or if you’d like to learn more about the many other volunteer abroad opportunities Love Volunteers offers, please visit: http://www.lovevolunteers.org/
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY
Love Volunteers is a great organization. They were seamless with all of the pre-event discussions and preparations. The support was top notch. Responses to emails and calls were speedy. The Green Living Planet (ngo) i worked with, suggested by Love Volunteers was very helpful and a safe, reliable and honest organization.-Michael
I highly recommend Love Volunteers and will use them in the future for my other adventures. Also, how can you go wrong with a name like that?
A Broader View is another fabulous organization that encourages volunteers to follow a path that best suits them. With volunteer abroad programs in dozens of countries around the world, A Broader View invites you to take on a gap year adventure where you’ll do some good for a community in need.
One such opportunity that’s great for students looking to go into pre-med or nursing school, but wants to take time off from traditional learning is A Broader View’s Quito, Ecuador Pre Med/Nurse Internship. The center you’ll work in provides free services to patients who cannot afford other treatment, and has more than 300 beds for hospitalization. Throughout your internship, you’ll rotate to different projects every two weeks and perform weekly monitoring supervised by local nurses and doctors. You also will be able to provide medical assistance at the Health Center, and can choose the station you work at based upon your interests, experience, availability, and language skills. This two- to 12-week program is offered year-round, and you must know basic Spanish and/or take the organization’s Spanish immersion lessons in order to apply.
If Pre-Med and Nursing are not your cup of tea, then maybe you want to try you hand as a museum volunteer in Costa Rica. The Children’s Museum of Costa Rica is the first in Central America that was created to help children and their families become active citizens of their community. Volunteers work alongside local staff to encourage the children to play and learn hands-on as they experience science, music, geography and much more. During this two- to 12-week program you will help to set up displays, explain exhibits, and assist with guided tours. During your time in Costa Rica, you will be staying with a host family with all three meals included in your fee along with orientation upon arrival.
A Broader View offers many different opportunities that are great for anyone who wants to take a gap year - if you’d like to learn more, visit: https://www.abroaderview.org/
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY
This was the best experience of my life. The ABV team was really helpful both in the USA and in-country. I was very prepared for the trip. It was really easy to get settled and used to the new surroundings. There was never a time that I felt uncomfortable or unclear on travel instructions or anything. Definitely going to go back some day!-Jennifer
i-to-i offers many different opportunities for you to travel all over Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, and Africa. From paid internships to job placements abroad, there are a plethora of options for anyone looking to spend a gap year with i-to-i.
One of the fabulous opportunities i-to-i is currently offering is their Thailand Teach and Beach program. When you sign up, you’ll be able to spend 15 days living and teaching in Thai paradise. The only requirements are that you must be a native English speaker with a passport from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand; and you must be 18 years or older and ready for an adventure teaching English abroad. Because i-to-i doesn’t require knowledge of a second language or prior experience to sign up for this program, this is the perfect opportunity for any student looking to teach and travel before heading off to college. For about $900 you will receive 120-hour online TEFL qualification, advice and pre-departure preparation, airport pick-up and excursions, accommodations at the beach, 10 days’ teaching experience, two-night trip to Koh Phangan, and full in-country support throughout your stay.
If you’re looking for a longer trip overseas with i-to-i, why not venture to Cape Town, South Africa for a TEFL program? For two months, you can immerse yourself in South African culture while gaining practical teaching experience. For $1,600 to $1,800 you will get a 120 hour TEFL qualification, spend eight weeks teaching, take a three-day optional safari in Kruger National Park, and you’ll have orientation and full support throughout your trip. With multiple dates to chose from, you can take your gap year whenever works best for your schedule. Cape Town is a multicultural community where you will spend your weekends hiking Table Mountain, surfing and exploring the winelands, and getting hands-on experience teaching English in the Fish Hoek suburb. This program includes the same requirements for participants as the Thai Beach and Teach opportunity.
Another amazing trip you can take on your gap year is i-to-i’s Thailand TEFL Experience, where you’ll be able to travel to amazing cities and beaches, and spend two months teaching English in a rural village. To start, you’ll take i-to-i’s 120-hour online TEFL course, after which you’ll travel to the ancient city of Ayutthaya for orientation, more training, and an introduction to Thai history and culture. The village you’ll work in for the next 7 weeks is Kanchanaburi, where you’ll teach basic English to beginner students. After that, you’ll travel to Koh Samet, an exotic island where you can relax on the beach and reflect on your wonderful experience teaching and traveling abroad. Learn more here!
For more information on these programs and all that i-to-i has to offer, check out their website at http://www.i-to-i.com
Another excellent option for gap year travelers, IDEX concentrates their volunteer efforts in Asia. One program you may be interested in joining for a short excursion focuses on Women Empowerment in Nepal. On this 15-day excursion, you can help make a difference in the lives of women. With a dependency on their family for livelihood, women in the community you’ll serve have no earnings and are not given the same rights as the men in their families. With less access to essential resources and employment, women often become victims of domestic violence or are unable to speak for themselves - though once empowered, women can become the framework of society, helping their family and community, while also learning to protect themselves. IDEX provides education for women to begin contributing financially to their families, which in turn helps build a sustainable society.
So where do you come in? For 15 days you’ll work with adolescent girls and women in an underserved section of the community. You’ll listen to the problems and issues they face, and provide education in basic English, computer skills, and health measures that can benefit them personally and that can benefit their community. For more information on this amazing opportunity and many other volunteer experiences in Asia, please visit: http://www.goidex.com/
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY
I volunteered through this program for 4 weeks and it was truly an amazing experience! Every day was perfectly structured--I was never too busy or bored, all the volunteer locations were unique and fun, and there was a great balance of fun and service. Personally, I was assigned a child to teach for the month at a school for mentally challenged children, and it was life-changing to create a bond with him and see his life change even over the mere month I was there. Every week, there was a trip I could go on (and of course I went on them all!). Every trip had a well-planned itinerary and immersed me in the diverse cultures of India. All of the staff where I was housed were always friendly, helpful, and comforting--like a second family. I recommend this volunteer trip to anyone. Make sure to stay at least a month to get the full experience.-Ben
Since 2014, Volunteering Journeys has offered volunteer placements in Asia and Africa perfect for gap year travelers interested in community development, medical care, or wildlife and conservation.
The basis for Volunteering Journeys was formed when founder Ridhi Patel quit her job in 2009, and volunteered for three months in South Africa. This life-changing experience encouraged her to build Volunteering Journeys in her home country of India, with a goal of providing an amazing opportunity for travelers who want to explore the world, give back to the communities that welcome them, and learn more about themselves.
Volunteering Journeys sets itself apart by providing personal attention and tailored trips for its participants, committing to high-quality service, and engaging doctors, teachers, scientists, and community leaders on all programs. This also is an affordable option for travelers on a budget, starting from less than $1,000 for a two-week placement.
Teaching English abroad is an amazing way to broaden your horizons, develop new skills, and meet incredible people. Through Volunteering Journeys, you can sign up for one of many different English teaching programs in India, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Bali. As a volunteer, you’ll work with local teachers and other volunteers to support schools, community centers, and charities to improve teaching standards in poor communities, help children and adults get a quality English education, and support long-term literacy initiatives. Click here to learn more: https://volunteeringjourneys.com/teaching-english
Right now, Volunteering Journeys has an excellent opportunity for travelers like you to take part in a women’s empowerment program in India. Gender inequality can negatively impact all areas of a woman’s life, from education, to employment, to healthcare, and social status. In impoverished areas of India in particular, women and girls face domestic abuse, forced early marriage, lack of access to education, and improper or poor health care. As a volunteer, you’ll work in a community center, women’s college, school, or girls’ home in Kerala or Kolkata to teach English, life skills, and computer skills, while also being part of a supportive group and sounding board allowing women to discuss issues that are important to them. Learn more at: https://volunteeringjourneys.com/womens-empowerment-volunteer-india
If you’re keen to volunteer with animals, check out Volunteering Journeys’ wildlife conservation program in South Africa, where you’ll assist with efforts to protect Africa’s Big 5 - lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinos - as well as dozens of other species. Based on a five-star private game reserve, you’ll take part in ongoing efforts to conserve some of the world’s most endangered creatures. A few of your duties can include animal identification, reserve management and maintenance, game capture, birding orientation and classification, and sustainable food production. Learn more and sign up at: https://volunteeringjourneys.com/volunteer-with-animals-africa
READY TO TRAVEL?
With so many new opportunities available to college-bound students searching for a year in the field, there's little doubt that the gap year is a trend on the rise. And consensus is undeniable: university admissions officers agree that a gap year can be a positive experience, while gap year travelers themselves note that they’re able to enter their degree programs with a greater level of maturity and preparation than they may have had otherwise.
Not only do gap year programs offer experiential learning opportunities for student travelers, but they also provide activities that develop leadership abilities - and studies show that most gap year students return to college, and when they do, they perform better. If you’re still unsure: in his 2011 study at Middlebury College, Clagget's research proved that students embarking on a gap year had consistently higher GPAs than their peers.
If you’re ready to start planning your gap year, check out Volunteer Forever’s volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs, which are perfect for learning and growing while doing some great work for a community in need. And for a list of colleges and universities that are gap-year-friendly, click here.
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