Are you looking to take a break between high school and college – or between college and career? Do you want to do something different from your everyday life, but aren’t sure what? Consider taking a gap year! As these breaks between school become increasingly common, so do the many different opportunities to make the most of your gap year.
Whether you want to take some time to build a bit of income, take off from a full course load, or realign and figure out what you want to do next, a gap year can be an adventurous and productive way to do it. One of the most popular gap year activities, as you probably guessed, is travel. Fortunately, there are lots of amazing opportunities for students to travel the world – on a student budget – and have an incredible time meeting new people, trying different foods, enjoying incredible adventures, and even doing good and learning a lot along the way.
In this guide, we’ll focus on South Africa, a country that’s just perfect for gap year travelers.
South Africa is a beautiful country filled with many diverse cultures and beauty – from sprawling national parks where you can embark on a safari, to bustling cities where you can enjoy amazing food and tons of shopping, to gorgeous beaches excellent for surfing and adventure, South Africa has it all. Although known for its beauty, many people do not realize that most parts of South Africa are also struggling with poverty – especially in the outlying areas of larger (and more tourist-friendly) cities, such as Cape Town. This poverty often leads to poor education options, inaccessible healthcare, abandoned and feral animals, and a damaged environment – with few resources to fix these problems.
This is where travelers like you come in: as a volunteer or intern on one of the programs we’ve outlined below, you can make a difference while also exploring this beautiful country. Many of the people you’ll meet love having volunteers come to their communities and help with local initiatives to improve their lives and the lives of their children – while also sharing their culture and learning about yours.
Whether you are providing medical care or keeping children off the streets by coaching them in different sporting activities, you will have the opportunity to make a difference. You can ensure that the children of South Africa have a bright future ahead of them and that South Africa’s national parks, beaches, and other natural areas stay as beautiful as the day they were created. You can help to make all of this happen while immersing yourself in a completely new culture and seeing the beauty that comes along with being in South Africa. The organizations highlighted below not only do great work for their communities, but they also encourage their volunteers and interns to make the most of their trip: from surfing and snorkeling off the southern coast of the country, to shopping and trying delicious local food in the cities, to getting up close with South Africa’s Big Five animals on a national park safari, there is so much that you can do to enjoy your trip and make a positive impact.
Dedicating a year that you have taken off from school or just your everyday life to helping others is one of the most rewarding experiences that you can have. You will not only learn so much about the culture you are immersing yourself in, but you will learn a great deal about yourself. You will fall in love with the joyful children and their grateful parents. You will cherish the wildlife that you helped to save from poachers and pollution. You will learn new skills and further the work of local NGOs. You will look at life a little differently.
So are you ready to try something new?