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Gap Years and Volunteering

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Are gap years and backpacking the same thing? Itís a common question and something a lot of people get confused about.

More than often, gap years are years taken either in between college and university, after university and before work, or as a career break. Hence the name Ďgapí. Gap years arenít just about travelling or backpacking around several countries, they usually involve a placement in a country where you are able to work for some time. The work undertaken is usually volunteer work but on occasions you may receive a low wage.

Gap year people (or gappers as they are called in the industry) are not tourists, they want to immerse themselves in the culture and become completely involved within the community. From a gap year you will step outside of your comfort zone, but you will be welcomed with open arms, so you will really have the chance to make a difference in the area in which you are involved. Gap years are a wonderful opportunity to expand your skills and gain confidence interacting with all sorts of people before you enter the next stage of your life. Volunteering is a rewarding experience and you will get the chance to meet all sorts of inspiring and humble people.

If you want to go on a gap year you need to choose the type of work placement you prefer. Listed below are several categories given as guidance on possible gap year activities, however, placements can vary much more than this:

  • Community projects: agriculture, building, cultural development, teaching, health and social work.
  • Conservation: Animals, buildings, coral, rainforest and vegetation
  • Childcare: orphans, disadvantaged youth, special needs, medical care
  • Animals: animal care, animal tracking, orphaned animals, rehabilitation.
  • Sport: coaching.

Once you have chosen the desired field in which you would like to work, you can then go on to choose the country where you would prefer to work. Obviously options can be fairly limited depending on what type of volunteering you want to do, but gap year options can be available in nearly all countriesÖ so youíre likely to be spoiled for choice!

Here is a list of companies and web sites that specialise in setting up gap years and volunteering: