Questions to Ask Yourself Before Volunteering Abroad During Gap Year
To begin with, the decision of taking a gap year is in itself a bold choice! Kudos to you that you've chosen to follow your heart and take this much-needed break before stepping ahead in your career ladder. Also, while we coin it as a 'break', it's actually a phase of rediscovering yourself, pursuing your passion and doing things which will eventually help you in your career ahead.
Now that you are thinking of volunteering in a different country, let me tell you that it undoubtedly is a great way to give back, learn more about the world around you, and launch a career abroad, but still, there are many questions to consider before you finally make up your mind.
Here are a few valid questions that you must ask yourself, and seek answers before you plan for a volunteer trip during your gap year:
1. Am I really ready for something like this? Why do I want to volunteer abroad?
Of course, you're taking this gap year to explore the world and try out things that you've never done before. Doing something as meaningful & enriching as volunteering would just add sparkles to your journey and help you to learn a lot about life and people in a faraway country. However, you must know that it's not gonna be a cakewalk! Volunteering projects are usually located in underprivileged parts where only the basic facilities would be available. You'd be endowed with certain tasks and responsibilities. There would be several challenges and you'll have to use your brains, to find quick solutions to the problems. Thus, you need to be sure whether you're really up for this, before you make your plans and sign up for anything.
Discovering your true intentions for volunteering will help you find a program that best matches your goals. If you are keen to spend quality time amidst nature and contribute towards the global environment, then maybe you can take up a conservation program, working with professional conservationists and actively participate in planting trees, protecting the wildlife, etc. Community development projects are good for those wanting to gain a more global perspective and perhaps improve their language skills.
2. How much money will I need for this? Do I have enough savings to sustain myself?
Well, money surely is an important matter of concern, and when you plan a gap year abroad, you need to be sure of your budget. We believe that we have considerable savings with which you can travel and explore, as well as engage yourself in a volunteer program. It's better to book a program through a reputed volunteer placement organization, who can offer you accommodation, meals, and other facilities for a basic cost. Other than that, you need to have a little extra money for your own expenses (traveling, for that matter) as well as for emergencies.
Work on your budget and research well - for example, 100 USD will cover a lot more in Asian countries than in Europe, so it'll be wiser to travel and volunteer in Asia if you wish to make sensible use of every buck! We'd suggest that you start saving early for your gap year and maybe, fundraise as well. I'm sure that you don’t want to arrive at your destination and realize you can’t afford to enjoy it properly!
3. I'm not sure what I'm good at! How do I choose my volunteering program?
For most of you out there, this is the first time that you're probably setting out for a solo trip abroad, and that too for volunteering! The nervousness & uncertainties are quite natural. We've talked to many college students & graduates, who were skeptic about choosing their volunteering program, being unsure of their skills. But let me tell you this - you definitely have something, which you haven't explored yet - something unique, and it's time that you set yourself free and explore the real you!
Volunteering abroad is an exciting journey that lets you continue further with your education or go down a completely new path of exploration, and once you join a program, you'll find a bunch of like-minded people who'll constantly encourage and motivate you to do better. Also, most of the organizations provide in-country support, so that you can be properly guided while you work.
While some people are really confident about the skills they possess, others are not! But that shouldn't stop you from exploring yourself and pushing your limits. Just for example, if you love pets and enjoy the company of animals, it means that you can surely opt for an animal conservation and rehabilitation program, where you'd get ample scope to be with the quadruplets! Maybe you are not good at teaching (or not so confident, because you've never tried it before) but once you start volunteering with children, you learn the hacks and tricks of activity-based teaching method and gain new skills with every passing day!
4. There will be language barriers! How will I communicate with the people?
Let's get this straight - English is commonly used in most of the countries across the world. In case you are traveling to a nation where English isn't used as much, you can always take the help of Google Translate, or try to learn a few basic phrases. Also, even if the locals don't speak English, they would understand it in most cases.
If you are volunteering with Go Discover Abroad, our country coordinators will be there to help & assist you, 24/7. So there's no way that you'll be in trouble due to the language barrier! Also, let me tell you a personal experience - while I was traveling in Kenya during my volunteer trip, I realized that it's easy to connect over emotions and expressions than words! You don't really need to talk always, sometimes you just communicate through your emotions and sign languages! FYI, I did end up learning Swahili, by the time my trip ended!
5. What are the precautionary measures that I should consider? Will it be safe to go solo & volunteer abroad?
About 75% of the gap year travelers, opting for volunteer projects abroad, are solo travelers! Does that lessen your worries a bit? Well, trust me when I say this, the world isn't as bad as we think it to be, and it's only when you set out for that solo trip, will you get to realize that strangers can become friends in no time and you'll always find someone to help you in times of crisis. But saying that, I would surely suggest being cautious and know that 'prevention is better than cure'!
While you are traveling abroad, the first and the most important thing to keep in mind is to keep your travel documents safe. These include your passport, visa, travel insurance, vaccination documents, tickets, and other important papers. Coming to the matter of travel insurance, it's absolutely necessary! While many people think that it's an unnecessary extra cost - it's not! In fact, it can save you if anything goes hayway! Also, consult your doctor about the vaccinations and make sure you take them all as instructed, to keep yourself healthy & fit during your journey.
You'll come across many solo travelers during your volunteer trip on your gap year and when you return back home, you'd know why it's so important to travel solo, at least for once in a lifetime!
6. If I opt for volunteering, will I have enough time to travel during my gap year?
Of course, you're gonna have ample time to travel around and explore the places that you've in your bucket list. Most of the volunteer programs engage the participants during the weekdays, and you'll have the weekends to hop around. Many enthusiastic souls even explore the city spots and markets, street food and local landmarks during the weekday evenings.
Also, it'll be good if you plan it effectively! For example, if you choose to volunteer in Thailand and spend a month there, then you can travel to neighboring countries like Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam & Indonesia! During your gap year, there's no time constraint - so all you need is to figure out what all you wish to do and accordingly, chalk out your plans!
Now that you’re quite sure about going abroad for volunteering during your gap year, it’s time to choose the best option for yourself and embark on a life-changing journey! In case you need any more info, or wish to talk to our Experts, you can simply write to us at [email protected] and our Team will reach out to you!