by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 15th July, 2019
Volunteering is an excellent option for anyone on a gap year. Although it can be tempting to jump straight into the bottom bunk bed of a party hostel in Thailand, consider first what is actually serving you best.
Living your best life and travelling the world is definitely something you should do, but volunteering can be just as, if not more of a rewarding experience so try to make time for both.
Not only does volunteering look excellent on your CV or College Application, but it gives you a real chance to make a difference in a part of the world you might not have ever even considered visiting before.
Volunteering abroad can be a huge eye-opener for many people, and gives you valuable insight not only into the many different roles of charity work, but also how other less advantaged people live.
You may even be able to find volunteering opportunities related to what you want to study or pursue a career in.
There are many volunteering opportunities related to teaching, social work, environmental conservation, law and medicine. These not only give you the chance to be of service, but may provide valuable insight into whether a certain career path is for you or not.
Many volunteering opportunities cost money, but if you're looking for more low cost options you can try sites like workaway, helpx or WWOOF.
Unfortunately for the majority of school leavers, your gap year can't just be spent frolicking around and travelling. Travel is expensive, and you have to work hard to save up if you want to be able to afford it.
Spending some time working a normal job will look good on your CV, give you valuable experience that will help you when looking for part time jobs while you're studying, and show to potential employers or admissions officers that you're willing to work hard.
It's a good opportunity to build up some work ethic and introduce yourself to what it means to work full time.
Internships are an excellent route to consider if you really want to make an impression with your CV / academic admissions. If you can find an internship related to the field of work or study that you want to pursue, you'll already have an edge over other applicants.
They give you relevant experience and training in your chosen career path without you having to commit to spending thousands of dollars on study. Not only that, but they can even provide useful industry connections and know-how that you can use to network with later on.
When you think of a gap year, generally you think of travel, whether it be to snow-capped mountains or sandy beaches, travel is often high up on the priority list when it comes to planning a gap year.
Here are some ways for you to travel for free.
Being in the education system for most of your life can be quite stressful, and you get used to your usual routines. With a gap year, you're given the opportunity to say goodbye to the stress and routine of normal life and do whatever it is you want to do.
Even if you feel like you should be working to prepare for the next stage of work and study in your life, it's still a good idea to at least take some time off to explore.
Speaking of travelling - your gap year travel adventures are the perfect time to start branching out and trying new things, figure out what you do and don't like.
Whether it be diving, skiing, hiking, four wheel driving, cooking, surfing, jungle trekking or yoga - there's a million things out there that you haven't even thought to try yet, waiting to be discovered.
The stress of work and education can really have an impact on your health and wellbeing. Your gap year is a time for fun that you can do whatever you want with, so why not use this time to be your best self.
Making an effort to improve your diet, drink more water and do more exercise might sound boring at first, but it can radically change your life and your relationship to your body. Of course there's a place for pizza and a few drinks, you don't need to become a health freak, but creating good habits now will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.
Learning new skills might seem pointless at first, especially if it's not related to what you want to do in the future, but keeping your brain active and learning will benefit you greatly. Plus, you never know when you might find that being able to plane a door comes in handy!
Work and education takes us away from family and friends, to the point where we can start to take them for granted. Whilst you've got some time off, make time for your family. Visit loved ones further away (a great way to travel) visit your grandparents and make a special effort to appreciate it while you can.
Taking on extra responsibility in your workplace, no matter how small of a role you have, will benefit you further down the line.
Pushing yourself to become more respected will not only look good on your CV, but give you valuable skills, work ethic and experiences that you can carry on throughout life, regardless of whether the job you're working is in a field you're interested in.
Your education doesn't have to live and die with your academic career, you can continue to learn and expand your knowledge throughout your gap year. Many gap year students choose to study something particularly niche or specific that you might not be able to otherwise, such as taking summer courses at a college or doing a training course to become a diving instructor.
If there's something you're particularly interested in learning, but know you won't be pursuing later on, do it!
Last but not least, your gap year is the perfect opportunity for you to learn a new language, usually by living in a country that speaks it so you can get a real local feel for the tongue.
Au pair programs and volunteering programs are both great opportunities to learn a language, as both immerse you in the language through culture and work, and you'll be forced to use your new language skills to communicate, and you may even be able to take classes at a local language school.