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Volunteer Overseas

Planning your gap year

So you’ve decided to take a gap year. This could end up being one of the best things you ever do, but it’s important that you plan it correctly. Here are a few things to consider when planning your gap year:

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Planning your Gap Year - What to do?

Volunteer in Ethiopia

Contrary to the name, a gap year can be anything from just a few weeks to several years. There is no right or wrong way to spend your time, but do make sure you make the most of it. One of the greatest advantages of a gap year is that it is yours to do with as you like. Here are some of the most popular options:

  • Work - Some decide to spend all their time working to fund a future degree.
  • Travel - Others may spend months on end travelling the world.
  • Volunteer - You could gain work experience to strengthen a university or job application.
  • A little bit of everything – Some people just want it all and what’s wrong with that?! A combination of earning money, seeing the world and gaining experience could be the perfect gap year for you. Or why not consider voluntourism – a combination of volunteering and tourism?

Planning your Gap Year - Why volunteer?

Volunteering allows you to make a positive difference within a community and help those who are really in need. So what’s in it for you?

  • It will enhance your CV.
  • You will gain valuable work experience.
  • It makes you stand out from the crowd.
  • You will meet new people.
  • It’s a great opportunity to try something new.

At Projects Abroad we believe that volunteering should be a two-way process. We expect all of our volunteers to work hard to help the communities in which we work. In return we aim to provide you with a once-in-a-life-time experience, during which you will learn new skills and explore a different country.

We have a huge choice of projects, everything from medicine to animal care, journalism to building. With flexible start dates too, we believe that we have a project to suit everyone.

Planning your Gap Year - Where to go?

Explore a new country

This is one of the most important, exciting and potentially difficult choices that you will make. Where in the world you decide to go is completely up to you, but there are a few things that we recommend considering before making your decision:

  • Temperature – For many, this is the deciding factor. Mountainous regions in countries such as Peru and Nepal are generally going to have a slightly cooler climate. Tropical countries such as Ghana and Cambodia tend to have a hot and humid climate.
  • Location – The further the better, right? The inclination for most is to head to the other side of the world, to experience everything that far flung countries have to offer; adventure, exotic food, culture, you name it. However, you don’t have to travel a long way to find all these things. Countries closer to home can be a really good option and perfect for those who would rather not waste days on a plane.
  • Language – The ability to speak the local lingo is a huge advantage and may be a deciding factor when choosing your destination. It may be, for example, that you are fluent in Spanish, in which case Latin America may appeal. On the other hand, you may decide to throw yourself into learning a completely new language. Either way, being surrounded by the language every day will help your skills progress in leaps and bounds.

At Projects Abroad we pride ourselves in providing our volunteers with a wealth of choice. We offer placements in 30 destinations across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

Planning your Gap Year - What do I need to organise?

Organising a gap year can be complex, time-consuming and overwhelming. On the plus side, a well organised gap year will give you peace of mind and allow you to make the most of your time away. So what sort of thing do you need to organise?

  • Flights
  • Visas
  • Insurance
  • Equipment/Kit list
  • Accommodation
  • Vaccinations/Healthcare

Projects Abroad employs staff in every one of our destinations

Volunteers joining a Projects Abroad placement can breathe a sigh of relief. We will arrange your accommodation, travel and medical insurance and airport transfers for you. We will provide you with a kit list and detailed instructions regarding visa applications. We also employ all our own staff who are on call 24 hours a day in every destination whenever need assistance. Flights are not included in the price of our projects, but we are more than happy to book them on your behalf.

Planning your Gap Year - Will I be safe?

Keeping safe on your travels is important. Taking sensible precautions whilst you are away will help you stay safe and reassure your loved ones. As a general rule: if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it abroad. The same rules of common sense you would use at home still apply when travelling overseas.

The safety of our volunteers is our prime concern. We will not send volunteers to a country that is politically unstable or considered unsafe. Projects Abroad employs staff in every one of our destinations. They will meet you when you arrive at the airport and drop you off at the end of your placement. They will give you a full induction and safety briefing, and will visit you frequently at your project. Our staff are on call 24 hours a day should you ever need their assistance or support.

Projects Abroad placements are fully researched, safety audited and risk assessed in accordance with the British Standard BS8848 for the Adventure Travel Sector.

Planning your Gap Year - What about the culture?

Adjusting to a different culture and environment is exciting, but can also be quite a shock. You should prepare yourself for the assault on the senses and embrace the change in climate, the difference in food, the unfamiliar smells and everything else that comes with discovering a new country. The most effective way to avoid, or get over, culture shock is to throw yourself into the new situation. Do not try to hide from it.

Projects Abroad provides every one of our volunteers with cultural advice about the county that they are visiting. We employ staff in each destination. They are always on hand to answer any questions that you have, so that you are fully prepared.

A volunteer meets her host family

All Projects Abroad volunteers will receive an induction upon arrival. You will be given a tour of the local area and advised on local customs to help you feel confident in your new environment.

Planning your Gap Year - Budget?

The cost of your gap year will depend on where you go, how long you go for, and what you do. Plan ahead and work out your budget. Be sure to research into any hidden costs and make sure you can cover them. Covering the price of your flights and accommodation may appear to be the priority, but there are many other smaller costs which soon mount up.

Don’t forget to account for things such as vaccinations, guide books, spending money and visas. Give yourself plenty of time to find the funds, whether it be through working, sponsorship or fundraising.

If you were to pay an organisation to arrange your gap year, a number of the costs and expenses naturally incurred by travelling would be included in this price. For example, the cost of a Projects Abroad placement includes:

  • Accomodation
  • Food
  • Travel & medical insurance
  • Airport transfers
  • 24 hour back up and support from UK and local Projects Abroad staff
  • Induction and project monitoring visits
  • Organised social activities

Take a look at our money matters section to find out more about your contribution as a volunteer.

Planning your Gap Year - Making the most of your time and keeping a record?

A once-in-a-lifetime-experience

Taking a gap year is all about getting involved in a worthwhile project, meeting new people and having the experience of a life time. Make the most of every moment, but try not to forget your friends and family back home. They will be keen to know that you are safe and will want to hear all about your adventure holidays.

Projects Abroad employs staff in every destination. Their job is to look after your general well-being, but also to help you meet other volunteers from around the world by organising regular social events. By taking part in a Projects Abroad placement, you are joining a community of volunteers, many of whom you are likely to become great friends with.

Projects Abroad also provides every volunteer with access to their own free blog. This can be used to log your trip and keep your family and friends updated.

Planning your Gap Year - What happens when I get back?

You will, no doubt, be happy to see your friends and family again, but you are bound to miss elements of your time overseas. Make the effort to keep in contact with the friends you made while traveling. You could even arrange a reunion to reminisce about old times.

At Projects Abroad, we like to keep in touch with our volunteers. We invite all volunteers returning from a Projects Abroad placement to join our alumni network. We are keen to share any interesting news and developments with you regarding our projects. We also understand that volunteers become attached to their individual projects so we will send you newsletters from your destination to keep you updated.

We occasionally have employment opportunities, both overseas and in the UK, for previous volunteers. This could be anything from writing a story for our website to representing us at a careers fair. We are always looking out for enthusiastic volunteers willing to share their experience with others.

If you would like some more information then give us a call on 01273 007230 or email us at

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