What are the benefits of doing a gap year?

    Article by Zaytoen Domingo

    Zaytoen Domingo

    Posted: February 27, 2019

    Whether you want to go into business, continue with your education, or aren’t sure what you want to do yet, taking a gap year to volunteer could be the best choice for you when you finish school.

    Doing a gap year is one of the most exciting opportunities that a young adult can take after finishing high school. Before jumping into the next stage of education or work, why not consider going out into the world and experiencing life through volunteering abroad?  

    Taking a gap year can enhance your resume, and improve your career and education prospects. It’s also a great way to develop new skills and practise ones you already have.

    What is a gap year?


    A gap year is a year in which an individual takes time out from “everyday” life, often after finishing school or university, to do something different. It’s as simple as that. There are many ways to spend your gap year, but one of the most common is to travel.

    Travelling is a fantastic opportunity for you to open your eyes to the world around you, and to see life through a new lens. One way to make your gap year abroad impactful is to volunteer abroad.

    GVI offers programs tailored to those on their gap year. Spanning from two weeks to six months, there is something for everybody. Our gap year programs are based across five continents, with a range of program types to suit all interests.

    The benefits of volunteering abroad on your gap year are innumerable, and you will get out what you put in.

    You’ll improve your language skills


    Does speaking languages light a fire within you? Or are you interested in trying a new skill? Whether you speak one or five languages, spending your gap year volunteering abroad is one of the best ways to learn and immerse yourself in a new language.

    Wherever you decide to spend your gap year, there will be opportunities to take local language classes. There’s no better way to practice a language than to spend time in a country where it’s spoken, surrounded by native speakers.

    After completing your high school Spanish, what better way to use it than to volunteer in Mexico with children? After high school, you should be proficient enough in Spanish to communicate clearly and effectively, so the next logical step is to use this skill in the real world. Volunteering with children is an ideal situation for this.



    Having learnt a second language yourself, you’ll be able to relate closely to the students you’re teaching, and the struggles they might encounter. This empathy will help you assist them in the process, as you’ll understand the excitement and challenge of learning a new language.

    Your knowledge of Spanish will also allow you to help students in their native tongue if they have difficulty understanding in English.

    This is a chance to use what you know, become more confident in your oral Spanish and forge a deeper connection with the children you’re teaching.  

    In addition, language learning is not only fun, but it develops your brain. This skill will put you a step above the rest when applying to university or work.

    You’ll improve your resume for jobs


    Writing a standout CV can be difficult when many people have gone to the same schools and participated in the same activities. Some jobs have hundreds of applicants, so it’s imperative for you to stand out from the crowd. Having volunteered on your gap year will truly put you a step above the rest.

    Some things to add to your CV after a volunteer program are: real-life teamwork experience, being able to take responsibility for yourself, and communication skills across multiple languages.

    Another job-related benefit to volunteering abroad during your gap year is having diverse networking opportunities. You’ll meet like-minded people on your volunteering program, and have the opportunity to talk together about your futures and goals. You might meet your future business partner or colleague through a volunteer program.

    You’ll enhance your college application


    When applying to further education, promoting yourself is one of the most important aspects of the process.

    Taking a gap year before college allows you to have experiences that few others have tried. It shows that you take initiative, and are proactive in helping others and doing what you love.

    Your college application essay will stand out from the crowd when the admissions officer reads about your four months as a volunteer in Laos teaching English to Buddhist monks.

    And it’s not just your application to college that will improve. Your overall college experience will be enhanced by all that you have learnt and experienced during your gap year.

    From the skills you have developed, languages you have learnt, and stories you’ll tell, taking time off before college to do a gap year is a brilliant step before entering further education and independence.


    You’ll get life experience before the next chapter

    It can be daunting to spring directly into the next stage of your life after school. Moving away from the comfort of home, perhaps for the first time, can be scary.

    Take the opportunity of a gap year to allow yourself space to transition into adulthood. When volunteering abroad, you gain invaluable life skills such as independence and responsibility. You’ll see that you are capable of things you never expected.

    Whether you decide to volunteer on construction projects in Nepal or dolphin research and marine conservation in Zanzibar, you will learn what you can do, what you can understand, and who you can become.

    Giving yourself this opportunity to grow up, learn new skills, and connect with people is a rite of passage into adulthood.


    You’ll gain career experience

    One surefire way to find out if something is a good fit for you is to give it a try.

    GVI alumni Tori explains how her career aspirations turned on their head during her gap year volunteering. While working with children in Thailand, she realised she had a love for teaching.

    When you spend some or all of your gap year volunteering in your subject of choice, you’ll get hands-on experience. You’ll get a feel for whether this area is something you want to study or build a career out of.

    If you already know exactly what you want to do, volunteering or interning in this area is the perfect start, and will give you valuable career experience.

    If, for example, you are interested in birds and want to figure out whether a career in ornithology is for you, volunteering on a bird research program in Costa Rica could be the perfect way to assure yourself of your convictions.

    So whether you know what you want to do after school or have no clue, a gap year volunteering abroad is an ideal way to spend your time learning, experiencing new things, and discovering more about yourself.

    Are you ready to take the jump into a volunteering gap year? Contact GVI today.

    Article by Zaytoen Domingo

    By Zaytoen Domingo

    Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.