Thinking of taking a gap year? Why not gain both academic and personal experience by embarking on a volunteer project?

Tuesday 28, June 2011


Thinking of taking a gap year? Why not gain both academic and personal experience by embarking on a volunteer project?


With GCSE and A-Level results fast approaching, many students will be looking towards the future and assessing their next steps.


Projects Abroad, the global leader in short-term overseas work placements, is advising students not to agonise if exam results don’t meet expectations; there are always options available and taking some time out of studying to do something meaningful such as a volunteer project, may turn into something far more fruitful.


According to UCAS over 33,000 students deferred their place at university during 2010 to 2011[1], highlighting the popularity of the gap year. While a number of students will be thinking of using their gap year to travel the usual backpacker route; drinking and socialising, the numbers of students choosing to take part in a volunteer project during their gap year is ever increasing.


With the range of volunteer projects available, students are spoilt for choice; however, it may be worth thinking about getting involved in a project that could potentially help with a future career. Rheo Smith, aged 19 from Leicester, embarked on a midwifery placement in Sri Lanka last summer after finding out that she didn’t get a place on her chosen midwifery course at Northampton University. Rheo explains;


“I’d always wanted to take a midwifery course at Northampton University after college, but finding out that I didn’t get a place due to lack of experience was a huge stumbling block to my career. Aged 17 and confused about how to go about getting enough experience to make my application stand out, I began to look into my options. I came across Projects Abroad online and looked into the wide variety of medical volunteer projects in a number of developing countries. I settled upon a project assisting midwives in a hospital in Sri Lanka and it was an amazing, eye opening experience!


“During my two months in Sri Lanka, I spent six weeks working in a hospital, attending every day for the day shift and even completed a night shift. I also completed two weeks in an orphanage. I took so much from this experience, assisting in 32 deliveries, including a c-section delivery and triplets! Working in a developing country, meant that I got to see everything from the good to the bad. It gave me an enormous amount of confidence in my abilities having worked in such a challenging environment. As a result, when I came home and began to apply for the Northampton course again, my application was booming – there was so much information I could include. Without a doubt, volunteering with Projects Abroad helped me to secure my place on the course, which I begin in September 2011, and it has also provided me with skills, expertise and life experiences that I will take with me in my future career.”


Another Projects Abroad volunteer, Heather Everitt, aged 25 from Solihull, used her experiences from a law and human rights project to secure a place on her Bar Professional Training Course, which she begins in September 2011. Heather comments;


“I spent a total of 12 months working on the law and human rights project in Ghana through Projects Abroad; six months of which was as a volunteer and a further six months as a volunteer co-ordinator. The main aims of the project are to raise awareness of human rights issues, monitor vulnerable areas and resolve human rights abuses. Much of my work in Ghana involved visiting individual schools and communities to educate on various issues. One project involved educating school children aged between 12 and 14 about domestic violence; working closely with the Ghana Police Service, specifically the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU).


“Completing this project has really helped me to demonstrate my initiative and independence on my law school application. It has also helped me to provide specific responses to interview questions, such as how I have managed to relate unfamiliar law to new situations. It has helped me to gain confidence and self reliance as I am now used to working outside of my comfort zone. I would certainly recommend taking this route to anyone wanting to better their CV, as it has certainly provided me with that extra edge to help me stand out from the crowd. Also, recounting my experiences in interview situations make my answers sound relevant and interesting, which helped to make the interviewer listen and engage with me much more. Most of all, working with different people with different perspectives has helped me to grow as a person; the whole experience has been invaluable.”


Projects Abroad specialises in a variety of professional volunteer projects including; journalism, veterinary & animal care, business, archaeology, teaching, language, medicine, sports and conservation. Its projects can also be used for research studies for dissertations; providing academic and personal benefits.


For more information on all of the courses available, please visit:



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