To take a gap year refers to taking a year out of studying to do something else. The period of time which it lasts can vary, but normally people take one year off. The gap year can be taken at anytime and by anyone, but normal the term is used to describe a gap between upper secondary school and university or college, or between university and the entrance to working life. The most important difference between a year off and a gap year is that you go abroad and experience something completely different, in comparison to staying in your own country, and either working or staying at home.
The opportunities are endless and it is possible to do just about anything; all depending on your interest and abilities. If you are the city-kind-of-person you can spend your gap year travelling from city to city, or exploring and getting under the skin of some of the most vibrant cities of the world. Maybe a cultural trip, exploring the hidden secrets of mysterious castles or palaces, or a year sunbathing and enjoying the indolent lift, could appeal to you. Perhaps a year working for an international firm or doing something you never imagine yourself doing could be the thing for you. One of the most important things you should consider when you select your desired active, is to choose something which get you entirely out of your comfort zone, and challenge you both mentally and physically.
Volunteering is one of the most popular ideas. Three of the main areas you can pick from are nature preservation, working with people and community projects, and animal care and conservation. To be able to do voluntary work it is vital to be a caring and committed person. Working to improve and enrich people’s lives is a giving and rewarding job, but it does require you to be a people-person, who works well with both young and old.
The most interesting and exiting area within voluntary work would for me, personally, be animal care and animal conservation. I would love being able to travel to a country completely unknown to me, and to care for and to gain knowledge about foreign animals and environments. The biggest problem is to choose just one thing, when there is so much to pick from. My main priority would be to select a project which makes it possible to learn something new and interesting while I am doing something I love; that is caring for animals. For this reason I have decided to look closer into two projects which I would like to be a part of.
Seeing I am reflecting on a career as a marine biologist, or a least something in that field, a year at the Dolphin Centre in Bunbury near Perth in the western parts of Australia would be perfect for me. Bunbury is a vibrant port city with a strong maritime history, and is renowned for its quality lifestyle and unique blend of nature surrounds and eminence facilities. The climate is very much like the climate in the Mediterranean’s which would make it easier to adapt, seeing I am used to the climate already.
This project would give me an exciting adventure into Australian culture, while gaining the enormous satisfaction of helping dolphins and knowing that I made a contribution to their ongoing conservation. Presumably I will get more confidence, learn new skills, and gain a greater understanding of different cultures and customs.
My work at the centre would mainly consist of communication with visitors, while educating them about the dolphin’s characteristics and making them aware of the importance of conserving these animals. Participating in coast care activates and assisting with current research projects, and tour guiding around the Centre, is other important tasks that the volunteers are given. The project would require me to commit for a minimum of 6 weeks and a maximum of twelve weeks, which might be a bit short, but, on the contrary, would able me to continue somewhere else and gain knowledge on other areas.
I feel that a year at this centre would give me extensive knowledge in a wide range of issues and skills, and would probably be a good kick-start for a marine biology education, if that would be my choice.
My other options would be the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Malaysia, which has a significant role in the educating in conservation and awareness of environmental issues. I believe that I would gain the same qualities and knowledge as in the project above. Education around animal care across a variety of species is an important part of the period in the park.
The main tasks I would be performing in the Wildlife Park would be assisting the keepers in their daily duties in looking after the animals, direct hands on approach with some of the animals, and guiding visitor around the park, which would increase my awareness of animal behaviour, and basic knowledge of populations and animal conservation.
The climate in the South-Asia is very different from what I am used to and with a lot of bugs and insects, but I do believe that it would be a good experience to see and encounter something so different from my own; both when it comes to climate and weather, but also a completely different culture and way-of-life.
Being a definite animal loving enthusiasts, who is willing to work hard and who is not afraid of getting her hands dirty, I could not imagine doing anything else than to work for and with animals, if I was to take a gap year. Whilst volunteering is rewarding in itself, I believe the time spent at projects such as the two above is an excellent opportunity to see new countries and to meet new people.
Gapyear.com - http://www.gapyear.com
Realgap.co.uk - http://www.realgap.co.uk./Gap-year-options
Travellersworldwide.com - http://www.travellersworldwide.com