Perhaps you are at the end of your high school studies, and not yet ready to start college or dive into a full-time, start-your-career position. Perhaps taking a year off from being a student can open your mind to possibilities you can't conceive of at the moment. You could join the ranks of young adults taking a "gap year" off.
A "gap year" is a period of time (not necessarily 12 months) in which students disengage from curricular education and undertake non-curricular activities, such as travel or work. Gap years typically occur between high school and college, and between college and the first year of full-time employment.
The notion of taking a gap year off started in the United Kingdom in the 1960s, and has gained in popularity there and in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, though not limited to these areas. The idea has gained traction in the United States, though it is not yet widespread. A number of colleges and universities are allowing a year between acceptance and starting studies, if the student provides a plan to make good use of that year.
What could you do with that year? The choices are only limited by imagination. You could work in other than your career field to broaden your perspective. One option is to do volunteer work, perhaps perform community service. Another option is to volunteer to be a tour guide. Opportunities are available both inside the United States, and abroad. A gap year participant can gain experience that will build a future resume, in addition to making a difference.
Working locally as a tour guide likely would introduce you to people from all over the world and the interesting work that they do, perhaps allow you to practice your high school language skills, and certainly, help you develop organizational and public speaking skills.
Volunteers are needed in our nation's parks, historical landmarks, forests, classrooms. The Sierra Club alone offers over 350 environmental and protection programs.
Examples of American-based GAP year jobs are assisting to clean up the beaches in Northern California at Point Reyes, or working in Colorado at Mesa Verde National Park. You can explore the stunning rainforests while you help clear trails and assist the U.S Forest Service to protect the land in Puerto Rico.
Another avenue of travel while gaining experience is volunteering in an overseas location. Many organizations around the world offer special GAP year programs as well as volunteer tour guide positions. You might participate in programs such as WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), where you exchange your unpaid efforts for room and board, with the opportunity to go out and travel on your days off.
GAP year program are popular in Africa, where various conservation projects rely on volunteer students to offer training, assistance with the actual intricacies of the program, work in the surrounding communities, and offer short tours of the parks and wildlife sanctuaries to international visitors. Safari guides and conservation guides are in short supply, and by volunteering you help a good cause, while gaining the touring experience you need to eventually become a paid tour guide.
Whether a small amount of pay is involved, an exchange of service or completely voluntary, GAP year programs are popular, and opportunities for volunteering are limitless. Volunteers expand their work experience, build their resumes, and make the world a little better place. Everyone wins.