A gap year gives university-bound students the chance to advance their education without the stress of exams and homework. Traditionally, students will gain entrance to university first, and then apply for a one-year deferment. During this year, they may spend some time working, interning or even volunteering abroad. Friends for Asia has welcomed its fair share of student volunteers eager to learn more about the world before they proceed with their education. For many, it’s a life-changing experience.
Sometimes a year is taken off during studies, or even after graduation before work begins. In any case, a gap year is seen by many as a necessary part of learning about the world.
Volunteer Gap Year Programs
The gap year is a well-established rite of passage in many Western nations — particularly Australia and the UK. In other parts of the world, including the US, gap year popularity is growing.
Friends for Asia coordinates a variety of intern and volunteer opportunities in Asia, many of which are ideally suited for gap year students. You can pick and choose from different projects to piece together an itinerary that suits your timeframe, skills set and academic aspirations. Volunteers can choose from the following focus areas during a gap year in Asia:
- Teaching English
- Health and medicine, including medical internships
- NGOs (non-governmental organizations)
- Wildlife and conservation, including Elephant camps
- Women’s empowerment
Our projects are hosted at project sites in Bali, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam. All of our volunteers receive comprehensive support and guidance from on-site project coordinators.
Gap Year Volunteer Opportunities
FFA offers a variety of volunteer projects across Asia, many of which are well-suited for student gap years. We make it easy for you to pick and choose among several different volunteer projects in Asia. You can explore career opportunities across the globe in fields ranging from medicine to conservation, or enhance your resume by volunteering with an NGO. Focus on one country, or spread your gap year across the entire continent. Friends for Asia operates meaningful volunteer opportunities in Bali, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam:
Volunteer Projects in Bali
Bali’s rapid growth as an international tourist destination is transforming the lives of those who live here. These changes introduce new challenges for the local population. As a volunteer at one of the following volunteer projects in Bali, you’ll make a positive contribution to the island’s development:
Volunteer Projects in Nepal
With its soaring mountain ranges, ancient ties to Buddhism and opportunities for adventure, Nepal is a top choice for gap year travelers. Friends for Asia has developed a diverse range of volunteer opportunities to make the time you spend here even more rewarding. You can get involved in the following ways:
- Teach English in a Nepali school
- Serve as a health volunteer
- Provide childcare in an orphanage
- Promote environmental awareness and conservation
- Teach English to monks in a genuine monastery
- Promote women’s empowerment in Nepal
Volunteer Projects and Internships in Thailand
Thailand is a powerhouse of international tourism, famous for its postcard-perfect beaches, spicy cuisine and mountainous jungles. A gap year in Thailand will take you off the well-beaten tourist path to remote elephant camps, rural villages and temple schools. FFA currently coordinates projects in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, with the following opportunities available:
Gap Year in Chiang Mai
- Medical Internship – Chiang Mai
- Magazine and Multimedia Internship – Chiang Mai
- Rural Schools Volunteer – Chiang Mai
- Orphanage Volunteer – Chiang Mai
- English Education Volunteer – Chiang Mai
- Building and Gardening for Single Mothers’ Home – Chiang Mai
- Elephant Camp Volunteer – Chiang Mai
- Teaching English to Novice Monks – Chiang Mai
- Teacher’s Assistant at International University for Monks – Chiang Mai
- Children’s Home Volunteer – Chiang Mai
- Summer 2015 Volunteer + Tour Package – Chiang Mai
Gap Year in Bangkok
- English Teacher Volunteer – Bangkok
- Kindergarten Volunteer – Bangkok
- Medical Internship – Bangkok
- Orphanage Volunteer – Bangkok
- Refugee Volunteer – Bangkok
- Women Empowerment Volunteer Project – Bangkok
Volunteer Projects in Vietnam
While its not-so-distant past was turbulent and tragic, Vietnam has turned the corner and is raring for development. This is a country flooded with optimism in the face of lingering challenges. Visit Vietnam on a gap year, and you can lend a hand to important social causes and development programs that are shaping the future of this Southeast Asian nation. FFA provides the following volunteer opportunities in Vietnam:
- Teach English in Hanoi
- Volunteer in a children’s hospital
- Lend a hand at a Buddhist temple orphanage
- Provide care for victims of Agent Orange
- Offer on-site support through one of several NGOs
Travel Insurance for Gap Year
Safety is a priority at all of our volunteer project sites in Asia. We understand that people face a unique set of challenges when traveling in a different country. With that in mind, each of our projects are supported by local coordinators who speak the local language, understand the culture and are ready to take control in the event of an emergency.
Accidents and emergencies are rare at our volunteer locations. Even so, everyone who volunteers with FFA is covered by accident and injury insurance for the duration of their project. This coverage adds an extra level of protection and provides compensation in the event that a serious accident or injury occurs. This does more than protect volunteers on a gap year in Asia – it offers peace of mind to friends and family back home.
Gap Year Travel Planner
A lot of work goes into planning a gap year, especially if you plan on spending most of your time far away from home. FFA understands how complicated it is to coordinate volunteer projects in Asia, and we work hard to keep the process as simple and straightforward as possible.
We also provide volunteers with extensive on-site support. Plan your gap year through Friends for Asia, and we’ll provide you with following additional lines of support:
- Pre-departure information packet
- Accident injury insurance
- Airport pick-up
- Cultural orientation seminar
- Introduction to the local language
- Transport to and from the project site
If you’re ready to start planning your adventure, begin by deciding whether you want to focus on a single country or project type. If you are like most of the gap year volunteers that we work with, you’re probably eager to see and experience as much as you can. Our a la carte style approach makes it easy for you to volunteer in several different places and a variety of capacities. You could fine-tune your experience to focus on a particular issue – such as women’s empowerment, childcare or healthcare provision – or spend this year gaining professional experience through internships and NGO placements.
It’s particularly important that you start early planning your intermittent transport. You’ll find that many airlines and travel agencies offer round-the-world tickets that can be customized to suit your itinerary. Some take in dozens of destinations, and virtually all of them are good for an entire year. Have a look at this article from The Guardian for pointers on planning your gap year.
Gap Adventure Travel
A gap year should be an adventure. When you volunteer at any of Friends for Asia’s project sites, you’ll have a host of high-octane activities to choose from. Our volunteer coordinators can refer to local guides, outfitters and operators that will get your adrenaline pumping.
Gap Year Adventures in Nepal
Mt Everest has been synonymous with adventure seekers for centuries. While this is still the country’s leading natural attraction, there are plenty of other ways to get your pulse pounding in Nepal:
- Trekking: Himalayan treks are challenging and unforgettable. Do this one right by chartering a guide and setting aside a couple weeks to traverse mountain passes and meet the locals in remote hamlets.
- Paragliding: This is a one-of-a-kind way to make your descent once you’ve scaled a mountainside.
- Whitewater Rafting: As you can imagine, the drama of the Himalayas makes for some high-octane rapids.
Gap Year Adventures in Bali
This exotic, volcanic island rewards adventure seekers with high-flying views, epic surf and as much (or little) catering as you require. Incorporate one of more of the following into your adventure in Bali:
- Cycling: If you have the time, a bicycle is the best way to explore Bali. The entire circumference of the island is just over 400 km, so you could theoretically go all the way around in a week or so. Alternately, heading inland requires some serious pedal-pumping but pays in spectacular panoramas.
- Hiking: Bali’s visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to hiking. The island is riddled with scale-able peaks, most of which can tackled in a day. Look to Mt Rinjani for a multi-day hiking adventure.
- Whitewater Rafting: The Telaga Waja River features category-III rapids and is perennially popular with thrill-seekers.
- Surfing: Bali is a world-class surfing destination. Whether you’re a veteran surfer or a newbie, you’ll find waves to suit.
Gap Year Adventures in Thailand
Thailand’s well-oiled tourism industry has paved the way for a wide range of adventure travel. Enhance your gap year by joining in any of the following activities:
- Jungle Trekking: Volunteers in Chiang Mai are ideally situated to embark on a guided jungle trek. These last anywhere from a few hours to several days, in which case they involve staying the night in a rural hill-tribe village.
- Elephant Riding: Asian elephants were once beasts of burden in Thailand. They’ve since moved into the tourism sector, and many jungle treks include at least an hour or two on elephant-back.
- Zip Lining: Thailand hosts a few outstanding zip line adventures (including one that claims to be the longest in Asia). You really can’t appreciate the jungles of Southeast Asia until you’ve soared through the canopy like this.
- Whitewater Rafting: This is a relatively new sport in Thailand, but it caught on quickly. This is an exhilarating way to explore view the countryside.
- Rock Climbing: Climbing enthusiasts have been hammering in stakes and opening climbing trails in Thailand for decades now. You’ll find excellent climbing faces, outfitters and competent guides across the country.
- Khao San Road: A travel mecca made popular by The Beach, is for many an important stop on the Thailand bucket list
- Thai Beaches and Islands: Close to Bangkok and a two-hour plane ride from Chiang Mai are the beaches and Islands of Thailand, from Phuket to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan (with the full-moon party), and laid back local beaches and islands in the Gulf of Thailand.
Gap Year Adventures in Vietnam
Vietnam features the highest peak in Southeast Asia and more than 3,200 km of coastline. This sets the stage for some high-octane activities, including the following:
- Cycling: Cyclists can cover a lot of ground in Vietnam, especially if they focus on the relatively flat Mekong Delta region. Guided cycling tours provide all the equipment and support required.
- Kayaking: Vietnam hugs the coast, and there are countless bays and coves ready to be explored. One of the finest paddling experiences is at Halong Bay, where an unusual collection of limestone pillars jut out of the water.
- Tackling Mt Fansipan: Dubbed the roof of Vietnam, Mt Fansipan stands taller than 3,100 meters above sea level. Multi-day trekking adventures include porters, climb through terraced rice fields and usually involve overnight stays in hill-tribe villages.
- Kite Surfing: To be fair, you can enjoy just about any water sport in Vietnam; however, kite surfing is a particularly fine way to take on the South China Sea. Outfitters can set you up with the equipment and lessons needed to get started.
Gap Year Volunteer Work
A gap year may take students out of the classroom, but that doesn’t mean that the educational process goes on hold. Gauging the value of a gap year requires more than tests and surveys. You have to take into account the experience gained and lessons learned.
That’s why volunteering in Asia makes so much sense for gap year students. This is more than a year spent abroad learning about different cultures. Volunteers make a difference in local communities and learn valuable life skills, some of which relate directly to their ultimate field of study. After a comprehensive gap year experience, returning students will have experience building infrastructure, caring for others and implementing strategies.
Gap Year Program
University-bound students become accustomed to gauging their achievements according to test scores and final grades, which can lead to an educational crisis. A gap year spent volunteering in Asia can help relieve burnout, and it leaves students feeling energized and empowered. It’s a refreshing alternative to the traditional path to higher education.
One of the most attractive aspects of coordinating volunteer projects your upcoming gap year through Friends for Asia is the opportunity to tailor-make your own experience. For example, after spending a sobering project assisting victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam, you can retreat to the mountains of Thailand and spend a carefree week caring for elephants. Thanks to the depth of variety of FFA’s volunteer projects, it’s easy to create an itinerary that suits your preferences and academic aspirations.