5 reasons why doing a gap year to volunteer is the best thing you could do
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
As a French student in social sciences, I had the opportunity to come for an ESC project in Romania between the end of my bachelor and the beginning of my master degree and it was definitely a wonderful experience. I tried to select some of the reasons why I would recommend it to all my friends currently studying.
First of all, a gap year allows you to take a step back from school and reflect on what you really want to do in life : whether you have a precise project of where you are going with your studies or no idea at all, taking the time to think about our real interests and values is definitely something we all need sometimes. You might come back being conforted about how motivated you are to start studying again, you might get a totally different idea on your future plans, or even need more time to figure things out… Whatever the outcome, believe me, it is worth it. Leaving abroad and meeting so many new people from different cultures while working on your project might open some brand new perspectives and opportunities for you, so it would be a pity to not give it a try.
Secondly, I have to say that ECS projects value your personal development and well-being a lot, when unfortunately it is not always the case in school. This break from the constant pressure of university studies, this chance to get away from grades, rankings, etc. is sometimes essential to preserve your mental and physical health. During your ESC project you will most likely have plenty of time to find a balance between work, fun and new adventures. You might even be able to bring back with you some of the good habits you developed here (like taking the time to cook healthy meals, to go on walks, to take care of yourself, to meditate, to write in a diary, etc.). You will experience different kinds of mentoring, reflection groups and introspective activities to help you navigate through your project and life.
Thirdly, I would say that being actually useful and doing concrete things for a while is a great feeling that we sometimes lack during our studies. Some of us are already volunteering part time while studying, or working maybe, but it can be frustrating to not be able to be 100% into your organization and projects. Here you will have no exams or assignments to worry about, and your impact will definitely be multiplied. Lectures, essays and exams can be really energy draining sometimes, and here, while concretely helping the community, you will get a well deserved break that will allow you to concentrate on more meaningful things like building new friendships, learning new social and professional skills, etc.
Fourthly, and I said before, ESC is also about meeting new inspiring people and friends. By opening your mind and broadening your perspectives, it will not only make you a better person, but might allow you to look at your university studies with a different mindset. Being confronted with different realities and volunteering with people from all over Europe will definitely help you think out of the box, and it might be really appreciated by teachers. It could bring you more accurate and original examples for your essays, new relevantquestions to ask your teachers, etc.
Finally, it will be a huge asset when looking for your first job : this international working experience you will have had apart from your degree and theoretical studies will help you stand out from the other potential candidates. The Youthpass you fill out at the end of your project will help you make the most of your work with ESC. The project you took part into could become a really interesting topic during a job interview, and you will definitely be ready to adapt to any kind of working situation later.
Well, I hope this short post will encourage you to join a project really soon, whether you are a student or not, don’t hesitate to check the other articles on the topic ;)
Ps : Some universities also accept to consider ESC projets as internships and give you ECTS credits for it, don’t hesitate to check for yours !