Our summer programs depart in 100 days and to help you, we’ve put together a handy plan of action. Let our step-by-step plan guide you through exactly what you need to be doing over the next 14 weeks to make your summer travel plans a reality and avoid any pitfalls along the way.
100 days = 14 weeks
- Make the decision that you want to do it and believe you can make it happen. You can! We’ve already supported over 5,500 volunteers from 35+ countries make their dream a reality so we know you can too.
- Apply. It takes 2 minutes to fill in the application and you don’t need to pay anything at this stage. The AV team will help you every step of the way from the moment you get in touch with us until long after you return from your project.
- Start discussing the idea with your parents. Convince, persuade and inspire them. A shorter summer program offers the same experience and cultural immersion as a full gap year program, but doesn’t involve the commitment of taking an entire year off. Our five-week programs offer you the chance to become more independent and self-aware. You can explore what life has to offer outside the confines of your own reality.
Recent research shows that students who take a gap year (a gap year program can be anything from 5 weeks, to 3 months, to a full year) are more mature, self-reliant and independent than non gap year students. Also, taking some time off over the summer to completely step away from academia allows for renewed motivation and interest in study.
Gap years and summers abroad have been the norm for many years in the UK. For nearly four decades, Harvard has encouraged their freshmen to take a gap year before taking up their place. And, in Harvard’s words, “the results are uniformly positive“. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of high-ranking colleges in the U.S now support the gap year option. In 2011, the University of North Carolina received $1.5 million to help students finance gap years. Likewise, Princeton University promotes gap years through the Bridge Year Program where students live with other Princeton students in a community abroad.
And did you know, a staggering 88% of gap year students report that their travel experience had significantly added to their employability on leaving College? Tell your parents we can also put them in touch with other parents of AV volunteers who can tell them about their experience and answer all their questions.
- One of the best things about joining AV’s summer programs is the low cost in comparison to other ventures. You can spend 5 weeks living and working in amazing communities across Africa and Asia for as little as £2,335 GBP (approx $2,875 USD). With some creative thinking and fundraising efforts, this is yours for the taking!
- Start thinking about how you can raise the money for the project. We recommend dividing the goal into 3 areas: employment, fundraising and sponsorship (more about each below).
- It may sound obvious but the one thing that soon-to-be travellers often forget is to make sure that a) you have a valid passport and b) if you do already have a passport, make sure it has at least 6 months left on it. Otherwise you’ll need to apply for a new one.
First things first: Employment – If you don’t already have a job, get one!
Whether it’s a formal part-time job or something like baby-sitting, there are ways to earn money. Multiply the number of hours you can work between now and your project by the rate you can earn and that should be your earnings target.
Top tip: Resist the temptation to spend what you are earning. We know it’s hard, but the rewards will be worth the short-term sacrifice.
- Start brainstorming fundraising ideas. Think about some sort of event you could put together. Think about your skills and those of the people around you – there are 100 things you could do to raise some money!
- Persuade a friend to join you – you can work together to fundraise and plan. Any additional support for your fundraising ideas and planning you can get, the more successful you will be.
- Talk to the AV team via skype or in person – we will go through everything you need to know about your project and help with any questions you have. This is also an opportunity for us to get to know you.
Top tip: After you apply, we will send you a fundraising pack which has masses more information and ideas to help you reach your goals.
Set aside 3 evenings to write to people and any local businesses and organisations that might sponsor your project. Friends, family and school advisors may have ideas of who you can approach. Our fundraising pack has a draft letter you can adapt to get you started.
Top tip: Be sure to email people individually – they are far more likely to respond to you if they know you took the time to ask them personally.
- Contact your doctor to set up an appointment to discuss any immunisation / anti-malarial medications that you’ll need.
- Learn how to cook a couple of basic meals. You may sometimes have to fend for yourself when it comes to mealtimes. If you don’t already know the basics, learn how to cook a few dishes for when you get a craving for those home comforts. And you may even impress your fellow travellers with your culinary skills! A couple of hearty pasta dishes using basic ingredients would be ideal.
- Think about what you want to achieve from your project. Share what you are doing on social media – people will be excited to follow what you’re up to and hopefully support you along the way!
- Advertise your fundraising event. Get in touch with your local newspaper and local radio station – they may well feature your story!
- Set up a GoFundMe page
- Why not tie your fundraising efforts into your overseas project aims? If you’ll be helping to paint a school in, for example, Thailand, why not offer to paint something i.e a neighbours fence or a local facility that may be looking for some help and charge them a fee for your services. Relating your fundraising efforts to the kind of tasks you’ll be involved with on your overseas project will make the project come to life for both you and your sponsors.
- If you have a birthday between now and then ask for friends and family to donate to your project fund you instead of buying a gift. They can contribute directly to your AV experience by purchasing AV gift vouchers. The money will go directly towards your AV fund.
- Hold your fundraising event. It’s important to keep costs as low as possible as, after all, you want to ensure the majority of the money you raise goes directly towards your trip, so this is not the time for extravagance. Our fundraising pack has a huge list of potential event ideas, but one of the more unique, yet effective, money raising ideas would be to fill up yours or a parents/friend’s car with balloons and ask a local facility to use their car park i.e town hall or a sports facility and charge people to guess how many balloons there are in the car. The winner receives a prize. This requires minimum effort from you and, more importantly, from your potential donors. A cost effective approach to fundraising is key to meeting your target.
- Start researching your chosen country. Find out a little bit more about its culture and traditions and maybe even learn how to say hello and thank you in the language of the country you’ll be visiting; a little local knowledge will go a long way.
- Get in touch with an AV alumni to find out about their experience and take this opportunity to ask a lot of questions. This is an ideal chance to find out what life is like when you’re a volunteer overseas from someone who’s already been there and done it. You could ask them about a whole range of issues including what the accommodation is like to questions about the food, weather, people and any safety issues that may be on your mind. A former AV has been in the exact same position as you are right now and will be more than happy to help and settle your nerves. Look upon this as an exciting once in a lifetime adventure. Chatting it through with someone who’s already done it will make the whole experience really come to life far more than just reading about it.
- Use our kit list to buy the things you’ll need for the trip.
- Set up a blog to share your adventure.
- Share your fundraising plans with us so we can shout about what you’re doing as well! You might feature on our blog or social media accounts.
- Think about the community you’ll be living in and any simple gifts and gestures that might be appreciated by those you’ll be living and working alongside. For example, if you’re going to be teaching at a school, you might like to pack some balloons, crayons, bubbles, stickers or coloured chalk to instantly engage with the children and have some fun when you get there. If your role is sports oriented, why not ask a local sports team to give you a stash of badges, t-shirts, or any other free advertising materials they may have.
- Stay motivated by keeping in touch with our team and following what other volunteers are up to via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or on our blog.
- You are almost there… By now you’ll be packing the last of your things and will be almost set to go. You may only be gone for a matter of weeks, but it’s important to make sure you have everything at home covered for the time that you’re gone i.e bank payments, car payments, etc. Also consider an automatic reply on your email account to say that you’re travelling and that you’ll respond to any emails on your return. Tying up any loose ends at home means you can enjoy your trip without thinking about home commitments. This is your chance to break free of the shackles of life for a while.
- Last, but not least, say your goodbyes to your family and friends as they wish you well on your travels. Tell them you’ll keep in touch but be careful not to make any false promises. You may have sporadic access to internet and phones, but set their expectations low; you’ll be in touch as and when you can.
Top tip: Savour every minute. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to really make a difference. You will return a different person than when you left but all in a good way! You’ll be more independent, mature, self aware and best of all, motivated and refreshed to continue your studies. A summer vacation while working and helping others; you truly get the best of both worlds with a summer volunteer program overseas.
Congratulations!! You’ve already achieved a fantastic amount and now you get to start the most amazing 5 weeks of your life experiencing an entirely new culture and making a genuine impact on the community you will be working in.
Time to start the journey of a lifetime… Make today DAY 1 of your 100 days and apply now!
Gap Year or Summer Abroad Program?
If you aren’t sure about taking a year out of college, this is the next best thing. From the moment you make the decision to take part in an AV program, you will be learning and implementing invaluable skills – from effective communication to persuading people to sponsor you, to financial and budgeting skills, problem solving, organisation and planning as well as commitment to something you believe in. And all this before you even arrive at your placement!
If you would like to volunteer at any time of the year, check out our full range of Gap Year Programs.
Africa and Asia Venture (AV) is a not-for-profit organisation offering meaningful volunteering experiences in the developing world. To bring about change, the world needs global citizens and through this cultural exchange and connection between communities we are making that happen. All volunteers are also helping to support and fund our charity, the AV Foundation, which works to improve the quality of education in our partner communities by constructing and renovating school buildings and facilities.