An unexpected journey

I was always sceptical about gap years. It comes from my French education, I was taught that once you’ve started something you should doggedly carry on to the end. Getting my degree without a break in education was my focus. Anyway, at my age and with no experience or qualifications, I couldn’t see myself finding a job that was interesting, challenging or enjoyable.

The French education system doesn’t give predicted grades and I had last minute cold feet. I ended up on an unexpected gap year with a second UCAS application to complete. I rapidly started work in a little café and watched my gap year go nowhere. It came to about Christmas and my godmother came over and told me that I should sign up to volunteer abroad. One of her daughters had been to Africa with AV and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Structure and meaning

What AV helped me do was add structure and meaning to my gap year. They allowed me to achieve things I never would have been able to do without their help. They were also wonderful when it came to sorting out interviews for universities from abroad. The A.V representative in India was really supportive. He moved heaven and earth to get me to an adequate place to take a university interview via Skype at short notice.

Living like a local

I signed up to volunteer three months in India within a tribe: the Lepcha of Nepal. Living with these amazing people who speak their own unique language, religion, culture and way of life really made my year. I would quite honestly say that I now consider the people who I stayed with as a second family. I have never met people so kind, fun, welcoming and knowledgeable in my life. If you can overcome showering in cold water and washing your clothes by hand, it is an idyllic place to spend three months.

Furthermore I really felt that we were useful. The Lepcha students did need the extra help in English and the adults also benefited from speaking English with us. Everyone was so eager to learn. In the evenings when they didn’t feel like sitting in the classroom, we found ourselves getting you involved in some strange but wonderful games. Overall my three months in India were unforgettable, just so different and better than what I expected. I am defiantly considering going back after I have finished my degree.

Final thoughts

Looking back on this year I would recommend taking a gap year with Africa & Asia Venture (AV), the three months living with my Lepcha family were unforgettable. Sceptical about gap years? Not any more!

Rosanna Lees

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