I was always skeptical 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, education being the best example because you tend to forget quite a bit in a year and lose a working rhythm that you have been perfecting for most of your life. In addition at my age with no experience and no qualifications, I couldn’t see myself finding a job that I would find interesting, challenging or enjoyable.
Due to the French education system not giving any predicted grades and 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.
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, Tendup, was really supportive and moved heaven and earth to get me to an adequate place to take a university interview via Skype at short notice.
I signed up to volunteer three months in India within a tribe: the Lepchas. Living with these amazing people who speak their own unique language, have a unique religion and generally a unique 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 us. Everyone was so eager to learn, or in the evenings when they didn’t feel like sitting in the classroom, 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.
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.