5 Questions to Ask before Traveling Abroad on Gap Semester

New York, N.Y. The fall semester is in full swing across North America and amid the whirl of classes, assignments, and extra-curricular activities, hundreds of students are already planning ahead for the spring semester.

xyzA Projects Abroad volunteer discusses a case with a local colleague
at the Child Development Agency in Jamaica.

Studying abroad is always a popular choice during the spring and there are many great reasons for joining an international program.

Here are the five most important things you should think about for a gap semester abroad:

1. What impact will it have on my future professional career?
Participating on a volunteer or internship program in a developing country can have huge benefits for your future career. Not only could it help you decide on which direction your career path should take, it will also aid you in acquiring new skill sets for your resume. An international internship with Projects Abroad is particularly useful for students considering a career that requires getting into a competitive post-graduate program, like medical school or law school.

2. What about my current academic career?
Pursuing an undergraduate degree can be tough and there are times when a student’s interest fades. Continuing can be a struggle if this happens! Putting together your own personalized program with Projects Abroad is a great opportunity to reconsider your goals and renew your interest in your studies by getting involved in a project that will put you in the field and let you help others. Projects Abroad can work with you and your university to make credit for your trip abroad a possibility.

3. What can this experience do for my personal development?
One thing that Projects Abroad hears frequently from returning volunteers and interns is how their experiences impacted them personally. Many learn independence and become more mature and self-confident as a result, and their world view is broadened. It is an experience that opens their minds to global issues and cultural exchange, and lets them see the world beyond the pages of a textbook or a computer screen.

For Valerie, an Early Childhood lecturer at SUNY-Cortland in New York, this is precisely what she sought to achieve when she traveled with a group of students to Costa Rica: “My goal was to take the students and have them experience something besides their own culture, their own country, and their own privilege, and to see how other people live.”

4. How much control can I have over my experience?
Your time overseas should be used to complement your time at college. As such, Projects Abroad offers flexible start and end dates. You choose when to arrive and depart, which helps avoid scheduling conflicts with your university. In addition, you can request for your placement to be tailored to your specific needs, interests, and goals. You also have the option of piecing different programs and destinations together to optimize your experience.

5. Will I make a difference in the country I volunteer or intern in?
At its core, volunteering is about making a difference through sustainable development. Whichever Projects Abroad project you choose to join, the work you do will be a part of ongoing efforts to improve the lives of people in disadvantaged communities and help give them the tools to secure their financial independence and their futures.

For college students interested in a semester abroad, volunteering or interning with Projects Abroad is a great way to have a productive and enjoyable time, without having to worry about coordinating details such as placements, accommodation, and insurance. To learn more about the hundreds of worthwhile projects in nearly 30 destinations that the organization offers, please visit www.projects-abroad.org.

About Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad was founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Slowe, a geography professor, as a program for students to travel and work while on break from full-time study. The program had its genesis in post-USSR Romania, where students were given the chance to teach conversational English. After a few years just sending volunteers to Eastern Europe for teaching, the company expanded to sending volunteers of all ages around the world on a wide range of projects.

Projects Abroad is a global leader in short-term international volunteer programs with projects in 28 countries and recruitment offices in the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Holland, Hong Kong, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and the United States.

For details on volunteering abroad, visit Projects Abroad’s website.

The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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