With the competition for university places intensifying by the year, many college leavers are rejecting the traditional gap year for an experience that will help develop their CV, rather than just their sun tan. Using the time between college and university to undertake volunteer work abroad not only helps you stand out from the crowd in the admittance process, but can also help in the longer term when you come to apply for a job.

Prospective employers are always impressed with people who are able to work on their own initiative, and the fact that you’ve spent your year off doing something constructive will always look positive.

Clearly, you don’t have to make a cast-iron choice about your future career before heading to university, but if you have even a rough idea of the field you may want to go into, you might want to look at volunteering in one of the fields below.

Volunteering Abroad - Architect

1. Architect/Town planner

Your ideal volunteering opportunity: Building projects with underprivileged communities in Kenya

What you’ll learn: Volunteering on building projects abroad will not only help you learn about the day to day physical work of construction, but will also help you acquire valuable skills in planning, design and team-work that will be a huge help in a variety of careers.

Working in communities where resources are in short supply will help you develop excellent problem-solving skills and teach you to come up with creative solutions to difficult issues.

Would also suit: Anyone looking to work in the fields of Building, Redevelopment, Renovation, Interior Design etc.

Volunteering Abroad - Machu Picchu 2016

2. Archaeologist

Your ideal volunteering opportunity: Exploring Inca ruins in Peru

What you’ll learn: Helping unearth ancient artefacts that haven’t been seen for hundreds of years is pretty thrilling in itself, but the chance to gain experience at a site of such historical significance is an opportunity not to be passed up.

You’ll learn important hands-on skills in excavating, cleaning artefacts, registering and cataloguing that will be the envy of your undergraduate colleagues when you arrive at university. Plus, you’ll be helping to uncover and preserve a key part of Peru’s cultural history, and ensuring that this amazing site can be enjoyed for years to come.

Would also suit: The experience you would acquire working at a dig like this would also be useful for anyone contemplating a career as a Cultural Historian, Curator, Researcher or even those looking to work in the field of forensics.

Volunteering Abroad - Marine Biologist

3. Marine Biologist

Your ideal volunteering opportunity: Sea Turtle conservation in Costa Rica

What you’ll learn: Conservation projects like this typically incorporate a great range of activities and allow participants to develop a wide variety of skills. From hands-on work like cleaning beaches and helping prepare nesting areas, to assessing population numbers and helping to analyse animal behaviour.

Plus, you’ll have a unique opportunity to learn more about a range of wildlife in their natural habitat.

Would also suit: Anyone looking for a career working with animals, including veterinaries, zoologists and animal behaviour experts.

Volunteering Abroad - Teaching

4. Teaching

Your ideal volunteering opportunity: Teaching in a kindergarten and orphanage in Goa.

What you’ll learn: While teaching in general is not a hugely difficult profession to get into, those looking to work with either children from difficult backgrounds, or children in foreign countries can get a real head start by taking the time to volunteer abroad.

You’ll learn basic teaching skills including how to communicate ideas to large groups, how to encourage and motivate your students and how to use creative techniques and games to make learning fun. While your main value to the school will probably be helping to teach English, you may also get the chance to help in art, music, maths and sport classes as well.

Would also suit: Anyone interested in working with children. There are, sadly, plenty of opportunities to help teach children with learning difficulties through volunteer programs, and those looking to work with children in care or helping children with disabilities would really benefit from this sort of program.

Volunteering Abroad - Sports Coach

5. Sports Coach

 Your ideal volunteering opportunity: Football coaching in Posadas, Argentina

What you’ll learn: The first thing you’ll probably learn, is that the 8 and 9 year olds you’re meant to be coaching are already more skilled than you’ll ever be. Once you get over this though, you’ll develop important skills in how to structure training sessions, organise different activities to keep the children engaged, and motivate the different personalities within your group. Plus who knows, you may even unearth the next Lionel Messi!

Would also suit: A volunteer program teaching football or any other sport will be hugely beneficial to anyone who wants to work as a coach, but also for those interested in other aspects of sport including physiotherapy, sports science, nutrition, performance analysis, fitness trainer and many more.

John Brown the author of the “How volunteering abroad could help your CV” is an experienced traveller and careers expert specialising in volunteer work abroad.

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