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Africa & Asia Venture (AV)-from Gap year to Employment

In January 2009 I was privileged enough to embark on one of AV’s 16 week projects,

in my case, in Malawi. This was, without a doubt, a landmark period in my life to

date. Plunging myself into a group of almost thirty strangers, in an alien country far

away from my comparatively simple life in England. The primary focus of the stay

was to teach; in my case it was English and Science and Technology along with a bit

of after school football, although, it quickly became apparent I was the student when

it came football. However, by no means did teaching take up all my time. There was

plenty of time left for travel and play. Four months later and it was all over. I had

made many excellent friends, many of whom I am still in contact with and

outstanding memories. Everyone I met from then on was bombarded with my stories

and pictures from the experience, whether they liked it or not; such was my

enthusiasm for the project.


The short term gains are clear to me; I had a fantastic experience during my time in

Africa. Now, a few years down the line, the longer term gains are equally powerful.

People who knew me before Malawi have seen my broad personal development:

confidence, independence and interpersonal skills have all rocketed.

However, when it came, applying for jobs post university is when the experience

became invaluable. The figures I hear of, for applicants to jobs available make my

draw drop. I recently joined, Pricewaterhouse Coopers; one of the world’s leading

professional services firms. In the year after I joined there were over 30,000

applicants for only around 1,500 jobs; that is 20 people applying for a single place.

The current job market is so competitive that any chance to differentiate yourself must

be seized with both hands. Being able to recall on experiences to demonstrate key

competencies recruiters are looking for, such as “teamwork” or “learning from

experience”, is vital. AV gave me these experiences in abundance Experiences like

working in a Tesco or being a school prefect are good, but do not always cut the

mustard. You must ask yourself; how many other people can talk at length about their

two month summer job in Tesco? The answer is quite a few.


So if asked would I do it all again; my resolute answer is yes! The boost it leveraged

for me in the job market is plain. I know some people say these sorts of programmes

are too expensive and waste of money, not a view that I share. Not having a job post

university will cause you to forego far more than a few thousand pounds. It is an

experience worth every penny, in all senses, one which has helped shape my life, of

that I am sure.


Rory Weston