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Africa & Asia Venture (AV) - Will's story

AV isn’t just volunteering in the usual sense of the word. The variety of the

experiences you gain from doing AV are not comparable with the well trodden path

that many make to the Thailand full moon, or ‘surfers paradise’ in Aus. As well as

being remarkably good fun, AV, I believe, set me apart in the job market.


If you choose to do something worthwhile on your gap year, like AV in Africa or

Asia, then you are differentiating yourself to employers. It took me until my second

year at University to realise this. When it comes to applying for summer

internship/graduate positions at big firms, their approach for discovering more about

your qualities is through asking applicants "competency" questions both via their online

application systems, and at interview. Having applied to a number of financial

institutions and accountancy firms, across the board similar questions about

leadership qualities, demonstrating decision-making and overcoming problems, came

up again and again. When answering these I had the option to churn out generic

university based answers, which I imagine many other applicants will have done, but

instead I used my experiences teaching in Malawi. Particularly in interviews, firms

always seemed to pick up on my time in Malawi and spend time allowing me to

discuss how my teaching had contributed to my people, leadership and time

management skills.


Here is an example of a competency question that I came across whilst applying to

many of the big banks and the big four, in which I used my AV experience to my


Q: Describe a group activity in which you have been involved in where you have

contributed to the team’s success?

A: Whilst working as a volunteer teacher in a Malawian all boys secondary school for

3 months an incident occurred that called for me to offer advice to the common room.

A number of influential older boys had rallied the school into refusing to attend class,

and in doing so, had effectively caused a riot. The objective was clear, restore peace

and punish the boys who were to blame, yet the situation needed to be dealt with

carefully. Many of the staff initially discussed a blanket suspension of the top year,

thus adversely affecting the studies of those coerced into the riot. I contributed to the

discussion through suggesting that we immediately separate the top year from the rest

of the school and suspend the obvious ring leaders. Many warmed to the idea as it

meant minimal punishments and less disruption to the boy’s studies. The outcome of

my words was to decrease disruption to the studies of innocent boys, and overtime the

restoration of a peaceful learning environment. I learnt from this experience that when

a team has to deal with a difficult situation, one must speak up and communicate your

ideas and advise even when others may not agree with what you are saying.


Will Crone