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The Medium Term Benefits of a Gap Year

Rory Weston relates how he benefitted from his gap year teaching project in Malawi arranged with Africa & Asia Venture.

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's teaching placement in Malawi was arranged with Year Out Group Founder Member Africa & Asia Venture (AV).

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