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Cambodian Gap Year for a Graduate

Rowan Gaffney's volunteer experience with The Leap caused her to study for an MSC

Rowan Gaffney works with orphans on a gap year program in Cambodia arranged with The Leap

When did you decide to take a gap year and why?

In the summer of my second year I decided that when I graduated I would take a gap year. Having enjoyed a break from academic work in the summer I felt a gap year would give me some very different experiences before I started my career. Friends who had a gap year recommended it.  I also thought that it would be a great addition to my CV.

Which different options did you consider?

I originally considered travelling in Asia and Australasia with friends or working abroad, but then decided that volunteering would give me a greater satisfaction and more cultural experiences.  I then considered different companies offering gap year placements and felt The Leap offered the type of opportunities I was seeking.

What was the best thing about the year and the worst thing?

Rowan and her fellow Leapers visit Angkor Wat temple in CambodiaThe best thing was experiencing so much in a short space of time, meeting many people from all over the world and gaining a greater understanding of different cultures and countries. Feeling that I helped in a small way through my placements with The Leap was greatly satisfying.

The worst part was saving the money prior to going.  Coming home after having done so much and realising that I had to start making choices about my career was a scary prospect.

How did you fund the gap year?

I worked from August through to March as an admin assistant before leaving in April.

Rowan and a fellow volunteer construct a hut on their placement in Cambodia with The LeapWhat benefits do you think it has given you in terms of employability?

For me, particularly because of the placements that I have done with The Leap, I think that it has added a whole different dimension to what I can demonstrate on application forms and at interviews. The wide variety of community and conservation projects that I covered during my time as a volunteer has given me board experiences.  These experiences helped me decide to progress into postgraduate study where I am currently studying an MSc in Applied Child Psychology at Nottingham Trent University.

How would you talk about it in an interview with a prospective employer?

I would discuss the personal attributes that it takes in planning and completing a gap year such as organisation, financial management, independence, flexibility, problem solving and adaptability. I would also discuss the type of projects I was involved in, from building wells and water filters to teaching English to the Cambodian orphans.

Do you think you have made the most of the gap year on your CV?

Yes. It is too good an opportunity not to capitalise on.  I am able to demonstrate the many qualities and experiences that are now transferable skills in my future career.  For me it was particularly important as it allowed me to confirm that I wanted to work with children in my career. Most importantly it has given me valuable work experience with children in a different country.

Rowan and her fellow Leapers explore the ruins of Angkor Wat temple in CambodiaWhat advice would you give to a school leaver thinking of taking a gap year before uni?

Be sure that you are taking a gap year for the right reasons. Personally I felt that by having a gap year after uni I was able to capitalise on the skills that I developed through uni. When you do decide it's right just do it! It's an experience that you will never forget and never regret! Think about what you want out of a gap year whether it is, travelling, working or volunteering and use it as an opportunity to achieve this and make the most of it.  It's an opportunity that you may never get again.

Rowan Gaffney graduated from Warwick University with a degree in Psychology.  Her volunteer projects in Cambodia were arranged with The Leap.  Rowan is now studying for a MSc in Applied Child Psychology at Nottingham Trent University.