The Resurgence of Gap-Year Programs: For Students Volunteering, Here’s a Checklist

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Popular in Europe, taking a 'gap-year' off of college to go serve nationally or internationally has once again taken U.S. college campuses by storm. Even major news outlets and magazines have been picking up on the trend, from articles in TIME Magazine to MSNBC to U.S. News and World Report.

Exotic cultures and an opportunity to make a difference draw students to Gap-Year programs.

It's an exciting trend to be sure

“It’s an exciting trend to be sure,” says Jeff Gulleson of Good Neighbor Insurance, who has helped thousands of students serving overseas. “The brightest, well-to-do, but often insulated students from universities in the U.S. are going off to deliver solar power to rural India or to do statistical research on nutrition in Southern Sudan.” It’s now becoming so popular that some universities are actually encouraging students to defer matriculation.

But what should you know before informing your family and packing your bags?

1. Consider why you are volunteering overseas.

Is it to practice your expertise/skills, take a break from study, or discover if you want to remain in your major? Trying to pad your resume? Trying to save on tuition? Realize that volunteering overseas isn’t much of a break from tuition costs, and you could work a year at home to help pay next year’s tuition.

2. Look for reputable help and advice either online or at your campus. (Many Gap-Year sites are geared towards Europeans. If you are a U.S. student, some things may/may not apply.)

3. Consider your budget. Be realistic and try to avoid using credit.

4. Buy good travel/health insurance. Most U.S.-based health insurance policies will not cover you overseas, and do not cover medical evacuation or canceled flights, let alone bungee jumping or getting stepped on by an elephant. For the small cost, it doesn’t make sense to go without it. Good Neighbor Insurance is a reputable broker that helps students and others whether they plan to visit multiple countries or do some adventure travel along the way.

5. Protect your health. The Telegraph newspaper and other online sources, including the internationally recognized book 'Where There is No Doctor', offer advice to keep you from getting sick or can help mitigate the symptoms when you are far from a good hospital.

6. Learn as much as you can, listen as much as you can, be as sensitive as you can. Nothing is worse than a 20-year-old “know-it-all” telling locals how to tie a knot. Or organize a community. Or work their way out of poverty.

7. Decompress and debrief when you get back home. Don’t immediately jump back into school. Talk to a trusted and wise friend. Consider where you struggled and have grown, as well as what you most enjoyed.

A Gap Year can be a great opportunity for students (especially from the U.S. that often are far removed from the complexities and struggles of the third-world) to serve selflessly and expand their knowledge in a way that few other experiences can match. While they may not be for everyone, a Gap Year can improve your leadership and communication skills while improving the world. Or a single child’s life in the nation of Belize.

About Good Neighbor Insurance

Jeff Gulleson established Good Neighbor Insurance in 1997 to provide global health and life insurance services after working with an NGO for 30 years in Indonesia.

The staff at GNI use their expertise to help clients find good, cost-effective international health, travel, and life insurance while providing caring service based on integrity. The company serves students traveling overseas, short-term teams, aid organizations, foreign and domestic corporations, universities, and volunteers both from the U.S. and abroad. Since many have lived and worked for extended periods overseas, they have the expertise to counsel individuals, families, and groups on their international insurance needs.

Contact Information
For more information, contact Jeff Gulleson at Good Neighbor Insurance
Toll Free: 866-636-9100 or in Phoenix, AZ: 480-813-9100
Good Neighbor Insurance, 690 E. Warner Rd., Ste. 117, Gilbert, AZ 85296, USA

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Mark Sequeira

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