To volunteer or not to volunteer?

With graduation just around the corner, the class of 2015 are now faced with a world of opportunities and a limitless amount of choices, none of which are straightforward or easy to make. 
The primary concern for these students will be whether they enter the world of work or take a gap year to travel in the aftermath of their studies. 
While it’s great to set yourself up with a job and a stable income, there are many benefits to be got from taking a gap year. 
Taking a gap year right after college is probably the best time to take one as you are still young and don’t have responsibilities keeping you at home. Although our mammies usually have a thing or two to say about that.
A gap year allows one to build on their self-confidence and independence, skills that are inherent to all working environments, while also affording you to travel and experience other cultures. 
To make even better use of a gap year, many people volunteer in underdeveloped countries in the hope of making a difference. It’s the best of both: travelling and helping those in need, while also experiencing life outside of Ireland, which can often be quite a sobering experience. 
Volunteering can take you anywhere from Africa to India to the Americas, both South and Central. It can vary from caring and teaching children to animal conservation. There’s something for everyone. 
Many organisations, such as The Hope Foundation, Projects Abroad and EIL, organise your volunteering experience for you and guide you along the way. 
A few years ago, I volunteered in Kolkata, India with the Hope Foundation. We spent time visiting Hope’s projects like the Hope hospital, orphanages and learning centres. 
We were able to see first-hand the work that the Hope Foundation does on a daily basis. We also got to spend time in the slums which made the whole experience very real for volunteers, something which cannot be fully comprehended from an iPhone screen on a Dublin bus.
Overall, I think volunteering is a truly enriching experience. Volunteering as part of a gap year is a great opportunity for anyone who is looking for something a bit different to do. 
It’s not just those you are helping who are rewarded by the volunteering, but also yourself. What you will gain from a gap year will be priceless to you in the future.