Volunteering on a combo placement on your gap year is a great way to get the best of both worlds. Would-be gappers are often faced with the dilemma of how to balance volunteer work with the general excitement of travelling, and a combo placement could be the answer to this. A combo placement will give you a little bit of everything, as they are typically made up of volunteering, travelling and a language course; they integrate different activities to give you a much deeper insight to a country and its culture. The volunteering can be in any field, be it working with animals, caring for children or building an orphanage, and the language course will allow you to communicate with the local community when doing it.
Is it for me?
Combo placements are best for those who want to enjoy as much variety as possible on their gap year. While some people are perfectly content to volunteer 100% of the time, or indeed travel 100% of the time, others seek a more diverse experience. A combo placement is really good for personal development as it gives you the opportunity to explore different sides of your personality – both your caring side and your adventurous side. The opportunity to travel and put your newly acquired language skills to the test is a great way to build confidence for both life back home or for travelling in the future.
What kinds of placements are available?
There are numerous combo placement options you could look into for your gap year, covering just about everything you can imagine, from animal care followed by expeditions in Mexico, to building orphanages in Bolivia while learning Spanish. Not all placements include the full trio of volunteering, language courses and travelling; some cover just two things, usually a combination of volunteering and language or volunteering and travelling. So make sure you know exactly what you want to gain from the experience before booking anything.
Location, location, location…
There are opportunities for combo placements all over the world, from the savannahs of Africa to the jungles of South America to the beaches of Asia. Before you choose anywhere, you need to work out exactly what it is you’d like to gain from the experience. For example, if you’ve always wanted to learn Spanish, work with disadvantaged children, and go on an exciting expedition, you can pretty much narrow your search down to opportunities in South America, where Spanish is widely spoken, where there are many children in need of support and where adventures are ten a penny.
Preparation is important
As with any extended trip to an unfamiliar environment, the more research you do before leaving home, the easier you will find it to settle in once away. If your chosen combo placement includes a Spanish language course, for example, it would be a good idea to brush up on some basics before you get there, just to give a slight head start. It’s difficult to adapt to a new culture, so the more preparation you do, the better. Similarly, if your combo package involves some sort of physical exertion – a two week trek, for example – it would be a good idea to get some hours in at the gym before travelling.
Visas and vaccinations
The specific visas and or vaccinations you’ll need to organise will depend on what part of the world you are travelling to. Always check the latest foreign travel advice before booking anything, and arrange an appointment with your doctor to find out if you will need any jabs before travelling. Those who plan to work with animals should be especially careful to see a doctor before departing.