I was very grateful for the extra time and space that eight months overseas gave me. A-levels and the end of school are a very manic time and I was really happy to be able spend a whole summer with my friends.
The autumn before you depart as an eight month volunteer is an opportunity to experience something very new and very important: independent adult living in the UK. I worked in a café, made new friends and volunteered in a care home for young disabled adults. A big reason for people to take a gap year is to have some space from the pressured conveyer belt of school – university – work, and living overseas is fantastic for that but is itself very engrossing. Having time in the UK was really valuable and allowed me to be a little more low-key for a while: to reflect on what had happened and to prepare myself properly for what was coming next.
Being the first volunteer at a new project made for an extremely demanding experience but one that was so rewarding that I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. No matter how much information you are provided with beforehand, being the first volunteers meant a lot to do with our exact role and day-to-day life could only be finalised by us when we got there: who we were going to buy our milk from? Which days shall we set up after school clubs on? Why does no one have chairs in their houses here?