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Productive Gap Years Help Students Prepare for University

Lattitude Global Volunteer_South Africa

it is what the volunteer takes away from the experience personally that makes it good preparation for university and later life

Many young people are preparing for university following A Levels, but for those unsure of what to do, deferring to undertake a productive gap year could be the best preparation, according to Paul Rompani, CEO of Lattitude Global Volunteering.

A well structured, productive gap year provides the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and life experience, gain a sense of independence and develop confidence. Volunteering overseas offers all these benefits, as well as the opportunity to make a positive difference to communities by doing something meaningful.

“Overseas volunteering is becoming more popular as young people realise the positive effect it can have on their CVs for university and job applications” Paul Rompani explains. “It also helps the volunteers to get some real life perspective after working hard towards their exams.”

Educational development charity, Lattitude Global Volunteering, has been providing young people with the opportunity to volunteer overseas for nearly 40 years and offers teaching, community, medical, environmental and care placements in 20 countries worldwide.

Gap year students could choose to spend a few months working to gain work experience and earn money towards their gap year placement, or towards university, before spending the remainder of their gap year volunteering. Volunteer activities can be as diverse as caring for street children in Ecuador, assisting in a Red Cross hospital in Japan, helping on a conservation project in Australia, teaching English in India or teaching all subjects in Tanzania.

Cassim Akhoon, unable to secure a place at medical school, chose to volunteer in a Red Cross Hospital in Japan with Lattitude Global Volunteering. "During my first medical school interview I was extremely nervous. My knowledge was inadequate and I was not equipped to present myself as a potential medical student" explains Cassim. "But on my placement, as I learnt more Japanese, the Director of the hospital allowed me to work in the emergency room, where I gained valuable medical experience. I returned to the UK after my Lattitude Global Volunteering placement as a new person; a potential doctor. As a result, I passed the extremely competitive interview and am studying medicine at King's College".

Cassim, from London, would never have had the opportunity to volunteer overseas without the support of a bursary from Lattitude Global Volunteering. The not for profit charity organisation offers funding and bursaries to those who would struggle to pay the fees required to volunteer overseas. Cassim is currently one of the top 3 students in his year.

For those deferring university because they are not sure what they want to do, an overseas volunteering experience can help make the decision explains Paul. “Our volunteers return home having thoroughly enjoyed the experience and having discovered an interest or focus that they had not considered previously, which might lead them into a whole new career path in teaching, medical care or conservation for example” he says.

Linda Bloomfield volunteered in South Africa in 2009, “When I applied to Lattitude Global Volunteering I had no idea what to study at university and hoped volunteering would help make up my mind,” she says. “Teaching in South Africa and living in the remote village of Ingwavuma opened my eyes to the Zulu culture and gave me a real passion for Africa and the community. I sponsor a little girl at the school I taught at where 80% of the kids were HIV positive and I get letters and drawings every week from my classes and two of my students were accepted to university to study Theatre”.
Currently studying Theatre at university, Linda plans to return to Africa, after she graduates, to open a Theatre programme for disadvantaged children.

The high standard of exam results, combined with the recession's effect on the job market and stiffer competition for University places, has led many students to believe that a gap year is a great opportunity to improve their employability or university choices. A volunteering gap year will give applicants a competitive edge for jobs or university courses but it is more than just a CV boost, as Paul goes on to explain.

“A gap year spent volunteering overseas ticks a lot of boxes on a CV or university application” Paul adds. “But whether it teaches the volunteer to appreciate the value of education, develop a sense of independence, or build self confidence, it is what the volunteer takes away from the experience personally that makes it good preparation for university and later life”.

To find out more about the work of Lattitude Global Volunteering overseas and in the UK, visit the website


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Notes to editors:
For further information, pictures and interviews, please contact Jude Mitcham on 01903 207408 or /

We are able to offer spokespeople from the charity, as well as returned volunteers and parents. We also have a large selection of photographs and written case-studies submitted by young volunteers on placements around the world.
Lattitude Global Volunteering is a charity specialising in volunteering for 17 – 25 year olds. We provide unique experiences of voluntary work placements for young people from around the world.
Lattitude Global Volunteering has a global network of placements that spans 20 countries and includes projects in conservation, caring, community, camps and outdoor, medical, sports coaching, teaching, and language assisting. Current destinations include Canada, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, Brazil, Ghana, Ireland, Malawi, Poland, Tanzania, South Africa, Australia, China, Fiji, Japan, New Zealand, UK, Vietnam, Vanuatu and India.
Lattitude Global Volunteering is a UK registered international youth development charity (No. 272761), a company limited by guarantee (No. 01289296), a founder member of the Year Out Group, a member of BOND (British Overseas NGOs for Development) and a member of the Foreign Office “Know Before You Go” campaign